What about Medjugorje?

Apparitions of Mary reported in Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia have received worldwide attention.  Beginning in 1981, and still ongoing, Medjugorje has been, during the 1980s and early 1990s, one of the foremost places of pilgrimage of the Catholic Church.  By 1991, Medjugorje had received more than eighteen million pilgrims, fifty-thousand priests and more than a hundred bishops.  Even during the terrible times of fratricidal war, pilgrimages had not ceased, but seem to regain momentum in the present.

Simultaneously, Medjugorje has been an object of controversy between the local bishop and the Franciscan pastors of the apparition site.  Msgr. Zanic, as well as, more recently, Msgr. Peric, did and do not recognize the supernatural character of the events.  Their judgment in the matter seems to be of a definitive nature (constat de non supernaturalitate).  On the other hand, we have the verdict of the then-Yugoslavian Bishops' Conference of April 10, 1991, which is more nuanced and can be summarized in the following sentence: "On the basis of the investigation so far, it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations."  This amounts to a statement declaring "non constat de supernaturalitate."  Thus there is no final judgment at this stage regarding the authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions.

The following points should be regarded as pastoral guidelines in the matter:

1) The authority to speak about Medjugorje's authenticity:

The Ordinary of Mostar has not been in charge of this question since 1986.  Then-Cardinal Ratzinger relieved Msgr. Zanic of the dossier and put the matter in the hands of the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference.  It would now pertain to the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina to decide.

2) Present state of Church's recognition regarding authenticity:

Rome respects the declaration of the then-Yugoslavian Bishops Conference dated April 10, 1991.

The Catholic News Service translated the Croatian text:

From the very beginning, the bishops have been following the events of Medjugorje through the local bishop, the bishops' commission and the commission of the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia for Medjugorje.  On the basis of studies that have been made to this moment, it cannot be confirmed that supernatural apparitions and revelations are occurring here.

Yet, the gathering of faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, motivated by reasons of faith, requires the pastoral attention and care of the bishops.  Therefore, in the spirit of church communication, our bishops' conference is willing to assist the diocesan bishop in organizing the pastoral activity in Medjugorje so that a proper liturgical and sacramental life may be promoted, and so that manifestations and contents which are not in accord with the spirit of the church may be prevented and hindered.

3) Pilgrimages to Medjugorje:

Pilgrimages to Medjugorje are permitted as long as they are conducted privately (for example, no diocesan pilgrimages are allowed), and on condition that they are not regarded as an authentication of events still in progress and which still call for continued examination.

4) Ongoing investigation into the authenticity of the apparitions:

It is not clear whether these investigations are being conducted at this time.  The need for additional study has been established, at least indirectly, by the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference in 1991.  As mentioned earlier, the responsibility for any further investigation lies in the hands of the Bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  According to a May 26, 1998 letter, Archbishop Bertone, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said an Episcopal conference could perhaps reopen the re-examination of this case.  We also read that "a new commission has been named in Sarajevo." (Sr. Emmanuelle Nolan, Medjugorje: "What Does the Church Say?" Queenship, 1998, (insert), 374)

The various points here presented are the object of a letter by Archbishop T. Bertone to Msgr. Gilbert Aubry, Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Reunion.  The text of this May 26, 1998 letter follows:

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Pr. No 154/81-06419
May 26, 1998
To His Excellency Mons. Gilbert Aubry,
Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Reunion

Excellency:

In your letter of January 1, 1998, you submitted to this Dicastery several questions about the position of the Holy See and of the Bishop of Mostar in regard to the so-called apparitions of Medjugorje, private pilgrimages and the pastoral care of the faithful who go there.

In regard to this matter, I think it is impossible to reply to each of the questions posed by Your Excellency.  The main thing I would like to point out is that the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance.  As for the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: "On the basis of the investigation so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations."  Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina to perhaps reopen the examination of this case, and to make any new pronouncements that might be called for.

What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of Famille Chretienne, declaring: "My conviction and my position is not only 'non constat de supernaturalitate', but likewise, 'constat de non supernaturalitate' of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje," should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.

Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentication of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.

I hope that I have replied satisfactorily at least to the principal questions that you have presented to this Dicastery and I beg Your Excellency to accept the expression of my devoted sentiments.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone
(Secretary to the "Congregation" presided over by then-Cardinal Ratzinger)

There was later news concerning the future formation of a committee to review the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje in the following article by Cindy Wooden for Catholic News Service dated July 24, 2006:

Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, announced a commission would be formed to review the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje and pastoral provisions for the thousands of pilgrims who visit the town each year.

"The commission members have not been named yet," Cardinal Puljic told Catholic News Service in a July 24 telephone interview.  "I am awaiting suggestions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" ... on theologians to appoint.

"But this commission will be under the (Bosnian) bishops' conference" as is the usual practice with alleged apparitions, he said.

The cardinal said he did not expect the commission to be established until sometime in September because of the summer holidays.

He said the primary task of the commission would be to review a 1991 report from the region's bishops that concluded, "It cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations."

In addition, he said, the commission would be asked to review pastoral provisions that forbid official diocesan and parish pilgrimages to Medjugorje, while at the same time allowing priests to accompany groups of Catholics in order to provide the sacraments and spiritual guidance.

When asked if the new commission was the idea of the doctrinal congregation or of the bishops' conference, Cardinal Puljic said, "I would rather not answer that question."

Cardinal Puljic announced the future formation of the commission during the bishops' July 12-14 meeting in Banja Luka.

On June 25, thousands of pilgrims converged on Medjugorje to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first alleged apparition to six young people.

The Vatican continues to monitor events at Medjugorje, where the apparitions apparently continue, but it has not taken a formal position other than to support the bishops' ban on official pilgrimages.

Officials from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were not available July 24 for comment.

There is also more recent news concerning the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje from the Papal Nuncio for the USA, Carlo Maria Vigaṇ, in an article posted on the Spirit Daily website in October, 2013.

Click here to see the complete letter from the nuncio dated October 21, 2013.

For more on apparitions see: What Marian apparitions have been recognized by ecclesiastical authorities?


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