Palmarian Christian Church

An enigmatic religious movement with claims to be the legitimate successor of the Catholic Church, marked by its own popes and unique doctrines.

The Palmarian Christian Church, also known as the Palmarian Catholic Church, is a Christian church with its episcopal see located in El Palmar de Troya, Andalusia, Spain. The church asserts itself as the true Catholic Church, claiming exclusive legitimacy as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ. This claim includes the belief that the Holy See and the Papacy’s headquarters were moved to El Palmar de Troya in 1978, following the apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church from the true Catholic faith.

Origins and Development

The origins of the Palmarian Christian Church are intricately linked to a series of Marian apparitions reported from the 19th century onwards, predominantly characterized by eschatological messages from the Virgin Mary. These apparitions warned of impending chastisements from God due to humanity’s sinful behavior and apostasy, followed by a period of peace for the faithful, then renewed chastisements, culminating in a final world war and the end of the world. The Palmarian Church attaches significant importance to several of these Marian apparitions, particularly those in La Salette (1846), Fátima (1917), and Garabandal (1961).

The specific apparitions central to the Palmarian Church occurred in El Palmar de Troya, Spain, during a time of religious and political turmoil under Francisco Franco’s rule. In March 1968, four schoolgirls in Palmar de Troya claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary. While initially dismissed by the local bishop, Clemente Dominguez y Gomez, an office clerk from Seville, fervently believed in these visions and claimed to have his own. Dominguez’s spiritual journey led him to form the “Order of Carmelites of the Holy Face” in 1975, dedicated at the time to Pope Paul VI.

Formation of the Palmarian Church

The turning point for Dominguez and his followers came with the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978. Dominguez claimed that he had been mystically crowned pope by Jesus Christ himself, assuming the name Gregory XVII and asserting that a papal conclave was no longer necessary. This claim was made despite his recent consecration as a bishop, which occurred without the permission of the Holy See, leading to his excommunication. Under his leadership, the Carmelites of the Holy Face transformed into the Palmarian Catholic Church.

Dominguez’s tenure as Gregory XVII was marked by controversial actions, including the excommunication of the newly elected Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II and the canonization of figures such as Francisco Franco and Adolf Hitler. Following a car accident that left him blind, Dominguez claimed his visions intensified. After his death in 2005, Manuel Alonso Corral succeeded him as Peter II, followed by Gines Jesus Hernandez (Gregory XVIII), who later disavowed the church, describing it as a cult driven by desires for sex and money.

Beliefs and Practices

The Palmarian Church diverges significantly from traditional Catholicism in its beliefs and practices. While it maintains a claim to Catholic identity, it holds that Jesus Christ transferred the papal position to them in Dominguez’s vision, thus rejecting the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church. The selection of the Palmarian pope, according to their belief, is a divine choice made directly by Christ.

Contemporary Status

As of the latest information, the Palmarian Church, led by Pope Peter III since 2016, continues to operate, albeit with a relatively small following estimated between 1,000 to 1,500 members. The church’s headquarters remain in the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Crowned Mother of Palmar in El Palmar de Troya. Despite its claims and practices, the Palmarian Church is widely regarded as a cult by critical scholars, journalists, and former followers. The church’s doctrine also mandates strict regulations for its members, including restrictions on clothing, media consumption, and social interactions.