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Bosnian bishop says again: Mary has not appeared in Medjugorje

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — “The Virgin Mary has not appeared in Medjugorje,” said Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, the diocese in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which includes Medjugorje.

A statue of Mary is seen outside St. James Church in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this file photo.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A statue of Mary is seen outside St. James Church in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Two weeks after the Vatican announced Pope Francis was sending a Polish archbishop to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Medjugorje each year, Bishop Peric posted his statement Feb. 26 on his diocesan website.

Three of the six young people who originally claimed to have seen Mary in Medjugorje in June 1981 say she continues to appear to them each day; the other three say Mary appears to them once a year now.

Bishop Peric noted that a diocesan commission studied the alleged apparitions in 1982-1984 and again in 1984-1986 with more members; and the then-Yugoslavian bishops’ conference studied them from 1987 to 1990. All three commissions concluded that it could not be affirmed that a supernatural event was occurring in the town.

The six young people continued to claim to see Mary and receive messages from her and tens of thousands of pilgrims visited the town, and the alleged visionaries, each year. Pope Benedict XVI established a commission that worked from 2010 to 2014; and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith began looking at that commission’s report in 2014.

Many observers believe Pope Francis appointed his envoy in February to study the pastoral needs of the town and the pilgrims in preparation for releasing a judgment on the alleged apparitions.

The position of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno “for this entire period has been clear and resolute: these are not real apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Bishop Peric wrote in his statement, which was posted in Croatian and Italian.

Some people, he said, believe the apparitions were real at least at the beginning, perhaps for the first week, but that the young people continued to claim to see and hear Mary “for other reasons, most of which are not religious.”

Bishop Peric said a study of the transcripts of interviews with the six alleged visionaries from that first week give several motives for suspicion if not total doubt about the supernatural nature of events.

First, he said, the Mary of Medjugorje usually speaks only when spoken to, “she laughs in a strange way, in response to certain questions she disappears and then returns, and she obeyed the ‘seers’ and the pastor who made her come down from the hill into the church even against her will. She does not know with certainty how long she will appear, she allows some of those present to step on her veil lying on the ground, to touch her clothes and her body. This is not the Gospel Mary.”

The seventh time Mary allegedly appeared, June 30, 1981, five of the youngsters were in a nearby town called Cerno and claimed to have seen Mary there. Bishop Peric said that in the recorded interviews all five reported that the apparitions would continue only three more days, July 1-3, 1981.

“Then she changed her mind and still ‘appears,’” the bishop wrote.

“Taking into account all that was examined and studied by this diocesan curia, including the study of the first seven days of the presumed apparitions, one calmly can affirm: The Virgin Mary has not appeared in Medjugorje. This is the truth that we uphold, and we believe in the word of Jesus who said the truth will set you free.”

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Pope Francis to visit Fatima in May for 100th anniversary of Marian apparitions

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Portugal in 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions of Fatima.

The pope, who accepted the invitation made by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the bishops of Portugal, “will go on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima from May 12-13,” the Vatican announced Dec. 17.

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried through a crowd May 13 at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Thousands of pilgrims arrived at the shrine to attend the 99th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to three shepherd children. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, received the first of several visions May 13, 1917. (CNS photo/Paulo Chunho, EPA)

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried through a crowd May 13 at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Thousands of pilgrims arrived at the shrine to attend the 99th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to three shepherd children. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, received the first of several visions May 13, 1917. (CNS photo/Paulo Chunho, EPA)

The pilgrimage will mark the anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which first began on May 13, 1917, when three shepherd children reported seeing the Virgin Mary.

The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

Following the announcement, Father Carlos Cabecinhas, rector of the Fatima shrine told Agencia Ecclesia, the news agency of the Portuguese bishops’ conference, that the visit was a cause for joy for the shrine.

“For the shrine of Fatima, it is a great joy to receive this confirmation of Pope Francis’ visit,” he said.

“We know that those days will be a pilgrimage marked by this festivity that, on the one hand is for the centennial of the apparitions and, on the other hand, marks the presence of the pope in our midst and a pope as beloved as Pope Francis,” Father Cabecinhas said.

While the Vatican confirmed the dates of the visit, the pope had already said that he intended to go.

“Certainly, as things presently stand, I will go to Portugal, and only to Fatima,” he told journalists during his return flight to Rome from Azerbaijan Oct. 2.

Pope Francis will be the fourth pontiff to visit the Marian shrine, following the footsteps of Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who each paid homage different years to Mary on the anniversary of the first apparition May 13.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Mary’s Miraculous Medal reminds us to stay close to Jesus

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Catholic News Service

I received my first Miraculous Medal almost 30 years ago. I was 12 years old, and it was a confirmation gift from my mother.

Pope Francis uses incense to venerate an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during Mass in Ecatepec near Mexico City Feb. 14. While the church has rejected the legitimacy of some Marian appearances, it has not made judgment on most of them. Some appearances, however, have been recognized by the church as legitimate, including those at Guadalupe, Mexico, in 1531; Siluva, Lithuania, in 1608; the appearance to St. Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1830. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis uses incense to venerate an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during Mass in Ecatepec near Mexico City Feb. 14. While the church has rejected the legitimacy of some Marian appearances, it has not made judgment on most of them. Some appearances, however, have been recognized by the church as legitimate, including those at Guadalupe, Mexico, in 1531; Siluva, Lithuania, in 1608; the appearance to St. Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1830. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Petals of gold wrapped around the medal itself, which bore the familiar image of the Virgin Mary atop a globe, her feet crushing the serpent and rays of light descending from her fingers. It had belonged to a great aunt, but now it was mine.

The gift came with a lengthy explanation from my mother about the history of the Miraculous Medal and Mary’s promise of blessings to those who wore it, as revealed by St. Catherine Laboure, who was visited by the Virgin Mary two times as a novice in 19th-century France.

“Don’t lose it,” my mother warned, roping the gold chain around my neck.

I never took it off. But truth be told, I did lose it eventually. When I was about seven months pregnant with my third child, it slipped from my neck, bounced off my belly and disappeared into the water during a vacation in Florida.

The medal itself is gone, but I’ve never lost my belief in the power of Marian apparitions like the one witnessed by St. Catherine.

I believe these appearances over the centuries have provided a needed nourishment of our faith, both on a larger scale and individually. They remind me that even on days when the struggle seems all too real, I have an infinite supply of spiritual support to lean on.

To be clear, I’m talking about Marian apparitions that have been approved by the church, not the random declarations of those purporting to see Mary on their slice of buttered toast.

The way I see it, these apparitions — like those at Fatima, Guadalupe and Lourdes, among others — are a nonsecular shot in the arm for the faithful. They offer a surprise for a world that thinks it already has it all figured out.

Perhaps that’s why many people are quick to dismiss these apparitions. They want something tangible, but faith is rarely that easy. We may believe a groundhog can predict an early spring but dispute the idea that the mother of Our Lord would present herself to someone.

Mary’s appearances may be unexpected, but her message is not, that penance and prayer are powerful antidotes to evil. By all accounts of these apparitions, it’s never Mary proclaiming her own awesomeness.

Rather, she reminds us that Jesus is always the answer to even the most confounding questions. And she offers to advocate for us through prayer.

One of the things I love about Mary is that she’s like the really cool friend who sees a better version of ourselves than we do, and who wants to help us get to where we need to be.

We may wonder what we did to deserve it. It’s simple; we believe in her Son.

That she has appeared to people who are poor, young and disadvantaged — those who lack the traditional trappings of the material world — makes it even more powerful.

As a little kid in Catholic school, I loved hearing the story of Our Lady of Fatima because she appeared to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, children just like me.

For a girl who spent much of the fourth grade wanting to be a saint, I was hopeful that Our Lady might grace me with her presence. (She didn’t, for the record.) But her appearance to children made her more accessible in my mind.

Obviously, I’m the not only one who feels this way, judging by the millions of people who have made pilgrimages to the sites of these apparitions. And that connection to others also can help us grow in our faith.

I remember feeling a kinship with strangers when I attended Mass at the Knock shrine in Ireland on my honeymoon. We all experience our faith in different ways, yet here we were together celebrating Jesus because of what his mother did.

That’s the great part about Mary’s apparitions. They don’t call us to believe in her.

They call us to believe in Christ.

 

Bothum is a freelance writer and a mother of three.

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