Segundo Ubaldo Rolón (Pedro Segundo, 2007-2016). In some respects this Argentinean papal claimant is a rather typical representative for the mystically elected alternative popes. Marian apparitions played an important role for his claim as well as the assertion that humanity lives in the End Time. He had a clear focus on the events described in the Book of Revelation and their application to the present era. Still, the symbiosis between religion and politics–in this case a form of “Transcendent Peronism”–makes it quite unique.
According to his autobiographical notes written in 2012, Segundo Ubaldo Roldón was born in 1950 in Coronel Pringles, a town located south of Buenos Aires. His family later lived for shorter periods in Carlos de Bariloche in the province of Rio Negro and in Tandil, in the province of Buenos Aires. For more than twenty years from 1983 onwards, Segundo Rolón lived in the city of Mar de Plata. There, he studied sociology at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata for a couple of years, but left university in 1972. Writing about his religious interest in this period, Rolán recounted that he and the rest of the family were baptized Catholics, but hardly practicing. In 1974, he married Letitia Silva in a civil ceremony, and with time, the couple got four children. In 1988, they married in the Roman Catholic Church.
Segundo Roldón was a devoted Peronist from the mid-1960s onwards. Peronism, especially in the period after 1955, when President Perón was ousted, is an ideology which is very hard to describe. In fact, there are few common features. In the almost twenty years when Péron lived in exile until his return to Argentina in 1973, Peronism developed into a great number of varieties, reaching from the extreme left to the extreme right, while anti-capitalism and nationalism was a common factor. The number of groups (and acronyms) are bewildering. At a young age, Roldón became involved in several youth organizations. In 1971, he joined the Línea Anti-imperialista Nacional (LAN) which adhered to the Frente Estudiantil Nacional (FEN), an important Peronist student union.
At that time, he met Alejandro “El Gallego” Álvarez (1936–2016), who in the beginning of the 1960s had founded an organization called Guardia de Hierro (The Iron Guard). In spite of its name, it had nothing to do with the inter-war Romanian paramilitary group founded by Corneliu Codreanu. Still, the name seems to have been used to distinguish itself from leftist Peronists. The Guardia de Hierro had direct contacts with the exiled Perón, who advised them not to engage in violent struggle, as other groups did.
In 1972, FEN and the Guardia de Hierro merged to form the Organización Única del Trasvasamiento Generacional (OUTG), which was a broad youth-dominated group. The then-provincial of the Argentinean Jesuits, Jorge Bergoglio, the future pope Francis, had close contacts with members of the Guardia de Hierro. The sociologist Humberto Cucchetti has done much to explain the Peronist groups that developed in the 1960s and early 1970s, for which Perón was much more of an eternal patriotic symbol than a real politician. Perón’s return in 1973 and his death in the following year thus became something a problem. Their symbol and hero should suddenly step down to govern the country. In an article about the Guardia de Hierro and religion, Massimo Introvigne writes that “from a certain point of view, the Iron Guard was not prepared for the return of Perón: his ‘mysticism’ implied that he was rather seen as a distant leader, not involved in day-to-day problems of government. They were even less prepared for his death [my translation]”.
After Peron’s death in 1974, Alejandro Álvarez decided to dissolve the OUTG, though many members continued to support his widow, Isabel Perón. In comparison with many other political groups, the Iron Guard did not suffer much persecution during the Videla dictatorship (1976–1983). This has often been explained by good relations to some high Navy officers and to the Jesuit provincial Jorge Bergoglio, who could intervene for them.
Humberto Cucchetti has shown that the years of the Videla dictatorship meant that several of the members of the Iron Guard developed a much greater interest in the Catholic faith, and that this increased interest led to conversions and re-conversions. The reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary in San Nicolás de Arroyos from 1983 onwards would play an important role for many of them, including Alejandro Álvarez and Segundo Roldán.
The Virgin of the Rosary of San Nicolás and the Orden de María
San Nicolás de los Arroyos is a city about 230 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires which has some 150,000 inhabitants. There, a woman called Gladys Quiroga de Motta reported to have had a vision of Our Lady with the Child on September 25, 1983. A couple of weeks later, she consulted the parish priest to discuss her experiences, and from October 13, 1983, Motta also claimed to receive frequent messages from the Virgin, which were distributed to the parish priest. By November, the Virgin began to appear in the form of Our Lady of the Rosary. According to Gladys Motta, in the visions Our Lady looked just like a statue in the city’s cathedral of San Nicolás de Bari.
The development of the devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary in San Nicolás share many similarities with other contemporary Marian apparition cases. In locutions, the Virgin told the seer that she wanted a sanctuary to be built. She also indicated a precise place in the city; a field near the river of Paraná. The place was referred to as “El Campito”, and after some time a small, simple chapel was built.
The news about the apparitions spread rapidly throughout Argentine and the number of pilgrims increased at a rapid pace. Most of them came on the 25th of each month, and huge groups arrived on September 25, the anniversary of the first apparition. The site also became known for a well, whose water was regarded as miraculous. Reports about miracles abounded. Rosaries gleamed, people smelt a “heavenly scent” of roses at the site, and there were stories about sun miracles: the sun seemed to “dance” and change color.
The messages to Gladys Quiroga de Motta had much in common with those who other contemporary seers claim to have received, though the focus in not as apocalyptic as in many other cases. The Virgin urged humanity to convert, and to pray the rosary, confess and take communion at a regular basis. Between 1983 and 1990, Motta claimed to receive some 1,800 heavenly messages. Following the wishes of the Virgin, she had a special medal and a special scapular produced, which were worn by the adherents of the devotion.
An aspect that sets the San Nicolás case apart from many other modern apparition movements is the positive response from the local church hierarchy, even at a very early stage. The parish priest and the diocesan bishop were quite convinced of the supernatural origin of the messages and believed in the testimonies about miraculous cures. They regarded Gladys Motta as a serious deeply religious person, who was not seeking personal gains. In a preliminary investigation in 1985, the bishop concluded that there were many signs that indicated that there was a supernatural explanation to the messages and miracles. In the same year, the municipality of San Nicolás gave permission for the construction of a sanctuary at the field by the river, and in the following year the construction of a very large sanctuary began. The construction was mainly financed by donations from the many pilgrims who arrived.
In 1990, the local church claimed that the heavenly messages to Gladys Motta had changed. Now they had a more private character, and only some of them seem to have been published at the time. Only much later, in 2015–2016, Bishop Héctor Sabatino Cardelli issued a complete edition of the post-1990 messages, which were printed in seven volumes. Though the diocese’s evaluation of the messages were positive from the very beginning, only in 2016, the bishop issued a final statement on the truth of the Virgin’s apparitions to Gladys Quiroga de Motta. Today, the sanctuary attracts a couple of million visitors a year.
As mentioned, several people with a background in the Guardia de Hierro, including Alejandro Álvarez and Segundo Ubaldo Roldán were attracted by the news about the miracles at San Nicolás and the reported messages from the Virgin. In his autobiographical notes, Roldán wrote that “Providence” brought them to San Nicolás in 1985, and that they saw the Virgin as their commander in their religio-political work. At that time, Roldán had been elected as diputado in the national Cámara de Diputados, a position he held between 1983 and 1987.
On September 25, 1988, exactly five years after the first reported apparition to Gladys Motta, a group of some fifty people, many of them ex-members of the OUTG founded the Orden de laicos de María del Rosario de San Nicolás. It was a lay organization that initially had the form of a secret group, but which the diocese later recognized as an association of faithful. The Order was characterized by a clear fusion between faith and politics. For many, the membership was an effect of a conversion or re-conversion, as the group included people who earlier had been non-practicing Catholics, but also people of Jewish origin and those who earlier had identified themselves as Marxists and atheists.
The group had their own chaplain. The first of the chaplains was the infamous Alberto Ezcurra Uriburu (1937–1993) He was known as the founder of the Movimiento Nacionalista Tacuara, a Fascist and Catholic group, which upheld contact with exiled Nazis. It was active in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and members were involved in terrorist activities and very serious hate crimes. Somewhat later, Ezcurra became an ultra-conservative priest. His successor as the Order’s chaplain was a Mexican priest called Alfonso Navarro.
According to Cucchetti, the Orden de María offered courses in what was referred to as Fideipolítica, which can be understood as a fusion of Catholicism and a kind of transcendental Peronism, where Perón became more of an eternal symbol than a historical character. During the 1990s, there were many conflicts between different factions in the Order. In December, 1998 Segundo Rolón was elected Responsable General of the Orden de María. His election meant a further development of the ideas and a rapid change of organizational forms.
The Road to the Papacy
Apart from Segundo Ubaldo Roldón, the most important actor in the changes in the Order around the turn of the millennium was Juan Domingo Rodríguez (1949–2012), who was regarded as a prophet and seer. His reported supernatural experiences began in the form of apparitions of Christ and the Virgin, but also of Perón. Rodríguez described his first experience of this kind:
One night I saw a very strong light, white-yellowish and I saw General Perón smiling (…) Some time after I began to see the Virgin and I saw her as María del Rosario de San Nicolás. I would like to make clear that it was not an image or a statue, by Her in person.
From December 10, 2000 onwards, Rodríguez claimed to receive locutions from the Virgin Mary, who told him to diffuse her messages. Segundo Rolón became the main responsible for the distribution of the words from Heaven. According to Rolón’s own testimony, this was the beginning of a new era which had serious effects on his personal life. In 2001, he left his wife and family to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to this apostolate. The early messages to Gladys Motta were still important for the group, but it is clear that they regarded Rodríguez as the seer par preference in this new era.
In 2002, Juan Domingo Rodríguez reported that Jesus had told him that Segundo Rolón “was Peter, the prince of the apostles”. Though it is not difficult to see this as a station on the road to Rolón’s papal claims, no such claims were made at that time. In his autobiographical notes, Rolón wrote that his wife Letitia was not convinced by his new role: “she could not recognize the spirit of Peter in her husband.” The separation was a fact. By that time, Rolón started to appoint apostles, who should help him carry out the prophetic ministry. In 2004, there were six of them, and by that time Rolón started the Escuela Central de la Vida on a piece of land that the Order had acquired in the 1990s. There, they established a kind of monastic community.
On January 6, 2005, Juan Domingo Rodríguez asserted that Jesus had announced that the End Time had come. It was a new period which should imply many radical changes. One of them was that the new Peter (i.e. Segundo Rolón) would receive heavenly messages, too, at least according to Rolón’s autobiographical notes. This chain of events was the beginning of a missionary campaign known as Argentina en Movimiento, through which the community wanted to attract young people to become disciples and live in “común-unión” at the Escuela in San Nicolás. According to a press report from 2008, most of Rolón’s followers now lived in the community, and every member was re-named, taking biblical names. Still, there were adherents who lived in other places; most of them in the province of Mendoza.
A new period began in 2006, when Liliana Reyes and Segundo Roldán met and started to live together. By that time, Roldón decided that members of the community should marry and procreate. He approached the Catholic bishop of San Nicolás trying to get permission to administer the sacrament of matrimony. Needless to say, the bishop’s decision was negative, and the leader of the diocese made a very clear public statement that Rolón’s group had nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church.
As a result of the clear condemnation of the community, there was a rupture between Roldón and his long-time friend Alejandro Álvarez, who did not accept the clash with the official church. Another brother-in-arms, the prophet Juan Domingo Rodríguez, also left the community. Several of the recently elected apostles left the group, too, while new, often younger people joined. The group’s main missionary strategy was to approach pilgrims who had come to San Nicolás, providing them with their messages from Heaven, but they also did missionary work throughout the country.
On September 23, 2007, Segundo Rolón and Liliana Reyes got married in a ceremony at the Escuela. Their marriage was considered a mystical and eternal union, and a symbol for the love-filled relation between Jesus and the Church. At this time critics of the group claimed that Rolón had received a revelation which stated that Jesus would be re-born in the near future. In fact, he would be born in the community. According to these critical reports, Rolón, more or less directly, forced male and female members to marry and procreate. Preservatives were forbidden and several children were born in these years. Still, Rolón did not recognize the Second Coming of Jesus in any of them.
The Papacy of Pedro Segundo
In November 2007, Christ the King confirmed that Pedro Segundo Rolón was his pope, the Pope of Jesus (in Spanish “Pedro Segundo” could be understood as Peter II, the last pope in history). Roldón also claimed that already in 2005, St. Paul had said to him that he was or would become the pope. Still, by late 2007, his papal claim became much more public.
In March 2008, Pedro Segundo began to write a more systematic presentation of the “Revealed Truth” in a document that would become his first encyclical. It includes teachings on the creation and fall of humanity. Most of it is fairly standard. Some of the content, however, is less common. The Pope of Jesus sees Christian Democratic parties as the Antichrist, or at least one of the Antichrists. In this End Time, “The Church of Jesus” has been re-established through the election of Rolón, first as a new Peter and then as the last pope, Pedro Segundo. In this and other documents, there is not much discussion on whether Benedict XVI was or had become an antipope, but it is clear that John Paul II, who died in 2005, was the great pope in Roldón’s view. Still, in his papal documents Pedro Segundo cited texts by Pope Benedict, too.
Pedro Segundo also presented the quite common view that Freemasons had infiltrated the official church in order to destroy it from within. In the End times the Roman Catholic Church had become an Antichurch, as it did not teach the Social doctrine of the church. The hope for humanity was to be found in the New Argentina, where Christ would become the supreme leader, and where the salvation of the world would start. Apart from encyclicals and other formal letters, Pedro Segundo regularly sent news letters including new messages from Heaven to the faithful.
By Easter 2008, the number of apostles at the Escuela had finally reached twelve. Thus, the Apostolic College was complete. By now, the group celebrated mass according to a totally revised rite, the Misa Fideipolítica. Another End Time sign was that Pedro Segundo, on October 25, 2008, received the message that the child who would become the Second Coming of Jesus, had been conceived. It soon became clear that he would be the child of Liliana Amitiel and Pedro Segundo.
At that time, the group in San Nicolás became much more known on the national scene, as they publically prophesized that the fall of the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would occur before Christmas Day 2008. In a document, signed in November that year, Pedro Segundo claimed that the Second Coming of Jesus was near, that the preparation stage was over, and that the Day of Judgement was imminent. Before that time, all political institutions would fall, including the Argentinean government. Thereafter, Christ the King would take over the government of the “New and Holy Argentina”, and the twelve apostles would become ministers who would help him implement the divine religio-political plans. Argentina had a special place in the End Time, as it was the New Israel. Nevertheless, the changes would soon be worldwide.
On December 2, 2008, the pope and the apostles gathered on the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires to disseminate their message. On Christmas Eve, they were back on this highly symbolic square, where they managed to celebrate the Misa Fideipolitica. Through this act, Pedro Segundo claimed that the Day of Judgement was postponed. The government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner survived Christmas Day. Exactly when Jesus, in the form of Pedro Segundo’s and Liliana Amitiel’s son, was born is unclear, but in must have been in early 2009. He was named Joaquin (often also referred to as Joaquín Gabriel), and was considered the Second Coming of Christ.
In the years that followed (2009-2012), Pedro Segundo published a number of messages that according to him constituted the Total Revelation. Basically, it was a series of verse-by-verse interpretations of the Book of Revelation, in which he sought to explain what was going on in the End Time. They were published on Pedro Segundo’s blog: http://pedrosegundoelultimopapa.blogspot.com. The documents were signed by Pedro Segundo himself or by the kind of terrestrial trinity that he made up together with his wife and son. One way of expressing this Trinitarian leadership was to sign the documents with the names “Pedro Segundo Gabriel, the Pope of Jesus in María Liliana Amitiel with Joaquín Gabriel Reyes Rolón – Emperors of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Another version was “María Liliana with Joaquín in Pedro Segundo and the End Time Apostles”.
The leadership was thus clearly Trinitarian. Therefore, the fact that María Liliana in early 2013 left Pedro Segundo and brought their four-year son Joaquín with her, must have been especially devastating. The separation, and the excommunication of María Liliana, was made public in a letter to the members, dated on May 22, 2013.
After this time, there are few messages from Pedro Segundo on his blog. Thus it is difficult to know if (or in what way) he upheld his papal claim. The messages on his Twitter account and on his Facebook page are confusing and very difficult to understand, at least for an outsider. Moreover, much of his messages seem to have had the form of videos, which are not available to outsiders. In later years, very few people interacted with him on Twitter and Facebook. In mid-2016, the messages ended and on his Facebook page, one of his sons wrote that Pedro Segundo had died on August 17, 2016, at the age of 66.
Pedro Segundo’s blog: http://pedrosegundoelultimopapa.blogspot.com
Humberto Cucchetti, “De la resistencia peronista al comunitarismo católico: un linaje de conversión católica en trayectorias justicialistas”, », Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [On-line journal], 2007.
Julia Costilla, “El culto a la Virgen del Rosario en San Nicolás de los Arroyos (Argentina, 1983–2010): Milagro y reconfiguración social”, RUNA: Archivo para las ciencias del hombre, 34.2 (2013): 177-195.
Massimo Introvigne, “Argentine: Le pape François et la ‘La Garde de Fer’–de la politique à la religión”, Religioscope, March 31, 2013.
“Secta de origen Católico anunció que derrocará a Cristina Kirchner”, Noticiacristiana.com, December 19, 2008.
General information about the official cult of María del Rosario de San Nicolás
María del Rosario de San Nicolás, Mensajes 1983–1990, Centro de Difusión del Movimiento Mariano San Nicolás, 1995.
Héctor Sabatino Cardelli (ed.), Mensajes de la Virgen: María del Rosario de San Nicolás, 7 vols. [messages 1990–2015], San Nicolás: Obispado de San Nicolás de los Arroyos, 2015–2016.