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VISIONARY(S): Maria Esperanza, and “around” 150 others


FIRST APPARITION: March 25, 1976

LAST APPARITION:  January 5, 1990

​APPROVED: November 21, 1987


“I am the Mother and Reconciler of all People and Nations”




  The Betania apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Venezuela, is perhaps the least known of twentieth century Marian apparitions that have been formally approved by the Church. Unknown to many, this apparition actually received formal approval from the local Bishop, Pio Bello Ricardo, on November 21, 1987.


  The principal visionary in the Betania apparitions is Maria Esperanza, a Venezuelan mother of seven children who is considered as one of the greatest mystics of the twentieth century.


  The Betania apparitions title of “Reconciler of Peoples and Nations” is similar in essence and theology with the title of Mary in another Church-approved twentieth century apparition: the Amsterdam apparitions where Our Lady appeared under the title “Our Lady of All Nations.” They are, in essence, one and the same, but with the difference that the Betania apparitions highlight more Our Lady’s specific role as Mother of Nations – as reconciler of all peoples and active cooperator in the work of redemption.


  It must be recalled that in the Amsterdam apparitions, Our Lady specifically requested that a fifth Marian Dogma be declared: Mary as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. Bishop Ricardo, in his pastoral letter, explains that Mary’s role as “Reconciler of Peoples and Nations” is because of the fact that she is Co-redemptrix, the cooperator in the plan of redemption: “Being the Blessed Virgin cooperator in the plan of redemption, she must logically be considered as cooperator in reconciliation.”


  The Betania apparitions, therefore, are in essence an extension, a reinforcement of the message of Amsterdam: that Mary is Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, and as such, she is the “Reconciler of Peoples and Nations”.


  Other Marian apparitions of the second half of the 20th century likewise reinforce this message and role of Mary as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. In the Akita apparitions, just like in the Amsterdam apparitions, the principal image is that of Mary in front of the Cross – highlighting her role as cooperator in the work of redemption.




  Venezuela, at one time one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, is rich in religious custom. The Blessed Mother is revered there. Traditions holds it that she first appeared in Venezuela to the chief of the Coromato tribe on September 8, 1652, asking him and all his people to be baptized. The chief responded by throwing his spear at the apparition. The Blessed Mother continued to appear to him on later occasions. It was not until the chief was bitten by a poisonous snake that he capitulated to the wishes of the Beautiful Lady from Heaven. He was baptized on his deathbed and directed that the whole tribe follow his example.

  On September 23, 1968, Maria Esperanza had a vision of Padre Pio. In the vision, Padre Pio said to Maria: “Esperanza, I have come to say goodbye. My time has come. It is your turn.” The next day, newspapers around Italy reported that Padre Pio had died.


  Maria’s first mystical experience happened at the age of five, when Saint Therese of Lisieux appeared to her and tossed her a red rose. At age twelve, she became sick with acute bronchial-pneumonia; then, she had a vision of Our Lady of the Valley, Patroness of Margarita Island, and she recovered miraculously.


  In her adolescent years, Maria’s health was very poor; she had an acute heart problem. Later on, another illness partially paralyzed her. Twenty-two physicians told her that she had no hope of survival. To the surprise of the doctors, she was miraculously healed – after the Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared to her and gave her the first of hundreds of messages. Maria Esperanza’s numerous prophecies, visions and messages are recorded as a series of interviews published in the book The Bridge to Heaven.   




  The first apparition happened on March 25, 1976 at the grotto in Finca Betania, a small farm located twelve kilometers from the town of Cua in the State of Miranda, Venezuela near the waterfall and stream which many since then have found to possess healing qualities. This is where all of the apparitions took place. The Blessed Mother appears at Betania in various ways, but most frequently as Our Lady of Lourdes, attired in white garments and with a blue sash at her waist. The apparitions are usually preceded by a great flash of light, and are accompanied by the sweet perfume of roses.  Sometimes great flocks of blue butterflies are seen by the pilgrims as the apparition occurs.


  Many of those who congregate at the grotto have been heard to exclaim that they see multitudes of angels surrounding the apparition of the Blessed Mother. Many have testified that a “person” approaches to help them, or to answer a grave concern that has brought them to the grotto. Then, just as suddenly, the “person” disappears. A question that is frequently asked at Betania: “Was the ‘person’ an angel in corporeal form?”


  Many sick and injured people have claimed physical cures at Betania, of everything from cancer to paralysis.


  The Blessed Mother identified herself and her mission at Venezuela as: “My dear little children, I am the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Reconciler of people and nations. I come with my Son Jesus in my arms to reconcile each of you. Forgive one another. Love one another. Serve one another. Pray for the Church. Pray for priests. Return to the Sacraments, dear little children. Confess your sins whilc the sun shines. Sacrifice yourselves for the conversion of sinners and for peace in the world. All of you are children of God. All are loved. Love one another in His name. Pray the Rosary, dear little ones, that you may find the path of my Son. Peach, little children. Only peace.”


Group Apparition


  A small devotion grew out of the first apparition, with people gathering in small groups in the apparition site for prayers and reflection. The Church remained a passive, unofficial observer of the Betania apparitions, with no official ecclesiastical investigations conducted as yet. The Betania apparitions remained very much a small “private” occurrence and devotion among a few individuals in the locality.


  All this, however, changed, in March 25, 1984. A group of around 150 people gathered in the apparition site at noon to celebrate Holy Mass. After the liturgical celebration, the crowd dispersed.  A small group of children were playing near the waterfall at the foot of the hill. Suddenly, they saw the Blessed Virgin appearing over and behind the waterfall. It was a fleeting apparition, after which they immediately ran to relay the news to the other people who were about one hundred and fifty meters away.


  They all rushed to the site of the apparition. They were still discussing the news relayed by the children, when the Virgin appeared again, in full view of all present. During that same afternoon, she appeared seven times, each time around five to ten minutes in length. Her last apparition at dusk lasted approximately half an hour.


  One notable difference of the Betania apparitions with other apparitions is that unlike in other apparitions wherein the visionaries usually enter a state of ecstasy, the witnesses of the Betania apparitions remained fully conscious and recollected, and were in fact able to talk to each other while seeing the apparition of Our Lady.


  News of the group apparition spread rapidly. Floods of people flocked to the apparition site.


Continued Apparitions


  Our Lady continued to appear to Maria Esperanza in the succeeding years, a total of 31 times with 24 coming after 1984. Some people likewise testified to having witnessed numerous unusual phenomena, such as mist coming forth from the hill where the apparitions occurred, a profusion of flowers, beautiful music and singing from an invisible choir, play of lights, movements of the sun, and many others.


Our Lady’s Messages


  Here are just some of the messages that Our Lady of Betania brought to Maria, for us:


Reconciliation and Love


  “I am your Mother. I will be your refuge.”


  “My little child, I give my heart to you. I will continue giving my heart to you always. My little child, I take you by the hand. I lead you to My Divine Son Jesus. During the difficult hours, stay within the supreme will of Our Father. My Son and I affirm such little ones during their journey on the earth.”


  “I am here with you now so that all may become apostles of the ways of my Son. I am here to help you walk serenely in the laws, the might, power, light and the hope of our Heavenly Father. His positive forces, the holy angels and the grace of the Holy Spirit allow His chosen children to feel the delight of His presence.”


  “This is the great time of human seeking for an encounter with our Heavenly Father in my Divine Son Jesus. All of you cry out for justice, for the renewal of faith. To accelerate, to hasten the uniting of all people and nations, it is necessary to follow God’s will and accept His divine plan of love given by my Son Jesus.


  “Attend devotedly the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Participate at the Eucharistic table which is the center and culmination of the whole life of the human community. Those who dwell in silence before the Eurharistic Presence of Jesus become children of the light. They will be able to sow goodness. They will acquire the disposition of living the Gospel.”


  “Little children of mine, I love you so much. Be very humble. Stay united. Meditate and pray.  Follow the rules of God and you will be healed from within. In this way you will come to a deep intimacy and sharing with My Divine Son, your brother.”


The Rosary


  “I am the Mother and Reconciler of all people and Nations. Pray the Rosary fervently.  Recognize that the Rosary can placate the thirst for revenge that haunts humanity’s heart. It can assuage the craving for material possessions that stalks humanity. Experience the reality that I live among you.”


Importance of Penance, Prayer, Eucharist


  "My daughter, My children, here I am... I beg each one of you to especially mend your lives, with penance, the needed prayer, to vindicate God's justice, so offended in these times by men...on the other hand, it is very important for you to attend Holy Mass frequently and to receive the Eucharist..."


Personal Prayer


  "The only truth which remains is faith... which will build in your families the firmness and the certainty that the Lord, and this Mother live among all Our children... showing you the way, that only through deeds of faith the shadows that surround your daily living can be lessened..! Children, that is why your prayer must be constant, morning, afternoon and night, for only prayer can save you..! Never forget, the more you suffer, the closer to you We will be, soothing, healing the wounds of your hearts, to continue to live with the responsibility of being redeemers of this time, and saviors in hope for the great eternity!"


Redemptive Value of Suffering


  "Daughter, when all men on earth come to carry their cross with love, there will be no more pain nor weeping for they will live rising each day with My beloved Son in a constant and lively hallelujah... hallelujah... hallelujah!"


New Title


  "My daughter, I wish for you to make them feel the worth of prayer and the importance of My new Apparition as Reconciler of People and Nations, for under this title they will find essential and determinant conditions to prepare their souls to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit... through the communication and the visits of Our Lord, through faith... for faith is the basis of Christianity... and increasing that same faith will make them seek with sincere love Our Father, and My Heart and the Heart of My Divine Son..!"


Marian Consecration


  "He, My Beloved Son, wishes for all of you to live cradled in this motherly Heart, with the charismata and graces of the Holy Spirit. In this way, My children may hold hands, based on the Commandment 'Love one another..'! It is the only truth that can save mankind from a war among brothers..."


Preparation for the Coming of the Holy Spirit;


  "Daughter, children, I am trying to talk to all of you, to tell you I lead you by the hand, covering your shoulders with My motherly mantle... Sons and daughters, I call you to the site of My new Apparition as Mary Reconciler of People and Nations... so you may begin to work on the harvest that you will sow in the hearts of the innocent children... and others, who are young and long for truth, love and justice! I call you, for the GREAT MOMENT OF RECONCILIATION has arrived... and you need to prepare yourselves as soon as possible... for example: in the sowing of doctrine, catechism, spiritual exercises, the Gospel, and mainly the Eucharist. Daily Communion, the soul's nourishment, accompanied with work, in a task in which you can be productive, sowing the furrows with the holy seed of nourishment..."


Key to Personal Peace;


  "... your futuristic vision must be altruistic, ascending, and crowning yourselves with Heaven... with the clouds at your feet, being simple, calm, humble and serving God in your brothers... ascend, My children, full of contentment, like the small innocent children, thinking that to live in the Lord is to be eternally joyful..!


  "Thus, if you obey Me there will be joy in your hearts... for you are headed toward the construction of your own paradise... and of a world of happiness and peace..!"


  "Yes, sons and daughters, behold My announcement to the world, there is a place on earth where all My children may take refuge, hidden in the blessed mountain, seeking God's treasures... preparing themselves... to understand clearly that only in the seclusion of prayer, living with simplicity and humility they will defend themselves from the violence of men on earth, and have the strength to proclaim the Word of the Lord with serenity."






  The group apparition of 1984 triggered an official Church investigation. What is also unique with the Betania apparitions is that it was the local Bishop himself, Most Reverend Pio Bello Ricardo, who personally handled the investigation. In his own estimation, the Bishop spent close to 500 personal hours in the investigation, mostly on personally interviewing each of the witnesses.


  As a trained psychologist, the Bishop was perfectly qualified for the task at hand: that of interviewing the witnesses, sorting out fact from fiction, identifying valid testimonies while discarding mere hallucinations. In his pastoral letter dated November 21, 1987, he shared his views on this process:


  “This…obliged me to dedicate much time to this subject, around four hundred to five hundred hours; but I could calmly question approximately two hundred protagonists and collect, study and file three hundred and eighty-one written declarations. Some were collective declarations. The number of people who signed those declarations is four hundred and ninety.”


  After three years of rigorous investigation, and after consultation with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI), who was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time. the diocesan bishop, Msgr. Pio Bello Ricardo, declared in a pastoral letter dated November 21, 1987, that the Betania apparitions were authentic and of a supernatural character and saying: “After having begged the Lord earnestly for spiritual discernment, I declare that in my judgment the said apparitions are authentic and have a supernatural character. I therefore approve, officially, that the site where the apparitions have occurred be considered as sacred”, (meaning the site must be maintained as a place for prayer, reflection, pilgrimage and worship).


The bishop likewise took the additional extraordinary measure of formally declaring Betania to be "sacred ground." As sacred ground, therefore, the site must be maintained as a place for prayer, reflection, pilgrimage and worship.


The Visionary: Maria Esperanza de Bianchi (1928-2004)


  It is unusual for a visionary to also be a mystic; even more to have such gifts as the stigmata, prophesy, bilocation and reading of hearts. And, Maria Esperanza had it all!


  Servant of God Maria Esperanza de Bianchini (1928-2004), a mystic and visionary from Barrancas, Venezuela, claimed her first mystical experience at the age of five, saying she had a vision of St. Therese of Lisieux giving her a rose. When she was twelve years old she reported having an apparition of the Blessed Mother. Throughout her life, her reported mystical gifts included healings, prophecy, reading of souls, discernment of spirits, the stigmata, transverberation, levitation, bilocation, the fragrance of flowers and perfume emanating from her person, miraculous materialization of a rose that spontaneously burst from her chest (having done so 16 times), and visions and locutions of Jesus, Mary and the saints.


  As a young woman, she desired to become a nun. But, in a mystical experience with Christ, she was told that it was her mission to be a wife and mother. She met her husband Geo Bianchini Gianni in Rome in 1955. They had seven children.


  She died after a long illness in a home on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, in 2004. In 2010, Bishop Paul Bootkoski of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, opened her cause for canonization at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in Metuchen, with 1,100 faithful present.


  Fr. Timothy Byerley, pastor of St. Peter Church in Merchantville of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, was ordained to the priesthood in 1985; his brother, Joseph, is also a priest of the Diocese of Camden. Father Byerly serves as vice postulator for the Beatification and Canonization Cause of Servant of God Maria Esperanza and also is the author of the 2014 book, Maria Esperanza and the Grace of Betania (Mary Mother Reconciler Foundation, 2014).


  In an interview with the Catholic World Report, Father Byerly said the following about Maria:


A loving mother


  “Maria Esperanza was from the rural interior of Venezuela and eventually moved to Caracas. She was naturally intelligent but had limited education. She became a woman of culture through her own efforts. Her first catechist was her mother, followed by her parish priest in the countryside. Even as a child she manifested great faith and devotion, and a concern for the things of heaven. I found her to be a loving mother, a joyful woman and apostolic. She visited my parish and many others; people would line up to 3, 4 or 5 in the morning just to have a moment with the mystic. The priest might ask her at 1 in the morning, ‘Shall we conclude with a general blessing?’ She would respond, ‘No, I will not do that. I will be here until the last one leaves.’ That could mean she’d be there for 12 hours. She had a heart for souls. Yet despite her mission to save souls, her seven children and husband never felt deprived of her love or attention. They only recall great moments of joy and unity: her splendid meals, family singing and her undivided attention when they needed her counsel.”


Maria’s mystical gifts


  “Once she was in Phoenix for a series of conferences. She had some free time one day, so she went sightseeing with family and friends. At one lookout point, she saw a young couple sitting in the back of a pick-up truck. The man looked like a rough character, covered in tattoos. Maria Esperanza’s group took a group photo at the site. She told her son-in-law to invite the couple to join them for the photo. They agreed. Maria Esperanza said to the young man, ‘Those tattoos must have hurt when you had them put on.’  He replied, ‘They didn’t hurt like anything I’ve gone through in my life.’ She read his soul, and could see he had had challenging moments in his life. She suggested he look out to the beautiful sky, talked to him about the beauty of nature and introduced him to the love and mercy of God. He came to tears, and was healed by the love and prayers and concern of that compassionate woman.  Maria Esperanza also suggested he marry the young woman with him. The man hugged her, and didn’t want to let her go. He asked those with Maria Esperanza, ‘Who is this woman?’ A friend who was with the group told me this story. These kinds of encounters happened thousands of times. One moment with a mystic, and a life can be transformed.”


  “They (Maria’s gifts such as the stigmata, prophecy, bilocation, and reading of hearts) weren’t always active in a given moment. You weren’t likely to see the stigmata, for example, except on Good Friday. Bilocation is also something hard to see; she might be in both Venezuela and Italy at a given time, but people wouldn’t realize it until sometime later. The gifts people could grasp were things like reading hearts, making prophecies, the scent of roses in her presence, a gold light shimmering around her that was unexplainable or rose petals beginning to fall. People at a prayer meeting might see her receive Communion mystically; a Host would appear suddenly on her tongue. I’ve reviewed many such written and spoken testimonies.


  It is unusual for a wife and mother to have extraordinary mystical experiences on a regular basis, but not unprecedented in Church history. Note the lives of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837) and St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510). God dispenses His graces according to His will, not our expectations.


  “A few weeks before the election (the Presidential election in 2000), she was in a hotel suite with about a dozen people. A friend of mine was there. Someone asked her, “Who is going to win?” They showed her a newspaper with photographs of both candidates. She said, ‘The short one is going to win, but it will take a long time.’ My friend was thinking that there was no way she got it right. Unlike the elections in Latin America with which she was familiar, in American elections you know the next day. Well, it turned out she was right. The vote count was disputed in Florida, and it wasn’t until December 12th that the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and stopped the counting, making George W. Bush the president. But, no one saw it coming.”


  “Maria’s message was that the fundamental problem in society is the terrible division between people. We need reconciliation and the healing of wounded relationships, which can be racial, national, international, economic, class or religious-related. At the heart of it all is broken families. As goes the family, so goes society. Our Lady came to Betania not only to call us to family healing, but to help.”


  “Maria Esperanza exemplified the beatitudes, and therefore was continually reconciling people with God and with one another. The mission of her life was to proclaim and spread Our Lady’s message of reconciliation and to establish it in society by witnessing to authentic Christian family life. As St. John Paul II always reminded us, “Society passes by way of the family.” When the family is fractured, society is fractured. When the family is healthy, society is healthy. 


  The promotion of Maria Esperanza’s beatification cause is one of the greatest things the Church can do today to heal the family and thus reconstruct society.”


Miracles, Cures, and Signs


  There have been over 500 miracles and cures reported at Betania.


  Pilgrims have claimed to have seen the Virgin (over 2,000 testimonies) and various celestial phenomena such as mist coming from the hill, a profusion of flowers, the sound of an invisible choir, the scent of roses and the irregular movement of the sun.


  A Roman Catholic priest celebrated Mass at the grotto in 1992 for a large group of pilgrims who had come to Betania hoping to catch a glimpse of the Queen of Angels. To the shock of the pilgrims and priest, the Host he consecrated turned into pulsating, bleeding heart muscle in clear view of all those at the Mass.

  The miraculous Host continues to bleed type AM human blood and is in the possession of the local Archbishop. (It is important to note that the Holy Eucharist is never considered “flesh” in the sense of human flesh. Rather it is the essence, the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.)


  In his interview with the Catholic World Report, Father Byerly stated: “I’ve seen it myself. It has been analyzed by medical experts; it is human blood.”




  The heart of the Betania apparitions is the new title of our Lady: that of “Reconciler of People and Nations”. Why the need for another title? Not a few may question the need for so many titles of the Virgin Mary.


  The importance of the Virgin’s multiple titles is that these titles showcase specific aspects of the person and role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian life. Reflecting on Mary’s different titles is like viewing a precious gem from different angles, under varying lights and conditions: each angle, each light change, produces a different beautiful view. But it is the same gem.


  In the case of the Betania apparitions new title of “Reconciler of People and Nations”, this title highlights the important role that our Mother plays in our Christian lives, most especially in our modern times characterized by much war, hatred, bloodshed, immorality and sin. Mary is not just a passive, heavenly spectator who simply sits back and enjoys the bliss of heaven, while her children suffer in poor earth below. Rather, Mary is an active Mother to us all: she stays with us, prays for us, lives with us, and helps us reconcile ourselves with each other, and with God.


  Most Reverend Pio Bello Ricardo, Bishop of Los Teques, in his pastoral letter declaring the Betania apparitions authentic and supernatural in character, best summarizes the meaning behind Our Lady’s title of “Reconciler of People and Nations:


  “The Virgin is…cooperator with Christ and his work of redemption. And this cooperation did not end at the foot of the Cross; she was given by her Son as Mother of the newborn Church: "Behold your Mother…”

  …On the other hand, redemption can…be proposed as reconciliation of men with God and of men among themselves…Being the Blessed Virgin cooperator in the plan of redemption, she must logically be considered as cooperator in reconciliation.

  This is the position that is understood and proclaimed in the title of "Reconciler" or "Mother of Reconciliation".

  This condition of cooperator in reconciliation is not limited to the life of Jesus on earth, but rather prolonged in the history of the Church…This cooperation is prolonged indefinitely…: "This motherhood of Mary (as mediator) in the economy of grace endures ceaselessly...until the perpetual consummation of those chosen" (Lumen Gentium 62).

…In this world and in this Church, the Blessed Virgin appears as RECONCILER OF PEOPLES insisting on a spirit of solidarity and mutual brotherly sharing. A title that springs from the theology of the cooperation of Mary in redemption and reconciliation and the message holds much sense for the present day.

  Perhaps the most poignant aspect of the Betania apparitions is that the Virgin Mary chose to appear not just to one visionary, but to many people from all walks of life: students, lawyers, doctors, professionals, and others. Furthermore, it was a “public viewing” witnessed by the crowd in a complete state of full consciousness. They remained fully aware and conscious, excitedly talking to each other while seeing the Mother in the flesh.


  It was as if the Heavenly Father, in that wonderful day in 1984 in Betania, lifted the veil of peoples’ eyes so that they may see that wonderful reality: that Mary lives among us. Our Mother is not a mother far away in Heaven, inaccessible to us. Rather, Mary our Mother lives among us. She prays with us, eats with us, laughs with us, cries with us, suffers with us.


  She is a very real Mother whom we can run to every hour of the day. We can talk to her anytime, anywhere: in the most joyous moments of our lives, in the deepest pits of our sorrows, and even in the most mundane and everyday situations.


  One Marian devotee described her personal Marian devotion as follows: she talked to our Mother the whole day; she asked for her help in finding a good parking spot (to avoid being late), talked to her about her heartaches, run her through her itinerary for the day, said goodnight to her before she slept. What a wonderful way to live our lives: to live constantly in the loving arms of our heavenly Mother!


  Let us always remember these beautiful words of our Mother given to Maria Esperanza on March 28, 1989: “Behold, I offer you My Heart, united to My Divine Son's Heart, so you may live the most profound experience with Us... in order to enjoy the sublime moment of a living testimony, the fundamental basis of a great truth: WE LIVE AMONG YOU..! Participate children..! And cradle yourselves here in My Heart..! I keep you..!”




Meetings with Mary - Visions of the Blessed Mother; Janice T. Connell; First Trade Paperback edition: November, 1996

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