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Polish archbishop says Vatican will recognize Medjugorje visions

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Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish archbishop who inspected Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Medjugorje shrine for the pope predicted the Vatican will soon recognize its Marian apparitions.

Pilgrims pray in front of a statue of Mary in 2011 on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga, Poland, who inspected the shrine for Pope Francis, predicts the Vatican will soon recognize its Marian apparitions. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has passed all documentation to the Secretariat of State, everything suggests the apparitions will be accepted before the year ends,” said Archbishop Henryk Hoser.

“It’s difficult to believe the six visionaries have been lying for 36 years,” the archbishop said. “What they say is coherent, and none is mentally disturbed, while the apparitions’ faithfulness to church doctrine is also a powerful argument for their authenticity.”

The archbishop spoke as he completed a report from his spring mission to the hilltop shrine, which has not been officially recognized by the church despite 2.5 million pilgrims annually.

He told Poland’s Catholic Information Agency, KAI, he had found an “exceptional atmosphere” of “spiritual creativeness” at Medjugorje, characterized by “prayer, silence, meditation, Eucharist, adoration, fasting and reconciliation.”

He added that the shrine was seeing “huge dynamic growth,” in contrast to older sanctuaries in Portugal, France and Poland and had succeeded in remaining “a true place for pilgrims” while “eliminating tourist elements.”

“Everything is moving in a good direction. My mission wasn’t aimed at closing Medjugorje down, but at evaluating whether pastoral work is being properly organized there in line with church teaching,” Archbishop Hoser said.

“My conclusions are that it is, and my impression is highly positive,” he told KAI.

Six teenagers claim to have seen the Virgin Mary June 24, 1981, near Medjugorje. Since then, they have reported more than 42,000 apparitions at the site, which was largely untouched by the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

 

Local bishop doesn’t agree

In April, the then-prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, told KAI ageny it still could “take a long time” for the Vatican to rule on the apparitions, despite Archbishop Hoser’s pastoral visitation.

Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, the local ordinary, has consistently dismissed the Medjugorje apparitions as false, like his predecessor, Bishop Pavao Zanic, and appealed to bishops abroad not to support pilgrimages there.

However, in March, Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, defended the shrine as “Europe’s largest confessional,” and said he counted on the Vatican to appreciate its evangelical potential in generating “conversions and acts of grace.”

Pope Francis told reporters traveling with him from Fatima, Portugal, in May that the most important fact about Medjugorje is “the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact” that thousands of pilgrims go to Medjugorje and are converted. “For this there is no magic wand; this spiritual-pastoral fact cannot be denied.”

The spiritual fruits of the pilgrimages, he said, are the reason why in February he appointed Archbishop Hoser to study the best ways to provide pastoral care to townspeople and the pilgrims.

Speaking to reporters May 13, Pope Francis gave no indication of when a final pronouncement about the alleged apparitions would be made. However, the said that a commission set up by then-Pope Benedict XVI had spent years investigating the phenomenon and tended to believe the apparitions in that first week of the summer of 1981 may have been real, but the continued reports of apparitions are questionable.

Furthermore, Pope Francis told the press, “personally, I am more ‘mischievous.’ I prefer Our Lady to be a mother, our mother, and not a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time; this is not the mother of Jesus.”

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Commission reportedly thought the first alleged visions at Medjugorje were real

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The commission that now-retired Pope Benedict XVI established to study the alleged apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, reportedly voted overwhelmingly to recognize as supernatural the first seven appearances of Mary in 1981.

The sun sets behind a statue of Mary on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The sun sets behind a statue of Mary on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

However, according to a report published by the website Vatican Insider, the commission was much more doubtful about the thousands of alleged visions that have occurred since July 4, 1981, and supposedly continue to this day.

Two of the 17 commission members and consultants thought the alleged visions after the period of June 24-July 3, 1981, were not supernatural, while the other members said it was not possible to make a judgment.

The commission said it was clear that the six alleged visionaries and a seventh who claims to have begun receiving messages from Mary in December 1982 were not given adequate spiritual support.

Vatican Insider published its piece on the report May 16, three days after Pope Francis spoke about some details of the report to journalists traveling with him from Fatima, Portugal.

The Vatican press office May 17 declined to comment on the Vatican Insider piece.

Speaking to journalists May 13, Pope Francis said that, regarding the Medjugorje commission’s work, “three things need to be distinguished.”

“About the first apparitions, when (the ‘seers’) were young, the report more or less says that the investigation needs to continue,” the pope said, according to the English translation posted on the Vatican website.

“Concerning the alleged current apparitions, the report expresses doubts,” he said. Furthermore, “personally, I am more ‘mischievous.’ I prefer Our Lady to be a mother, our mother, and not a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time; this is not the mother of Jesus.”

Pope Francis said his “personal opinion” is that “these alleged apparitions have no great value.”

The real core of the commission’s report, he said, is “the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact” that thousands of pilgrims go to Medjugorje and are converted. “For this there is no magic wand; this spiritual-pastoral fact cannot be denied.”

The spiritual fruits of the pilgrimages, he said, are the reason why in February he appointed Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga to study the best ways to provide pastoral care to townspeople and the pilgrims.

According to Vatican Insider, 13 of the 14 commission members present at one meeting voted to recommend lifting the Vatican ban on official diocesan and parish pilgrimages to Medjugorje.

The commission also recommended turning the town’s parish Church of St. James into a pontifical shrine with Vatican oversight. The move, the commission said, would not signify recognition of the apparitions, but would acknowledge the faith and pastoral needs of the pilgrims while ensuring a proper accounting of the financial donations pilgrims leave.

The commission’s role was to make recommendations to the pope; its report is not an official church judgment on the apparitions. Pope Francis told reporters May 13 that “in the end, something will be said,” but he gave no timeline.

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Pope sends envoy to study pastoral care of faithful in Medjugorje

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Without commenting on the authenticity of alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pope Francis has appointed a Polish archbishop to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the town each year.

A statue of Mary is seen outside St. James Church in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this file photo. Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga, Poland, as his special envoy to Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions. A Vatican statement said his role would be to study the pastoral situation in Medjugorje. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A statue of Mary is seen outside St. James Church in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this file photo. Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga, Poland, as his special envoy to Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions. A Vatican statement said his role would be to study the pastoral situation in Medjugorje. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope chose Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga as his special envoy to Medjugorje, the Vatican announced Feb. 11.

“The mission has the aim of acquiring a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation there and, above all, of the needs of the faithful who go there in pilgrimage, and on the basis of this, to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future,” the Vatican announcement said.

Archbishop Hoser’s assignment has “an exclusively pastoral character,” the Vatican said, making it clear his task is separate from the work of a commission set up in 2010 by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary had appeared to them daily beginning in 1981. Some of the six say Mary still appears to them and gives them messages each day, while others say they see her only once a year now.

Pope Benedict had named retired Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini to chair the group studying the apparitions. In June 2015, Pope Francis told reporters that Cardinal Ruini had given him the group’s report and that it would be studied by the cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At the time, Pope Francis said, “We’re close to making decisions,” although nothing was announced until the appointment of Archbishop Hoser about 20 months later.

Thousands of pilgrims travel to the small town each month to meet the alleged seers and to pray. Because the apparitions have not been approved, the Vatican has said dioceses should not organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje. However, it also has said Catholics are free to visit the town and pray there, and that the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and the Franciscans who minister in the town should organize pastoral care for them.

The Vatican’s February announcement said that Archbishop Hoser “is expected to finish his mandate as special envoy by summer of this year.”

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Vatican to announce guidelines on Medjugorje, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Pope Francis said the Vatican was ready to make an announcement concerning the alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met recently to discuss the issue and “we’ve reached the point of making a decision and then they will say,” he told journalists on the flight back to Rome June 6.

Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, to Rome June 6. At left is Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. The pope announced on the return flight that a decision soon will be announced concerning alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, to Rome June 6. At left is Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. The pope announced on the return flight that a decision soon will be announced concerning alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The expected announcement will include “just some guidelines (the congregation) will give to the bishops,” he said in response to a reporter’s question.

An international commission of cardinals, bishops, theologians and other experts, working under the auspices of the doctrinal congregation, was set up in 2010 to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary had appeared to them daily beginning in 1981. The apparitions purportedly continue and thousands travel to the small town each month to meet the alleged seers and to pray.

After a few years, the commission completed its study in which the members “did a beautiful job, a beautiful job,” Pope Francis said at the end of his one-day visit to Sarajevo.

For years the local bishop, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, has said he believes nothing supernatural is happening in Medjugorje.

While the Vatican has said dioceses should not organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, it has said Catholics are free to visit the town and pray there, and that the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and the Franciscans should organize pastoral care for them.

Pope Benedict XVI had reaffirmed that the church never requires the faithful to believe in apparitions, not even those recognized by the church.

 

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