The Church's Position on Medjugorje
My hope is that this document will help eliminate confusion and misinformation regarding the Church's official position on Medjugorje. The Church has NOT banned, condemned, or disproved the reported apparitions in Medjugorje. The investigation of Medjugorje is ongoing. No final directive or conclusion has been reached.
A key phrase which has been quoted frequently from the 1991 Bishops Conference in Zadar: "On the basis of investigations so far it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.", has been taken frequently to mean the apparitions, or Medjugorje in general has been condemned or disproved. On the contrary, the Church must be prudent and cautious regarding its approval of any alleged apparition site. This quote should not be considered negative, but rather, seen as a cautious stance taken by the Church while its investigations continue, and before a final decision is reached. The last official statement was made by the 1993 Commitee of Bishops, organized by St John Paul II, and gives us positive insight into the Church's current position:
"We bishops, after a three-year-long commission study accept Medjugorje as a holy place, as a shrine. This means that we have nothing against it if someone venerates the Mother of God in a manner also in agreement with the teaching and belief of the Church. . . Therefore, we are leaving that to further study. The Church does not hurry." (Glas Koncila, August 15, 1993).
While no "official" pilgrimages can be endorsed or organized until a final decision has been reached, private pilgrimages are accepted and encouraged by many clergy, including Pope John Paul II. (see comments by Pope John Paul II on Medjugorje)
(An official pilgrimage is defined as a group organized and led by bishops, priests, and other clergy. A private pilgrimage is one which is organized by laity, but can also include bishops, priests, and other clergy.)
More About the Latest Commission
The most recent commission investigating Medjugorje rendered its findings to the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), on January 19, 2014. It is now up to Pope Francis to decide when he will make the findings public.
On April 13, 2010 the Holy See Press Office published a report from the first session of the International Investigative Commission on Medjugorje, held on March 26th, 2010. The International Investigative Commission on Medjugorje is being presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who used to be Vicar of the Rome Diocese and includes several cardinals and archbishops, many of whom serve on Vatican congregations or Pontifical Councils. These members include, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna, and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina; Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb and vice-president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conference; Cardinal Julian Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The commission also includes specialists such as Msgr. Tony Anatrella, psychoanalyst and specialist in Social Psychiatry; Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, professor of Fundamental Theology at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy; Fr. David Maria Jaeger, O.F.M., consultant to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Fr. Zdzislaw Jozef Kijas, O.F.M. Conv., relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Fr. Salvatore M. Perrella, O.S.M., teacher of Mariology at the Pontifical Marianum Faculty of Theology and Fr. Achim Schutz, professor of Theological Anthropology at the Pontifical Lateran University as secretary. Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, an officer of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, serves as additional secretary.
Other experts participating in the commission’s work include Fr. Franjo Topic, professor of Fundamental Theology in Sarajevo; Fr. Mijo Nikic, S.J., professor of Psychology and Psychology of Religion at the Philosophical and Theological Institute of the Society of Jesus in Zagreb; Fr. Mihaly Szentmartoni, S.J., professor of Spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Sr. Veronica Nela Gaspar, professor of Theology at Rijeka.
In Zadar April 10, 1991
The Bishops of Yugoslavia
(Zagreb Glas Koncila May 5, 1991 19)
On Medjugorje - Something More Definite
Editorial Commentary in "Glas Koncila", official national croatian catholic newspaper, Zagreb May 5, 1991, p. 2
The latest declaration on Medjugorje from the Catholic Bishops of the Socialist Federal Republics of Yugoslavia is a classic example of the centuries old practice of authentic ecclesiastical prudence. It demonstrates that the Church respects facts above all, that it carefully measures its competence and that in all matters it is mostly concerned for the spiritual welfare of the faithful.
It is a fact known to the whole world that, because of news about Our Lady's apparitions already for a full ten years, both believing and inquisitive people have been gathering in Medjugorje. Is it a fact that the Mother of God is really appearing there and giving messages? The Bishops, carefully holding to their competency, declare that "On the basis of investigations so far it can not be affirmed."
The content and the sense of that declaration has to be considered on two levels. In this case the first and the essential level is that the contents of such possible so-called private revelations cannot be added to the revealed and obligatory contents of the faith. Therefore, neither the Bishops nor the Pope himself have the authority either to conclude infallibly that Our Lady has really appeared somewhere or the authority to impose on the faithful to believe that she has appeared. The magisterium of the Church is infallible under well known conditions only when it affirms that something is contained or not contained in that Revelation which the Church received up to the end of the apostolic age and which is preserved in Scripture and Tradition. Whatever is included neither in Scripture nor in Tradition the magisterium cannot proclaim as a doctrine of the faith nor as content to be believed under obligation. Accordingly, only the uninstructed could expect the Bishops to resolve the question of the Medjugorje apparitions for us so as then to know exactly what we are allowed or not allowed to believe about them.
But on the other hand then why are they so carefully investigating that report? Because they do have the obligation to establish whether that which is taking place there and is being proclaimed from there is in accordance with the entirety of the revealed truth of the faith and of moral doctrine. If it is established that there is nothing contrary, that the revelations and messages are in accordance with Catholic faith and morals, they, as the most responsible in the Church, could proclaim that there is neither any objection to gatherings of the faithful in that place nor to the development of the spiritual life according to the sense of those messages. On the contrary, it would be their obligation to expose errors and prevent abuses. The pertinent expressions in the new Declaration show that the investigations are also continuing in that sense.
But the main force of the Declaration shows that our bishops are above all taking notice of the factual gathering of a large number of the faithful and of the inquisitive in Medjugorje and they consider it their duty to insure that such a large number of gatherings there receive a correct proclamation of the faith, an orthodox and up-to-date catechesis, so that the holy sacraments are correctly and worthily administered there and especially that the Medjugorje Marian devotion develops in accord with Christian orthodoxy. That position is the real news of this document.
Surely, as the document itself states, one should expect suitable liturgical-pastoral directives for the solemn celebrations in Medjugorje. A proposal made long ago, which was also emphasized in "Glas Koncila", would also thereby be realized, namely, that the bishops' care for Medjugorje be divided between two commissions, One would continue investigating whether there are or are not supernatural apparitions or revelations, and the other would take care of the proper and healthy ecclesiastical conduct of the Medjugorje gatherings. This is because it is really possible that the first of these commissions would still be investigating for a long time and maybe even decide not to publish its final opinion, whereas care for the gatherings cannot be postponed because they are continuously taking place.
For many devout people around the whole world this Declaration will serve as a valuable relief in the area of conscience. Those, namely, who come to Medjugorje motivated by belief, will from now on know that those gatherings are covered by the ordinary and responsible care of the successors of the apostles.
The Ex-Yugoslavia Bishops' Conference In Zadar, April 1991
At the ordinary session of the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia in Zadar from April 9 - 11, 1991 the following was adopted.
The bishops, from the very beginning, have been following the events of Medjugorje through the Bishop of the diocese [Mostar], the Bishop's Commission and the Commission of the Bishops Conference of Yugoslavia on Medjugorje.
On the basis of the investigations so far it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.
However, the numerous gatherings of the faithful from different parts of the world, who come to Medjugorje, prompted both by motives of belief and various other motives, require the attention and pastoral care in the first place of the diocesan bishop and with him of the other bishops also, so that in Medjugorje and in everything connected with it a healthy devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary may be promoted in accordance with the teaching of the Church.
For this purpose the bishops will issue specially suitable liturgical-pastoral directives. Likewise, through their Commission they will continue to keep up with and investigate the entire event in Medjugorje.
Statement Of The Director Of The Press Office Of The Holy See, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, On Pilgrimage To Medjugorje
"No new fact has been undertaken regarding this."
As has been already stated on previous occasions, in these cases, respect of the immediate competence of the local episcopate is required.
In regard to that, on April 10, 1991 the Bishops of ex-Yugoslavia declared: "... On the basis of the investigations so far it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations."
However, the numerous gatherings of the faithful from different parts of the world, who come to Medjugorje prompted both by motives of belief and various other motives, require attention and pastoral care in the first place of the bishop of the diocese and with him of the other bishops also, so that in Medjugorje and in everything connected with it a healthy devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary may be promoted in accordance with the teaching of the Church...."
One must still repeatedly emphasize the indispensable necessity of continuing the search and the reflection, besides the prayer, in the face of any presumed supernatural phenomenon, as long as there be no definitive pronouncement.
Bulletin No. 233 - June 19, 1996