What is the Official Status of Medjugorje?
The Church's current position is that of the 1991 Zadar Declaration in which it was stated:
On the bas[is] of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed Non constat de supernaturalitate (not established as supernatural) that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.
There are three possible decisions the Church can make. This is not a wholly negative judgment, nor is it a positive judgment. It leaves open the possibility for further study.
The 1991 Zadar Declaration has been cited numerous times in Vatican documents with regards to the current status, such as on those pertaining to pilgrimages and Medjugorje.
Are pilgrimages to Medjugorje permitted or not?
Keep in mind as you read this, that the 1978 CDF document on general apparition discernment used by bishops says:
b) Then, if this examination appears favorable, to allow certain public demonstrations of cult and devotion, while continuing to investigate the facts with extreme prudence (which is equivalent to the formula: “for the moment, nothing is opposed to it”).
With that in mind, you may notice two common threads in each of these communications out of the Bishop's conference and the Vatican. All point back to the 1991 Zadar Declaration for the Church's current position on Medjugorje: Non constat de supernaturalitate.
All communications use a qualifier with regards to pilgrimages. There is no official outright ban. They are permitted conditionally, but may not be organized by any bishop, diocese, parish, or other group AND on condition they do not give authentication to the events at Medjugorje. This is because the cult following has not been granted, which can only be granted once positive and negative criteria have been assessed favorably.
With regards to that last part, it is also prudent to consider something that Msgr. Henri Brincard, the Bishop of Puy-en-Velay (accompanying Bishop of the Association of Marian organisations), said in a letter written on behalf of the French Bishops in 2000:
In conclusion, allow me to make the following reflection:
"I have no authority to pronounce any ecclesial judgement whatsoever on the events of Medjugorje. I am therefore the first to have to give an example of obedience, notably in respecting the pastoral decisions of my confrere of Mostar and in complying with joy to his wishes.
"I do not see how I can go to Medjugorje without giving my support, by the very fact of my having come there, to the events who's discernment and assessment rests henceforth with the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such support would fly in the face of a traditional teaching of the Church, recalled in Lumen Gentium and applicable to all the successors of the Apostles (11): "Individual bishops, in so far as they are set over particular Churches, exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them, not over other Churches nor the Church universal."
FEBRUARY 1987: Franjo Cardinal Kuharic on Pilgrimages
Franjo Cardinal Kuharic, President of the Yugoslav Bishop's Conference, noted in a 1987 press release in which he announced the new Commission which would eventually produce the Zadar Declaration in 1991, the following:
While waiting for the results of the Commission's work and the Church's verdict, let the Pastors and the faithful honor the practice of the usual prudence in such circumstances. For that reason, it is not permitted to organize either pilgrimages or other religious manifestations based on an alleged supernatural character attributed to Medjugorje's events. Marian devotion, legitimate and recommended by the Church, must be in accordance with the directives of the Magisterium, and especially the apostolic encyclical Marialis Cultus February 2, 1974 (cf. AAS, 66, 1974, p. 113-168).
APRIL 1996: Archbishop Tarciscio Bertone on Pilgrimages
SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Vatican City, March 23, 1996
Prot. No. 154/81-01985
In your letter of February 14, 1996 you inquired what is the present position of the Church regarding the alleged "apparitions in Medjugorje' and whether it is permitted to the Catholic faith to go there for pilgrimage.
In reference to that, it is my honor to make known to you that, regarding the authenticity of the apparitions in question, the Bishops of the former Yugoslavia confirmed in their Declaration of April 10, 1991 published in Zadar:
". . .On the basis of investigation up till now it cannot be established that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.
However, the numerous gatherings of the faithful from different parts of the world, who are coming to Medjugorje prompted both by motives of belief and certain other motives, require the attention and pastoral care in the first place of the bishop of the diocese and of the other bishops with him so that in Medjugorje, and everything related to it, a healthy devotion toward the Blessed Virgin Mary would be promoted in conformity with the teaching of the Church.
For that purpose the bishops shall issue separate appropriate liturgical-pastoral directives. Likewise by means of their Commission they shall further follow and investigate the total event in Medjugorje."
The result from this, in what is precisely said, is that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, are not permitted to be organized either on the parish or on the diocesan level, because that would be in contradiction to what the Bishops of former Yugoslavia affirmed in their fore mentioned Declaration.
Kindly accept, your Excellency, an expression of my profoundly devoted affection!
+ Tarcisio Bertone
AUGUST 1996: Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls
Speaking on Aug. 21st 1996 in Rome Vatican Press Office spokesman, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, sought to clarify the status of pilgrimages to Medjugorje. He noted, after citing the 1991 Zadar Declaration,
"You cannot say people cannot go there until it has been proven false. This has not been said, so anyone can go if they want ... When one reads what Archbishop Bertone wrote, one could get the impression that from now on everything is forbidden, no possibility" for Catholics to travel to Medjugorje. But, in fact, "nothing has changed, nothing new has been said ... The problem is if you systematically organize pilgrimages, organize them with the bishop and the church, you are giving a canonical sanction to the facts of Medjugorje ... This is different from people going in a group who bring a priest with them in order to go to confession ... I was worried that what Archbishop Bertone said could be interpreted in too restricted a way. Has the church or the Vatican said no (to Catholics visiting Medjugorje)? NO. ... The difference, in the terms of canon law, is that an official pilgrimage, organized by the diocese with the bishop, is a way of giving a juridical sanction to the facts; you are saying this is true."
MAY 1998: Letter from Abp Bertone to Bishop Aubrey
CONGREGATIO PRO DOCTRINA FIDEI
Pr. No 154/81-05922
Citta del Vaticano, Palazzo del S. Uffizio
May 26, 1998
To His Excellency Mons. Gilbert Aubry,
Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Reunion
In your letter of January 1, 1998, you submitted to this Dicastery several questions about the position of the Holy See and of the Bishop of Mostar in regard to the so called apparitions of Medjugorje, private pilgrimages and the pastoral care of the faithful who go there.
In regard to this matter, I think it is impossible to reply to each of the questions posed by Your Excellency. The main thing I would like to point out is that the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance. As for the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: "On the basis of the investigations so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations." Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina to eventually reopen the examination of this case, and to make any new pronouncements that might be called for.
What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of "Famille Chretienne", declaring: "My conviction and my position is not only 'non constat de supernaturalitate,' but likewise, 'constat de non supernaturalitate' of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje", should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.
Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentification of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.
I hope that I have replied satisfactorily at least to the principal questions that you have presented to this Dicastery and I beg Your Excellency to accept the expression of my devoted sentiments.
Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone
Formation of a Vatican Commission
Cardinal says commission to review alleged apparitions at Medjugorje
Vinko Cardinal Puljic of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Bishops Conference (BiH) announces that a new commission was apparently being established. In that 2006 comment by Cardinal Puljic, he said the new commission will study the original decision of the 1991 Commission, as well as the issue of pilgrimages.
Read Catholic News Service Article >>
Bosnian Cardinal denies claims of Vatican commission for Medjugorje
Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina denied press reports yesterday which claim that the Vatican is creating a commission to investigate the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje.
Read Catholic News Agency Article>>
Vatican commission reportedly formed to investigate Medjugorje apparition
The Italian media is reporting that Pope Benedict XVI authorized an official inquiry into the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje. The commission to examine the case is said to be led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini
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Vatican confirms formation of commission to investigate Medjugorje apparition
The Vatican has confirmed the formation of a commission to investigate the reported Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, presumably leading up to a formal Vatican statement on the subject.
Read the full article at Catholic Culture >>
Vatican journalist names members of Medjugorje commission
Following the Vatican's official confirmation that a commission has been established to investigate the reported Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, journalist Andrea Tornielli of the Italian daily Il Giornale has named several members of that commission.
Read the full article at Catholic Culture >>
Status of the Vatican Commission
Cardinal Ruini: Investigation on Medjugorje apparitions will not be presented immediately
Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Commission of Investigation on Medjugorje, who says he expects a conclusion soon. CARD. CAMILLO RUINI President, “It will take just a bit longer, Not much, I hope. But, it's not an immediate thing. We are a consulting commission, we offer our opinion and pass it along to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They are the ones who will decide or not to release a statement.”
Interview with Member of Medjugorje Commission
Fr. Salvatore Perrella Member, Commission of inquiry on Medjugorje “The Church must verify the apparitions not because they don't believe in the possibility they exist but only to safeguard the faith, to above all protect the essence of faith. A Christian that bases his faith in apparitions, is not a Christian adult, it's not mature.”
Read the Rome Reports Article >>
Books and Videos
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