The website of the World Religion and Spirituality Project (WRSP), coordinated by Professor David G. Bromley includes updated entries on a growing number of religious group, not least so-called New Religious Movements.
Recently, I finished a WRSP group profile about the New Jerusalem Church of the Celestial Messenger based on the my and James W. Craig’s book Giuseppe Maria Abbate: The Italian-American Celestial Messenger (2018).
In 2009 Mathias Vigan was a Roman Catholic parish priest in the village of Banamè in south-eastern Benin. In January that year, he met a young woman named Vicentia Tadagbé Tchranvoukinni, whom he exorcised. As she went through the deliverance process, she assumed a new name, Parfaite, claiming increasing charismatic powers and wisdom. Soon, she asserted that she God the Holy Spirit–Dieu Saint-Esprit–also referring to herself as Daagbo.
Daagbo’s End Time mission to extirpate “witchcraft” and crush the Devil’s power; to purify and renew the Catholic Church; and to create peace and prosperity, saving humanity from eternal damnation. By her side was another young woman, Nicole Soglo, whom Daagbo asserted to be the representative of the Virgin Mary on earth: Nanyé Nicole. Mathias Vigan believed in Daagbo’s claims and took an active part in the mission.
In 2011, Daagbo founded a separate church, currently know as La Très Sainte Église de Jésus-Christ, Mission de Banamè–The Most Holy Church of Jesus Christ, Banamè Mission. But in her view, it was nothing new, but the One True Catholic Church, founded by her son Jesus Christ. Eventually, in late 2012 she made Mathias Vigan pope with the name Christophe XVII, and with time the pope, too, received an increasingly divine status as another Jesus.
My research report on La Très Sainte Église de Jésus-Christ, Mission de Banamè is found here.
As far as we know, Archbishop Ján Maria Michał Kowalski (1871–1942), the longtime leader of the Polish (Old) Catholic Mariavite Church claimed much spiritual power, even a kind of Messiah-status, but that he never explicitly claim the papacy. Still, bishops in the Mariavite core group, at least from the mid-1920s, asserted that the Roman pontiff was not the true pope anymore, that the Holy See had moved from Rome to the Mariavite centre in Plock, and that Kowalski was the long-awaited ‘Slavic Pope’, that Polish nationalist authors wrote about: a liberator and a benevolent religious leader.
The founder of the Mariavites was Sister Feliksa Maria Franciszka Kozlowska (1862–1921), often called Little Mother (Mateczka). She claimed to receive divine revelations–‘understandings’–from 1893 onwards, and the interpretation of them played a significant role in the development of the Mariavite doctrine, both before and after her death. Posthumously many followers believed Little Mother to be divine, and Archbishop Kowalski had an almost sacred status, even during his life. Claiming ‘understandings’, too, he introduced drastic doctrinal changes throughout the 1920s. Still, Kowalski’s autocratic rule and the unorthodox doctrinal development led to a schism in 1935, when only a small minority of the faithful remained with him.
A preliminary version of my text on Kowalski and the Mariavite papacy is found here
Some of the available lists of twentieth-century papal claimants include a Julius Tischler, who asserted that he was Pope Peter II. Most lists do not include any details on him, while some note that he was born in 1908. To my knowledge, the only researcher who provides some information about the case is Joachim Bouflet, who briefly mentioned Tischler in his well-researched Faussaires de Dieu. Though he does not refer to any primary sources, Bouflet underlined that Julius Tischler was not a real name, but a pseudonym, and that he was not strictly a papal claimant, but a claimant to a future papacy; he would become the last pope.
The main source of Julius Tischler’s claims is his 336-page-book published in 1972: Der Handwerksgeselle: Der Vierte Seher von Fatima [The Journeyman: The Fourth Seer of Fatima.] It is a peculiar book. On the one hand, it is a very detailed autobiography about the author’s first fifteen years in life, following a strictly chronological outline. On the other, the author included many accounts of amazing spiritual experiences, which he seamlessly intertwined with the much more down-to-earth autobiographical narrative. Among other things, the author claimed that he was mystically present at Fatima when the Virgin appeared in 1917. In short, he was the fourth seer of Fatima. Moreover, he was the only of the children who received the second, most important part of the Virgin’s message in 1923. The author’s real name was Franz Engelhardt (or Ferenc Egerszegi) who was a Roman Catholic priest of Hungarian origin who was a parish priest in the diocese of Trier.
A preliminary version of my text on Tischler/Engelhardt is found here
Towards the end of 1927, a suspended Roman Catholic priest, Adam Anthony Oraczewski (1883‒1973) published a 60-page pamphlet in Kansas City, Missouri. It has a bold title, All in One True Faith and the front page features the author dressed in the papal white, declaring that since August 7, he was Adam II, Pope of the Holy Catholic Church.
Among the modern alternative popes, Polish-American Adam II is certainly among the least known and one of the earliest. He lived until he was 90, but we have relatively few sources to his life and even less on his papacy. However, thanks to the two booklets, a few newspaper articles, and some official records, it is possible to write a brief biography. Still, many lacunae and uncertainties remain. Therefore, any further information on Adam Anthony Oraczewski is most welcome.
The preliminary version of the biography is found here
Giuseppe Maria Abbate (1886‒1963) was one of the many Italians who immigrated to the United States in the early twentieth century. However, his career in the new country would become quite unusual. Not only did he found a new religious group, the New Jerusalem Catholic Church in Chicago (1917), but he also claimed that he was a divinely elected Celestial Messenger and even the Celestial Father, God incarnate. Though a few authors have mentioned Abbate in passing, this is the first detailed investigation about him and his religious movement.
In the book Giuseppe Maria Abbate: The Italian-American Celestial Messenger (2018), Professor Magnus Lundberg (Uppsala) and Fr. James W. Craig (Chicago) present aspects of Giuseppe Maria Abbate’s biography, his religious claims, and mission as well as the history of the New Jerusalem Catholic Church, which he founded. The outline is chronological mainly, following Abbate from his birth in 1886 until his death in 1963, but with a clear focus on the period from the late-1910s onwards, when he appeared as a religious leader. It also includes an investigation of the congregation’s development after the founder’s death and the legacy of the Celestial Messenger.
The book is part of the Uppsala Studies in Church History e-book series that is published in the Department of Theology, Uppsala University. The full-text is available here
For a photo reportage on the Celestial Messenger in La Settimana INCOM Illustrata from 1950.
There is a small religious group, which by November 2017 had about twenty members, which is called the Faithful Remnant and believe that they constitute the true Roman Catholic Church. The leader of the group is the Canadian Douglas (Doug) Kuzell who claims that he is the Last Pope, Petrus Romanus. Moreover, Kuzell and his wife, Teresa Jackson (Mary Romanus) claim that they are the Two Witnesses, referred to in the Book of Revelation 11:1-14. My research report on the Two Witnesses was originally written in February 2017, but due to the quite dramatic development, it was updated in February 2018.
The research report is found here: The Faithful Remnant and the Last Canadian Pope