Wayne's October Column
MAY BE NEAR
BY WAYNE WEIBLE
FOR THE MILLIONS of followers who have been waiting for the Vatican to make an official updated statement on the status of authenticity concerning the ongoing daily apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, that time may be near; in fact, very near.
The anticipated statement is expected to be “positive”, according to knowledgeable undisclosed sources closely related to the apparitions. That is what the Medjugorje Commission formed in March 2010 reportedly stated when it turned in its findings to the Vatican in March 2013. It remains to be seen as to just what “positive” may entail.
What has led to this present assumption is the Vatican announcement in late September that Franciscan priests from Medjugorje, led by the parish priest Fr Marinko Šakota, have been invited to Rome on October 10 for an audience with Pope Francis. The question as to what the meeting will entail remains unknown. Is it a formality requested by Pope Francis, (who is pro Medjugorje) or is the anticipated positive announcement truly close at hand?
From my view, it appears that Rome is about to give a stamp of approval to Medjugorje in the form of recognizing it as a premier international Marian shrine. That means it will rank with Lourdes and Fatima as well as other Vatican approved Marian shrines, therefore placing it with the most popular apparition sites, even though it continues to occur daily.
The possibility that such recognition of Medjugorje, while not officially declaring it “Worthy of Belief” (the official recognition of an apparition site by the Church) does give it unofficial recognition as authentic apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Further adding to the suspense is that the act by the Vatican in inviting the Medjugorje priests may be linked or due in some way with the upcoming Canonization of John Paul II, now slated to occur on April 27, 2014. John Paul II never hesitated to make it known publicly that he fully believed in the Medjugorje apparitions. He went so far as stating in private correspondence with friends in Poland that he “Goes to Medjugorje daily in my prayers.” I can personally attest that during the great privilege of attending Holy Mass in the private quarters of Pope John Paul II, I had the opportunity to present him copies of my book Medjugorje: The Message in Italian and Polish. He lit up when he saw the word Medjugorje and asked me if I had been there recently. This was in October of 1993 and I informed him that I had just returned from a pilgrimage there. He exclaimed, “Good, very good!” it left little doubt as to his love for the village and belief that the Madonna was appearing there.
In my latest book, Medjugorje: The Last Apparition, I stated that a swing from negative to positive by the general Catholic public (meaning laity and religious) began to take place following the private visit to Medjugorje by Cardinal Christoff Schönborn, from Vienna, Austria. Up to that point, the two bishops of the Mostar-Duvno Diocese in office during the time of the apparitions, which includes the parish of Medjugorje, were the highly publicized opponents of the apparitions. Both declared a lack of belief in the apparitions and went to extreme means to discredit them. All of that began to change after Cardinal Schönborn visited Medjugorje.
The Cardinal was the first official from the Vatican to visit Medjugorje, even though it was as a private citizen and not as an official representative of the Vatican. However, it was well-known that Pope Benedict as Cardinal Ratzinger had travelled to Medjugorje incognito at least two times. He, too, firmly believed in the authenticity of the apparitions. Thus, the last three popes including Pope Francis were and are among the believers that the Mother of God has and still is appearing to the visionaries in the little village.
Adding to the positive change of general acceptance of the apparitions, were the past actions of the Cardinal who has invited the visionaries Marija and Ivan to the Vienna Cathedral on several occasions to have their daily apparitions there before thousands in attendance. Just this past month, Marija once again was in Vienna for her apparition in the Cathedral. The actions of Cardinal Schönborn, as well as the three visionaries still having the daily visit from Our Lady having their apparitions in church sites frequently only adds to the positive.
There are countless times in the past 28 years that I have been rejected from speaking about the Medjugorje apparitions in Catholic churches. I have been turned down by cardinals, bishops and priests usually with the excuse that I cannot speak about it until the Church approves it as authentic. It is entirely due to the negative stance promoted by letter and public speaking by the two bishops in office during the time the apparitions have occurred. However, it is a sad reflection of ignorance by church religious in not knowing canon law, which clearly addresses the issue by stating that anyone can go, write or speak about alleged Marian apparitions on an unofficial basis until the Church issues a formal declaration.
Adding to the obvious is the long-standing official statement on the apparitions by the last body to investigate them, which was the Ex-Yugoslavia Bishop’s Conference. The statement was issued in August 1993. It stated, "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."
It seems that that “further study” may be now with this special meeting between the Franciscans of Medjugorje and Pope Francis. Now, we wait. What will Pope Francis say to the Franciscans from Medjugorje? Possibly by the time this issue of the newsletter reaches our readers, we will know.
In the meantime, we pray.
The peace, grace and love of Jesus be with each of you.