A TESTIMONY ON
POEM OF THE MAN-GOD
[Father Corrado (Conrad) Berti, OSM (1911-1980+), professor of dogmatic and sacramental theology at the Pontifical "Marianum" Theological Faculty in Rome from 1939 onward, and Secretary of that Faculty from 1950 to 1959, as well as consultant to some of the Fathers of the 2nd Vatican Council, was asked to supervise the editing and publication of the critical 2nd Italian edition of Valtorta's Poem of the Man-God. He also provided the extensive theological and biblical annotations that accompany that edition, and which is the basis of all current translations into English and other languages. Speaking sometimes in the 3rd person, he recounts in this Testimony the history ofThe Poem as well as that of Valtorta's other mystical writings. --Trans.]
1. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
For anyone who wants to know more about Maria Valtorta, biographical notes about her are sufficiently available in her Autobiography (treated briefly in #12 below). In addition, one may read the article by Renzo Allegri, which appeared in the August 26, 1978 issue of the Italian Review Gente, pp.52-57. It is substantially well done. Its imperfections are only marginal. Finally, one could read the accurate little volume, Maria Valtorta, the Person and her Writings, composed and published by Doctor Emilio Pisani, in 1976, pp.46.
2. THE ORDER OF THE SERVITES OF MARY
In 1944 and 1946, the infirm Maria Valtorta, by means of spiritual documents, and later by legal documents, entrusted her writings to the Order of the Servites of Mary, of which she was a Tertiary, so they might preserve them, have them printed and diffuse them with the approval and blessing of the Church, to which she was very attached. The Order of the Servites of Mary occupied itself with such writings above all through three of its priests: Rev. Romualdo M. Migliorini, who was for four years the spiritual director of the infirm Valtorta, and who typed out her writings; Rev. Corrado Berti, who provided the writings with theological notes; and Rev. Gabriel M. Roschini, who wrote a volume entitled: The Virgin Mary in the Writings of Maria Valtorta, preceded by an interesting introduction on the phenomenon. Both these [latter two] priests were professors in the Pontifical "Marianum" Theological Faculty in Rome. Some priests of the Order administered the Holy Sacraments to Valtorta. Others helped Father Berti, who meanwhile had become aged and suffering.
3. HIS HOLINESS POPE PIUS XII
Since the writings of Maria Valtorta present themselves as emanating from supernatural Visions and Dictations, the aforementioned Father Corrado M. Berti took council with two very experienced persons, that is with his Excellency Msgr. Alphonse Carinci, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and vicar for the Causes of the Saints; and with Rev. Augustin Bea, S.J., confessor of Pope Pius XII, and rector and professor of the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome. Both advised having type-written copies of such writings conveyed to his Holiness Pope Pius XII, through a prelate of the Secretary of State.
Pius XII became personally acquainted with these writings, as I was assured by the bearer himself of the typescript. And on the 26th of February, 1948, the Pontiff received in special audience—attested by L'Osservatore Romano of those days1—Father Corrado Berti, accompanied by two confreres, Father Romualdo M. Migliorini, ex-prefect apostolic in Africa, and Father Andrew M. Cecchin, Prior of the international College of the Servites of Mary in Rome, and [the Pontiff] pronounced the following verbatim words: "Publish this work just as it is; he who reads will understand." And he added: "One hears talk of so many visions and revelations. I do not say that all are true; but some of them could be true."
Father Berti asked the Pope if they should remove the inscriptions: "Visions" and "Dictations" [from The Poem before publishing it]. And he answered that nothing should be removed. As soon as the three priests had come out of the papal audience, they stopped by the stairs and wrote on a card the verbatim words of the Pope, in order never to forget them.
4. THE HOLY OFFICE
But, in 1949, the Holy Office, of which Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani was then secretary, and Msgr. Pietro Parente the assessor, summoned the Father Procurator General of the Order of the Servites of Mary and Father Corrado M. Berti, who was considered to be the principal person accountable. Msgr. Pepe and Father Berruti, O.P., officials of the Holy Office, read the judgment [of the Holy Office] and wanted Father Berti to sign it.
With this judgment they commanded Father Berti to deliver to the Holy Office all of Maria Valtorta's manuscripts and typescripts, evidently in order to destroy them or keep them shut away for ever: "Here they will remain as in a tomb," said Msgr. Pepe.
Father Berti brought all the typescripts in his possession; but he could not deliver the manuscripts, because they were kept by the writer [Valtorta]; and he could not deliver all of the typescripts, because [some were] possessed by other persons who did not want to be deprived of them.
Moreover, and finally, the Holy Office forbade the publication of the Work, threatening to place it on the Index in case of eventual publication.
Father Berti was unable to reveal to the Holy Office the words spoken to him by Pope Pius XII in audience, because he was not permitted to speak, but was only allowed to listen and to sign the judgment without comment. Such were the methods of that time before the [Vatican II] Council.
The Holy Office, however, was good to the infirm Maria Valtorta, and did not communicate the judgment to her. She knew it from Father Berti, out of necessity, and was made desolate over it. Her condition worsened.
5. ATTEMPTS AT APPEAL
Fr. Berti, to console Maria Valtorta—growing always more ill—observed to her that the Pope was above the Holy Office, and therefore the word of the Pope ("Publish" [it]) was of greater worth than that of the Holy Office ("Forbidden to publish" [it]). But the writer [Valtorta] remained perplexed and feared the Index and excommunication. Therefore she desired and asked for an appeal, that the sentence of the Holy Office be revoked. And some did appeal to that Congregation, but in vain. The response was: "Id melius quod prius". In other words: "Let stand what was decided before."
Then Maria Valtorta expressed the desire that an appeal be attempted to the Holy Father himself, Pius XII, who in 1948 had said "Publish" [it].
Archbishop Msgr. Alphonse Carinci, secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, friend, protector, admirer of the person and the writings of Maria Valtorta, went more than once to visit her, promised her an appeal to the Pope and wrote a fine certification to deliver to the Pope in audience.
When Fr. Bea, S.J. (recalled above), saw and read the certification of Msgr. [Archbishop] Carinci, he wanted to draw up one of his own, very favorable, in which he compared Valtorta to the mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich.
After Fr. Bea, Msgr. Lattanzi, dean of the Lateran Theological Faculty and consultant to the Holy Office, also wrote a favorable certification; and so also legal counselor Professor Camilo Corsanego, dean of consistorial counselors for the Holy See and a teacher at the Lateran. All these certifications were joined to that written by Fr. Gabriel M. Roschini, OSM, renowned mariologist of the Pontifical "Marianum" and Lateran Theological Faculty. Msgr. [Archbishop] Carinci wanted a photostat copy of these, to present in audience to the Holy Father, Pius XII. But such an audience did not take place in 1950, given the heavy work of the Holy Year which burdened the Pontiff.
6. PUBLICATION OF THE FIRST EDITION OF THE LIFE OF JESUS,
ENTITLED "THE POEM OF THE MAN-GOD"
In the meantime the months passed and Fr. Gabriel M. Roschini, OSM, consultant to the Holy Office, who knew of Valtorta and was an admirer of her mystical writings, said with insistence to Fr. Berti: "Go to the Pisani Publishing House!"
Since Fr. Roschini was of the Holy Office, Fr. Berti thought that Dicastery had meanwhile become favorable to publication [of The Poem]. So one day he went to the Isle of Liri, in the province of Frosinone, and there met with Sir Michael Pisani, proprietor of the Publishing House, who, having promptly become acquainted with Maria Valtorta whom he visited, and with her writings, decided to print them. Fr. Berti was afraid of the Holy Office, Valtorta was terrified of it and did not want to make a decision to give her permission and lend out the typescripts. But later she decided to stipulate a standard contract with Michael Pisani, who declared once again that he harbored no fear about the outcome of the work, being encouraged in this by his friends. And so the first edition of the Life of Jesus came out, entitled in the meantime, The Poem of the Man-God, but without any [theological] notes, without any Introduction, with a modest typographical appearance, and in four excessively large volumes. But all of it came out within the year 1959.
7. PLACEMENT ON THE INDEX OF FORBIDDEN BOOKS
But the Holy Office did not forget its command: the prohibition and threat pronounced in 1949. And on January 6, 1960, the Holy Office placed the first edition of The Poem... on the Index of Forbidden Books.
L'Osservatore Romano, in an article for that day, justified the aforesaid condemnation, not for doctrinal errors, but for the offense of disobedience. But in truth there was no disobedience, because Pope Pius XII, in 1948, had said "Publish [it]"; and only the Holy Office—which was subject to him—had strangely prohibited its publication.
All this notwithstanding, that first edition spread, was appreciated, and many readers felt in it the Hand of God.
8. SECOND EDITION OF "THE POEM OF THE MAN-GOD"
Sir Michael Pisani was not impressed by the aforesaid Life of Jesus being placed on the Index. But feeling somewhat aged and suffering, he instead entrusted the task of publishing the Valtorta writings to his son, Doctor Emilio Pisani, a doctor of jurisprudence and at that time in the prime of life.
It was then that the Pisani Publishing House, with full confidence in God's help and in the future, conceived and decided on the publication of a second edition of The Poem, with a better cover and better paper, with newer and cleaner type, and in less thick volumes. Moreover, Dr. Emilio asked Fr. Berti to provide the new edition with explanatory notes of difficult passages, and to point out the biblical substrata of the Work. The edition was provided also with illustrations redacted by professor Lorenzo Ferri, under the personal guidance of Maria Valtorta.
Thus this Work on the Gospel came out in ten fine volumes, provided with an introduction and notes, and was pleasing to all. The previously mentioned Fr. Gabriel M. Roschini, consultant of the Holy Office, customarily repeated that such a new edition was not to be considered to be on the Index, because it was totally renewed, conformed in all to the original, and provided with notes that removed any doubt and which demonstrated the solidity and orthodoxy of the Work.
9. ATTEMPTED INTERVIEW WITH HIS HOLINESS POPE PAUL VI
Fr. Berti was nevertheless always worried and very anxious because of the placing of The Poem on the Index, though it was only of the first edition; and, in his confidence of having the decision revoked and obtaining security for the Second edition, he began by asking for an audience with Msgr. Pasquale Macchi, the faithful and dynamic private secretary of Pope Paul VI. (1963).
Msgr. Macchi engaged in an amiable dialogue with Fr. Berti for about an hour during which, with lively astonishment, he was heard to repeat that the Work was not on the Index and that the Pope [Paul VI], when he was Archbishop of Milan, had read one volume, had appreciated it and sent the whole Work to the Seminary [of Milan].
The secretary accepted the various volumes of the Second edition, which had meanwhile come out, but after a few days, he diplomatically had them returned to Fr. Berti with a note in which he suggested that [Fr. Berti] direct himself to the Secretary of State, in the event he wished to approach His Holiness in person. And thus evaporated the desire and project of an interview with Paul VI.
10. THE HOLY OFFICE AUTHORIZES THE SECOND EDITION
In December of 1960, Fr. Berti was called to the Holy Office and was received by Fr. Mark Giraudo, O.P., Commissioner of that Congregation, who was very amiable. Fr. Berti, seeing that this time he could handle it calmly, related to the Commissioner the words ("Publish [it]") given in audience by Pope Pius XII in 1948, and brought to him photostats of the certifications on the Life of Jesus [i.e., The Poem...] by Maria Valtorta —three of these certifications turned out to be drawn up by the consultants of the Holy Office, that is, those by Fr. [later, Cardinal] Bea, S.J., by Msgr. Lattanzi and by Fr. Roschini, OSM.
Fr. Giraudo, who knew nothing of the words of Pius XII and of the certifications of these three personages of the Holy Office itself, after having received Fr. Berti many times, after having himself consulted with his Superiors and having pondered on the certifications, spoke these words: "Continue to publish this second edition. We will see how the world receives it."
And thus The Poem came out, and continues to come out, not only by order of Pius XII, but also with the approval of the Holy Office. (1961).
11. SUPPRESSION OF THE INDEX OF FORBIDDEN BOOKS
But in 1966, Pope Paul VI, who carried the II Vatican Ecumenical Council forward, as well as to its completion, who effected the reform of the Roman liturgy, who brought about the renewal of the Curia, including the Holy Office, also accomplished the courageous act of suppressing the Index of Forbidden Books on which The Poem written by Maria Valtorta had strangely been placed. And thus, from 1966 on, The Poem... found itself free of any ecclesiastical sanction.
Perhaps it was of this [Papal] act, already known only to him, that Msgr. Macchi was thinking, when in his interview he asserted to Fr. Berti that The Poem was not on the Index.
Some readers have wanted to propose the hypothesis that Paul VI had suppressed the Index just to liberate The Poem in a dignified way. But it is not known if this hypothesis, though not impossible, has any basis; and therefore it is wise not to give it out as certain.
12. VALTORTA WRITINGS EDITED THROUGH 1978
The first work published was the Life of Jesus. It was originally entitled: The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as revealed to Little John. This name of "Little John" approximated Valtorta to John, the great apostle and evangelist, and at the same time distinguished her from him, indicating simultaneously her humility and inferiority [to him]. But that earlier title seemed a little imprudent to Valtorta herself, who imagined various other ones, yet without being satisfied with them. Then the great physician, professor Nicholas Pende, admirer of Valtorta and of her writings, suggested to her the title of Poem of Jesus. But since this title already existed for a little poetic composition, and its author protested, [the title] was retouched by Fr. Berti into: The Poem of the Man-God. And thus conceived and retouched, it pleased Maria Valtorta herself who approved it and made it her own.
Two editions, quite different, of this life of Jesus [The Poem...] have been published. The first, printed in the years 1956-59 [as stated above in #6], was very modest: four overly thick volumes, without an introduction, unprovided with even the most prudent notes. It was imperfect even as regards the text, because it did not directly reproduce the Valtorta manuscript, but a typewritten copy very unfaithful and incomplete. And this was the edition that met the difficulties described in their place (#7 above).
The second edition, instead, under the editorship of Dr. Emilio Pisani, printed in the years 1960-67 in ten manageable volumes, was redacted on the basis of a strict comparison with the original Valtorta manuscript and was provided with thousands of theological notes, especially biblical, prepared with years of intense labor by Fr. Corrado M. Berti of the Order of the Servites of Mary, professor in the Pontifical "Marianum" Theological Faculty at Rome. And this second edition is the one which has met with no trouble, but had been authorized in 1961, even by the Holy Office, now called the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as was related above in these pages at the proper place (#10 above).
This edition has been reprinted many times. Rather, in considering these reprintings, those who do not reflect that where there is a new typesetting, it is a new edition, usually speak of a third and fourth edition.2
The second doctrinal work printed (1972), and up till now in a single edition but well disseminated and appreciated, is the Book of Azaria. This volume was originally entitled Angelic Masses, that is, Sunday and Festive Masses, illuminated under the Dictation of Maria Valtorta's Guardian Angel, Azaria. —So she said. But to exclude the possibility of erroneous interpretation, that is, that the Angels celebrate the Holy Mass as do priests on earth, among the various prospective titles, and after reflection and prayer, the title The Book of Azaria was chosen, in deference to the angel to whom Maria Valtorta attributed the Dictation.
The third doctrinal work published and comprised in a thick volume of 800 pages, was edited in 1976 and entitled by the editor of the edition, Dr. Emilio Pisani: The Notebooks of 1943, precisely because it contains all the Dictations written down by Valtorta in 1943. The Poem, instead, contains "Visions" and "Dictations" written above all between 1944 and 1947.
The fourth doctrinal work, of 300 pages, edited in 1977, bears the title given it by Valtorta herself: Lessons on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans. Valtorta wrote these Lessons between 1948 and 1950, under the Dictation, she says, of her Sweet Guest or its Most Holy Author, that is, the Holy Spirit. The volume is provided with a very useful Subject Index, as is The Notebooks of 1943, an Index redacted by Dr. Emilio Pisani.
To these four works already published and attributed by Valtorta to supernatural Visions and Dictations, should be added her Autobiography, which Valtorta herself composed solely with her writer's skill in 1943, in obedience to her spiritual director. The volume is about 450 pages and was edited in 1969.
Only the greater Work, that is The Poem..., has up till now been translated into Spanish, French, German. A Spanish translation in one volume has come out, which embraces two volumes of the original Italian.3
There has also come out an anthology in the Japanese tongue, which sold over 8000 copies in a few weeks.
Finally, at present, there has been one volume published in Portuguese, which embraces the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, with an Imprimatur.
Other translations are projected or in process of preparation; soon there will come out some volumes in French translation.
The original [Italian] of Valtorta's Work is already widespread in the world, given the fact that a good many priests have studied in Rome and [also] Italians have emigrated in the millions, scattered a little in so many nations.
14. UNEDITED VALTORTA WRITINGS (1978)
First of all there remain to be published 282 of the Visions and Dictations, which belong to [the years] 1944, '45, '46, '47, '53. Prominent among these Visions are those on the martyrdom of various saints, some known, some unknown or discussed.4
Then, perhaps, as was done for St. Catherine of Siena, in order to know the person better, there remain to be published around 2000 pages of letters written by Valtorta to various persons, and by them to her.
Finally, numerous certifications could be published (some hundred or so pages) on the person and writings of Maria Valtorta. Some of these are of great value, as those of Fr. [Cardinal] Augustin Bea, S.J., of Msgr. Hugo Lattanzi, Msgr. Alphonse Carinci, Fr. Gabriel M. Roschini, and some other lay scientists.
I knew Maria Valtorta in 1946, and, given the fact that she lived close enough to my mother, I often met with her at least once a month until the year of her death in 1961.
I read and annotated (by myself from 1960 to 1974; with the help of some confreres from 1974 on) all the Valtorta writings, both edited and unedited.
I can certify that Valtorta did not, by her own industry, possess all that vast, profound, clear, and varied learning which is evident in her writings. In fact, she possessed, and at times consulted, only the Catechism of Pius X, and a common popular [Italian] Bible.
Since Maria was a humble and sincere woman, we can accept the explanation which she herself furnished about her learning: attributing it to supernatural Visions and Dictations, besides her natural skill as a writer. And this is also the opinion of Miss Martha Diciotti who assisted Valtorta for 30 years, and who today receives so many visitors in [Valtorta's] little room.5
Finally, this is also the opinion of the Editor, Dr. Emilio Pisani, who hears the written and oral echo of very many readers.
Rome, 8 December, 1978
SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
(signed) Fr. Conrad M. Berti, O.S.M.
1. Some critics of Valtorta and her Poem of the Man-God claim without warrant that this meeting with Pius XII, and his oral approval, did not take place. However, the meeting is clearly documented on the first page of the February 27, 1948 edition of L'Osservatore Romano, (Citta Del Vaticano, no. 48), where the three Religious priests cited in #3 above are specifically named for a private audience with the Pope .
2. In 1996, the editor, Emilio Pisani, published a revised and updated Italian version of this second edition in a new third edition. For this latest edition the editor has chosen to return to an earlier title originally intended for The Poem, and now to appear on all subsequent editions: The Gospel As It Was Revealed to Me.
3. This and the following remarks were true in 1978 when Fr. Berti was writing this Testimony. However as of 1997, The Poem had been translated also into English as well as, Dutch, Croation, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, and Malayalam in India—where Bishop Sooser Pakiam M. enthusiastically granted it his Imprimatur, March 17, 1993. Some of Valtorta's other writings have also now appeared in English.
4. The critical Italian editions of these Visions and Dictations have now been published, and English translations of the Visions and Dictations for 1943 and 1944 are now also available under the titles, Notebooks for 1943, and Notebooks for 1944.
5. Martha Diciotti passed away on February 5, 2001.