July 1998: Private Visits to Unauthentic Apparitions
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
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,
+ Ratko Peric
Bishop of Mostar