By nominating a “special apostolic visitor” for an “exclusively pastoral” mission, Pope Francis is prioritizing the spiritual care of pilgrims to Medjugorje rather than making a decision on the true problem: the supernatural – or non-supernatural – nature of Our Lady’s apparitions there.
On May 31, 2018, the Holy See Press Office announced the nomination of Archbishop Henryk Hoser, archbishop emeritus of Warsaw-Praga, as “special apostolic visitor” to the parish of Medjugorje, for an undefined period and at the disposition of the Holy See – at nutum Sanctae Sedis.
The official announcement explains that this is an “exclusively pastoral office” whose goal is to ensure “a stable and continuous accompaniment to the parish community of Medjugorje and to the faithful who go there as pilgrims.”
The Polish prelate – as the Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli recalls – is personally in favor of a recognition of the alleged apparitions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. But his mission will “not be of a doctrinal nature”, Greg Burke, director of the Press Office, hastened to point out, repeating that “today’s nomination does not enter into the doctrinal questions”; it is simply “the next step” in the continuity of Archbishop Hoser’s pastoral mission so far.
Pope Francis seems to be in no rush to give a doctrinal answer on the events that have been occurring in Medjugorje since June 24, 1981.
On one hand, the Roman commission presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini – and whose work was reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – pronounced a positive judgment in May 2017 on the supernatural nature of only the first apparitions.
On the other hand, local Bishop Ratio Peric, bishop of Mostar – and whose diocese includes the parish of Medjugorje – has always considered that none of the alleged apparitions were supernatural, and in this, he follows the example of his predecessors.
The Holy Father himself has never made a secret of his personal doubts on the matter. On his flight back from Fatima on May 13, 2017, Francis said of the commission’s conclusions: “I personally am more nasty. I prefer the Madonna as mother, our mother, and not a Madonna who is the head of a telegraph office, who every day sends a message at such-and-such an hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus.”
True to self, the pope added that he cared more about the “spiritual and pastoral fact . . . of the people who go to confession there” than about the doctrinal aspect of these apparitions: “these alleged appearances are not so valuable”, he concluded!