by Marco Corvaglia
On the basis of the investigations so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.
In 2010 the Vatican has formed a new commission of inquiry on Medjugorje (presided over by Card. Camillo Ruini) with purely consultative functions: the final judgment pertains to the pope, having regard to the opinion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
In January 2014, the commission completed its work and delivered its conclusions to the Congregation. These conclusions were not officially disclosed.
However, on May 13 2017, when prompted to comment on the credibility of Međugorje at a press conference [video] (on his return flight from Fatima), Pope Francis observed that the members of the Congregation have their doubts. As to the result of the Ruini report, he added:
As to the first apparitions, when they [the visionaries] were kids, the report more or less says that it must continue being studied. As to the apparitions, the presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts.
Three days after these statements by Pope Francis, the Vatican correspondent (and Medjugorje supporter) Andrea Tornielli published a detailed leak (not denied by the Vatican) that 13 of the 15 members of the committee voted in favor of "the supernatural nature of the first seven appearances in Medjugorje". However, for what concerns the continuation of the phenomenon, there were "a majority of suspensive votes and many doubts."
Father Salvatore Perrella, a member of the commission of inquiry interviewed by the newspaper Avvenire a few days later, confirmed the news:
[...] the Commission has divided the "case" into two segments. The first part concerns the seven initial apparitions - the founding core (let’s define it as such) which seemed credible. The other part, namely the alleged continuation of the apparitions, perplexed the Commission.
[Giacomo Gambassi, Padre Perrella. Medjugorje, perché il Papa non crede alla «Madonna postina», Avvenire, 18/5/2017]
In summary, the very first apparitions would be credible, on the basis of a majority (one wonders: how come this alleged evidence of initial supernaturality had escaped the Yugoslavian Bishops' Conference in 1991?) but not credible the tens of thousands of subsequent decades.
So, with an apparent mental gymnastics, the substantial unreliability of the alleged seers is admitted, but (in an apparently instrumental and arbitrary manner) the original nucleus of Medjugorje and the religious fervor that has arisen there are somehow “saved”.
Moreover, the commission has focused specifically on an aspect that, from a rational point of view, has no probative value. That is, the "spiritual fruits" (which, as the pope says in the aforementioned press conference, constitute "the core of the Ruini report").
But the Commission did not want to make the only (very simple) verification that would have been unequivocal and resolutive to everyone: the examination of the alleged parchment with "magical" features that Mirjana claims she received from Our Lady (see the page Mirjana's Parchement).
In May 2018, pope Francis appointed bishop Msgr. Henryk Hoser (a great Polish supporter of Medjugorje) "as special apostolic visitor for the parish of Medjugorje, for an undefined period": a not-so-clear "exclusively pastoral office" linked to the assistance of pilgrims [cf. Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office (31 May 2018)].
In May 2019, the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (a Vatican organ) started organizing pilgrimages to Medjugorje after, on the 12th of that month, the interim director of the Vatican Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, publicly communicated that official pilgrimages (organized by dioceses and parishes) are allowed, on one condition:
The Holy Father has ruled that it's possible to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje, always being careful to avoid that those pilgrimages are interpreted as an authentication of the known events, which still require an examination on the part of the Church [italian original text: "che richiedono ancora un esame da parte della Chiesa"].
It is an inevitably equivocal position, so much so that the statement continues: "care must be taken to avoid creating confusion or ambiguity from the doctrinal point of view regarding such pilgrimages". But it does not indicate in the least how this ambiguity could be avoided.
It’s worth noting that the statement contains the very same key-expression already used, as many as 21 years earlier, by the then Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mgr. Tarcisio Bertone, who, on May 26, 1998, wrote in an official letter to the bishop of Saint-Denis de la Réunion, Msgr. Gilbert Aubry (on that occasion the reference was to private pilgrimages):
[...] 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 authentication of events still taking place and which still require an examination on the part of the Church [italian original text: "che richiedono ancora un esame da parte della Chiesa"].
[Tarcisio Bertone, L'ultima veggente di Fatima, Rai Eri-Rizzoli, Milan 2007, p. 105]
And what will happen in the future?
Contrary to what many defenders of Medjugorje repeat to justify the decades of “wait and see” position, there is no rule in the Church that prescribes the need for a phenomenon to be terminated before a positive judgment on it can be issued.
As a matter of fact, the Zadar declaration made it impossible (on the state of the facts) to approve the phenomena — not because these are in progress but, as we have seen, "on the basis of the investigations so far." (Approvals while the alleged phenomena were still ongoing were granted, for example, to Finca Betania, Venezuela [November 1987, cf. R. Laurentin, La Vergine appare a Medjugorje?, Queriniana, 1991, p. 15] and San Nicolás, Argentina [May 2016]).
The Church cannot approve Medjugorje because it would be compromising, but it does not want to condemn it (despite the fact that the two local bishops Pavao Žanić and Ratko Perić opposed the phenomenon).
So, it is easy to understand that this question will continue to be managed as in the past decades: without official approvals, but also without prohibitions (which is what most interests the crowds of Medjugorje devotees).
Published on 16 May 2017. Updated on 20 May 2019