TV documentary claims CIA exploited Fr. Peyton’s worldwide “Rosary” crusade

A MAYO born priest, who took a step nearer sainthood last year when he was recognised as “Venerable” by the Roman Catholic Church, is the subject of a controversial documentary which will be shown on RTE One television this week.

‘Guns and Rosaries’, narrated by veteran U.S. actor Martin Sheen, claims that the South American part of Fr. Patrick Peyton’s worldwide “Recite the Rosary” crusade in the 1950s was secretly funded by the CIA, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The alleged reason for the CIA bankrolling the initiative was to save Latin America from the threat of ‘godless communism” at a time when the Cold War between the United States and Russia was fiercest.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Fr. Peyton, who was born in Carracastle, Attymass, Ballina in 1909, staged mass Rosary rallies in all five continents.

After emigrating to the U.S. and becoming a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Fr. Peyton contracted tuberculosis, a disease which some seventy years ago often proved fatal.

He prayed to the Blessed Virgin for a full recovery promising that if is prayers were answered he would the remainder of his life to spreading the message of devotion to ‘Mary’.

Thus was spawned the worldwide family rosary campaign. Millions inspired by the slogan, “The Family that Prays Together Stays Together”, including Hollywood stars Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Maureen O’Hara, responded to the call for regular devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

Last year, declaring Fr. Peyton, who died in 1992, as “Venerable”, Pope Francis said he had been an inspiration for families worldwide.

The documentary to the be shown on RTE One later this week is narrated by veteran U.S. actor Martin Sheen.

Part of Sheen’s script reads: “Fr. Peyton believed that the rosary was the ultimate WMD (weapon of mass devotion) that would destroy godless communism, and the CIA obviously believed it too, because it secretly funded his Rosary Crusade in Latin America during the Cold War’.

Those interviewed for the documentary include former Irish MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon.

She told the programme: “Fr. Peyton touched millions but he remained a humble, friendly, man.”

•Watch “Guns and Rosaries” on RTE One television this Thursday (March 21) at 10.15 p.m