WAYNE'S FEBRUARY COLUMN
VATICAN TO ADDRESS MEDJUGORJE THIS YEAR?
THE STAGE is set—once again.
The formal, four-year investigative 17-member commission appointed by Pope Benedict in March 2010 has turned in its “second” completed report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). It is now up to the Pope to finally address the status of the incredible apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the six visionaries in the village of Medjugorje, which have reportedly occurred daily since June 24, 1981. But as stated, we’ve been here before.
Will this at long last be the year when the Church officially rules on the 33-year run of daily messages from heaven? Only heaven knows. However, based on what has already come from Pope Francis in the way of dramatic changes within the Church in his short but stunning papacy, we can expect the unexpected.
The Vatican’s investigative Commission on Medjugorje wrapped up its work on January 17 when the members voted on a conclusion to their deep and thorough study. It was then sent to the CDF. Pope Francis will receive it after they review it. All of this information comes from a Croatian Catholic media, which gained its information from sources close to the Commission. That source indicated that a final decision will then follow “soon”.
Evidently, the “source” for all of this information is commission member Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, who feels that a decision will come from the Pope sometime this year.
“The Commission has submitted the results of our work to CDF, what we worked on for four years as an international Commission. These results the Congregation will consider and make a proposal to the Pope, and then the Pope will decide how to handle it. This year we can expect the final word from the Holy Father” says Cardinal Puljic.
The Cardinal further confirms an important point in that pilgrims are still free to visit Medjugorje. This upholds what has been status quo since the bishops of then-Yugoslavia decided so in April 1991. “The Commission is not opposed to Medjugorje as a place of faith where faithful pilgrims gather,” Cardinal Puljic confirms.
Again, we’ve been here before.
It was thought a little more than a year ago that the Pope would rule on the status of the Medjugorje apparitions. It was again Cardinal Puljic who publicly stated this. Instead of completion of the commission’s three year study, it seems they were sent back to the drawing board to look into a few more things, which as it turns out took another year.
But that’s alright; better to be overly cautious and to take extended time than to rush to judgment and create scandal. Interestingly, Pope Francis met Cardinal Puljić in a private audience right after the commission submitted its findings.
It is true that the apparitions remain somewhat contentious as has been the case almost from the beginning days when then-bishop Pavao Zanic, shockingly changed his stance on the validity of the apparitions after weeks of effusive acceptance. He was followed by present-day Bishop Ratko Peric, who has stated publicly that he does not believe in any apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary—not Fatima or Lourdes or Guadalupe, much less Medjugorje.
Even in recent times the activities of the visionaries and the followers of the phenomenon have been dramatically curtailed due to what I personally believe to be a harsh, negative and subjective statement issued by way of a letter published in November 2013 by CDF prefect Archbishop Gerhard Muller (soon to be Cardinal Muller) that “prohibited” devotees of the apparitions from taking for granted that the apparitions of Medjugorje are authentic. The letter he sent to US bishops warning against allowing ‘seer’ Ivan Dragicevic to go on a speaking tour of the country; or, to have his daily apparition in front of attending crowds. It went on to say the faithful should not gather in conferences, gatherings or other bodies that take for granted that the apparitions are authentic.
To say the least, the soon-to-be Cardinal Muller should have taken time to review the letter before its publication worldwide to those interested in the apparitions. It flies in the face of the stated Church authority that allows anyone to believe in, visit or promote an alleged apparition site until the Church issues an official ruling.
However, another sitting Cardinal seemingly agrees that Archbishop Muller acted a bit strongly. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the leader of what is known in the inner circles of the Vatican as the “kitchen cabinet” the Pope established to explore reform proposals, stated that the Archbishop “thought too much in rigid black and white terms”. He went on to say in an interview with a German newspaper that Muller “should be a bit flexible when you hear other voices”.
This criticism is a rare occurrence among senior Church officials. But in truth it is right on. Muller’s harsh language has essentially shut down Medjugorje gatherings to a small trickle. It affects not only the visionaries but also those of the faithful (myself included) who wish to witness the good fruits of the apparitions.
Conferences centered on Medjugorje are down to a handful annually. Ironically, in the latter part of January, visionary Ivan was a featured attraction along with Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez! And, as has been the case for many years, he had his apparition in front of the attendees at the Honduran conference, just as he had done so the previous year.
Here’s the long and the short of it; Pope Francis will make the right decision, whether that be approval on a full or partial basis, or, as most of us feel will happen, Medjugorje will be recognized officially as a top international shrine. Either way, the good fruits will continue to flow and it will continue to occur until its God-appointed time to cease the active daily apparitions.
I have a strong feeling that a ruling will come within this year.
The peace, grace and love of Jesus be with all of you.