MEDJUGORJE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (ChurchMilitant.com) - The papal envoy to Medjugorje is admitting his recent comments have been "a little exaggerated."
Various pro-Medjugorje blogs exploded with news over the weekend that pilgrimages to the controversial site, where supporters claim apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been taking place daily for nearly 40 years, are now allowed by Rome, with the implication that Medjugorje has now been officially approved.
"Today, dioceses and other institutions can organize official pilgrimages," Polish Abp. Henryk Hoser, papal envoy to Medjugorje, said last week to Aleteia. "It's no longer a problem."
Now Hoser is backtracking, admitting that the situation is more nuanced.
"It is true what I said, although perhaps it was a little exaggerated in tone," Hoser conceded in comments to Il Giornale Sunday, "but it is absolutely authentic that pilgrimages of prayer can be organized in Medjugorje without any problem, provided they are spiritual and do not concern the apparitions of Our Lady to the seers."
Hoser also admitted that the Vatican has yet to issue an official decision on the authenticity of the so-called apparitions.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) reiterated this position in a 2013 letter sent to every U.S. diocese, in which it affirmed the 1991 Yugoslavian bishops' decree on Medjugorje:
On the basis of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.
Yet the gathering of the faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, inspired by reasons of faith or other motives, require the pastoral attention and care, first of all, of the local Bishop and then of the other bishops with him, so that in Medjugorje and all connected with it, a healthy devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the teachings of the Church may be promoted. ...
[N]o pilgrimages are allowed that would presuppose any supernatural character to the apparitions, there exists no shrine of the Madonna, and there are no authentic messages, revelations nor true visions!
Hoser confirmed that the situation in Medjugorje is as it has always been: "If a bishop wants to organize a prayer pilgrimage to Medjugorje to pray to Our Lady, he can do it without problem. But if it is organized pilgrimages to go there for the apparitions, we cannot; there is not the authorization to do it."
When asked the reason, he explained that "the problem of the visionaries is not yet solved."
On at least three occasions, Cdl. Gerhard Mueller, former prefect of the CDF, issued letters forbidding the faithful from attending events where Medjugorje visionaries were featured. Such events prompted him to have a letter sent to every U.S. diocese in 2013 prohibiting Catholics from attending events where "the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted."
[T]he Congregation [of the Doctrine of the Faith] has affirmed that, with regard to the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, all should accept the declaration, dated 10 April 1991, from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, which asserts: "On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations." It follows, therefore, that clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted.
On the authenticity of the apparitions, Hoser explained, "They are working at the Vatican. The document is in the Secretariat of State and must be expected. And of course we need a pronouncement from the Pope who was able to study the report of the commission presided over by Cardinal Ruini."
The Ruini Report issued earlier this year issued an overwhelmingly negative judgment regarding the authenticity of the vast bulk of so-called apparitions. Only the first seven were deemed authentic by 13 of the 14-member commission, while the rest received zero votes in favor of authenticity.
Cardinal Mueller, then-head of the CDF at the time, whose opinion carries at least as much weight as the Ruini Commission, expressed serious doubts that the visions were authentic.
As Hoser noted, the pope has the final say, and he is free to accept or reject the commission's findings.
Pope Francis has expressed severe skepticism toward the visions, saying to the press on the papal plane in May, "The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a little worse. I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time."
He continued, "This isn't Jesus' mother. And these alleged apparitions don't have much value. I say this as a personal opinion, but it is clear. Who thinks that Our Lady says, 'Come, because tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?' No!"
When Il Giornale asked Hoser to speak on the visionaries, Hoser declined to comment. "I cannot talk about this, I'm sorry," he remarked.