The local press is once again referring back to the phenomenon of Medjugorje. The reason for this is the letter of archbishop Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated 26 May 1998, to bishop Aubry of the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Motivated by the media’s explanation of this letter, we bring a brief chronology of the specialized and official position of the Church regarding the events of Medjugorje, which to date remain unchanged.
Unrecognized apparitions. The phenomenon of the “apparitions” in Medjugorje has been studied by three commissions. In the second commission, the local bishop of Mostar, Msgr. Zanic, called in specialists from Church faculties and scientific institutions. On 2 May 1986, the members of the commission voted non constat de supernaturalitate, that is, it does not result that the “events” in Medjugorje concern supernatural apparitions. Having informed the Congregation and with the accord of the Bishop of Mostar, the former Bishops’ Conference established a new commission in 1987 which brought the results of its investigations to the Bishops in the autumn of 1990. On the base of these studies, the Bishops’ Conference, gathered in Zadar on 10 April 1991, gave a negative declaration regarding Medjugorje: “On the basis of investigations made thus far, it is impossible to confirm that the events involve supernatural apparitions or revelations”. These “apparitions” are to be considered so-called or alleged. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also refers to them with quotation marks.
In the current circumstances, the question of further studying the phenomenon of the alleged “apparitions” at Medjugorje, has not been raised at the level of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These so-called “apparitions” and their “messages” have been aimed against the local Bishop from the very beginning (1981) and are also closely tied to the “case of Herzegovina” which the Holy See very much takes to heart and would like to resolve as soon as possible. This refers to the disobedience of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province in its execution of a Papal decree regarding certain parishes in the diocese of Mostar-Duvno.
“Private” visits. Due to the lack of authenticity regarding supernatural apparitions in Medjugorje, the local bishop, Msgr. Zanic, was against the organizing of visits to the place of the so-called apparitions.
The former Bishops’ Conference repeatedly declared that “organized official pilgrimages to Medjugorje as if already understood as accepted by the Church, are not allowed”.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to the Italian Bishops’ Conference in 1985, in order to study the suitability of suggesting to the Italian bishops “that they publicly dissuade the organization of pilgrimages to the mentioned alleged place of apparitions, as well as all other methods of publicity, especially regarding the press, which could prejudice a calm examination of the ‘events’ on the part of the special Commission which has been canonically established for this purpose.”
The Bishops’ Conference gathered in Zadar, in declaring that it is impossible to confirm the authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions or revelations, also mentions that there exist “great gatherings of people from all parts of the world who come to Medjugorje for religious and other motives”.
“Private” visits of this nature have not been debated, since going to Medjugorje would then be similar to visiting any other Catholic parish. Yet it has always been clearly stated that this cannot be done officially, using the church and the pulpit in order to preach the authenticity of the alleged “apparitions” and proclaiming the place a “sanctuary” of unrecognized “apparitions”.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to French archbishop Daloz of Besançon in 1995 and to bishop Taverdet of Langres in 1996, that “official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, perceived as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, cannot be organized at the parish nor diocesan level, since they would contradict what the Bishops of the former Yugoslavia stated earlier in their above mentioned declaration.”
Regarding “pilgrimages to Medjugorje of a private nature”, the Congregation maintains that they are allowed “under the condition that they are not considered an authentication of events still going on, which demand further investigations by the Church”. Hence, nothing new here. Official or church pilgrimages are not allowed, nor are “private” visits allowed that have the intent of proving that the so-called “apparitions” and alleged “messages” are authentic! Therefore the official position of the local Bishop is the same official position of the Bishops’ Conference of 1991. And both priests and the faithful as Catholics should adhere to this position!
Mostar, July 21, 1998
+ Ratko Peric
Bishop of Mostar