Medjugorje: The Vatican’s “Yes, But”

May 20, 2019

By disposition of Pope Francis, dioceses and parishes may now organize official pilgrimages to this Bosnian village of Medjugorje, where many millions of faithful have already visited. The Holy See has not yet made a decision about the supernatural character of the Marian apparitions.

Luigi Pezzuto Apostolic Nuncio in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Archbishop Henryk Hoser, the Holy See’s special Apostolic Visitator announced the decision of the Roman Pontiff on May 12, 2019 during the Sunday Mass celebrated in the parish of Medjugorje.

The news was immediately confirmed by ad interim director of the Vatican Press Room, Alessandro Gisotti: “Considering the considerable flow of people who go to Medjugorje and the abundant fruits of grace that have sprung from it, this authorization is part of the particular pastoral attention that the Holy Father intended to give to that reality, aimed at encouraging and promoting its good fruits.”

However, in the same communique, Rome seems to have certain reservations: “care must be taken to avoid creating confusion or ambiguity from the doctrinal point of view regarding such pilgrimages. This also concerns pastors of every order and level who intend to go to Medjugorje and celebrate or concelebrate there even in a solemn way.” Indeed, the apparitions themselves are still not officially recognized.

This inconsistency shows the absurdity of such a situation. Either apparitions are from God, or they are not from God. And therefore, either pilgrimages must be authorized, or they must be prohibited. But by allowing pilgrimages without pronouncing on the fundamental question, the Vatican can only create confusion by maintaining the ambiguity it claims to avoid.

On this account, since there is undoubtedly some good—Masses, confessions, recitation of the rosary, pious exercises, conversions, vocations, etc.—it becomes possible without further examination to recognize all the self-proclaimed pilgrimages. It will suffice to take into account the “considerable flow” of people who go there to authorize the development of sanctuaries whose legitimacy remains doubtful since the authenticity of the phenomena that has taken place there has not been doctrinally recognized—with the risk of exposing the faithful to the devil's tricks.

The Ruini Report Buried

In 2010, under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, an international commission of inquiry into the events of Medjugorje was set up, headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini. It made its report in 2014.

On May 16, 2017, the Vatican Insider reference website reported that the commission had issued 13 votes in favor of recognizing as supernatural some of the first seven appearances, one vote against, and one “suspensive” ballot.

On the other hand, a majority of “contra” or suspensive votes had led the commission to make a negative judgment on the pursuit of  the supernatural phenomenon, after 1981 and up to the present day. The results of the Ruini report have never been officially published.

The Francis Method at Work

Elected in 2013, Pope Francis favored a pastoral approach by giving priority to the spiritual guidance of pilgrims who visit Medjugorje, rather than deciding on the basis of the problem—the supernatural character or not of the apparitions of the Virgin in this place.

This is especially interesting since he himself has never hidden his personal doubts on the issue. On May 13, 2017, on the return from Fatima, Francis said about the commission's conclusions: “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.” 

Faithful to his ways of doing things, the pope then had added that he was more concerned by “the spiritual and pastoral fact...of people who go to confess there,” than with the doctrinal aspect of the apparitions. “These alleged appearances have no great value,” he concluded lightly.

The serious investigation made by Yves Chiron deserves to be read with interest: “Medjugorje (1981-2006), non constat de supernaturalitate” [no evidence of supernaturality]. This book relates a study and observation trip made by the author to Medjugorje in 1993, during which he met the “seers,” the Franciscan fathers who advised them, and the bishop of Mostar who issued a negative judgment on the authenticity of the facts. This testimony is followed by a conference by Bishop Ratko Peric, Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, who presents a solid historical and doctrinal analysis of the “apparitions” in Medjugorje. (Editions Nivoit)

Obviously, No Real Appearances

The diocesan bishop has never varied on the “Medjugorje phenomenon.” On February 26, 2017, after making many inquiries—Mostar Diocesan Commission 1982-1984, the Expanded Commission 1984-1986, the Commission of the Episcopal Conference in Zagreb 1987-1990, the Commission of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican 2010-2014, and the evaluation by the same Congregation 2014-2016,—Bishop Perić concluded: “they are not true apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The position of the curia of Mostar, he said, was clear and resolute throughout this period: “the alleged phenomena are evidently not authentic, and this, starting with the first days.”