By Sarah Mac Donald - 14 May, 2019
The Vatican has said parishes and dioceses may organise official pilgrimages to the Marian shrine of Medjugorje in Bosnia–Herzegovina.
Pope Francis’s decision to lift the ban on official pilgrimages was announced on 12 May by Archbishop Henryk Hoser, apostolic visitator to Medjugorje, and Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, the nuncio to Bosnia–Herzegovina.
However, Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, warned that the pilgrimages should not be “interpreted as an authentication of well-known events, which still require examination by the Church”.
The Church has not recognised the alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje as authentic.
Speaking to the media on Sunday, Alessandro Gisotti stressed that Church-sponsored pilgrimages must “avoid creating confusion or ambiguity from the doctrinal point of view”.
He also underlined that the decision to authorise official parish or diocesan pilgrimages was due to the “considerable flow of people who go to Medjugorje and the abundant fruits of grace that have sprung from it”.
He added that the decree would enable the Vatican’s apostolic visitator to Medjugorje, Archbishop Hoser, to work more closely with the priests who organise the pilgrimages and the local bishops to ensure that they are “sound and well prepared”.
The decision to allow organised pilgrimages, banned by the local bishops in 1991, recognises the need to provide spiritual accompaniment and care to the tens of thousands of Catholics who travel to Medjugorje each year.
The Pope’s announcement comes a year after the appointment of Archbishop Hoser as apostolic visitator to Medjugorje on 31 May 2018.
The announcement does not deal in any way with questions relating to the authenticity of the claims of the six visionaries of what they claim has occurred in Medjugorje since June 1981.
Three of the six visionaries claim they still receive a daily apparition from Our Lady at exactly the same time every day no matter where they are.
The three are Vicka (who lives in Medjugorje), Marija (who lives in Monza) and Ivan (who lives in the US). A fourth visionary, Mirjana, says she receives an apparition every month, while the other two visionaries receive an apparition once a year.
In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI established a papal commission to study the alleged apparitions. The commission’s report has not been made public, although some of its points were revealed after Pope Francis spoke about the commission’s work in 2017.
During his flight back to Rome from Fatima in May 2017, the Pope told journalists that pilgrims to Medjugorje deserve spiritual care and support, but he also expressed doubts about claims that the apparitions have continued for more than 35 years.
He told journalists, “Concerning the alleged current apparitions, the report expresses doubts”.
He added that he preferred Our Lady to be a mother and not “a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time – this is not the mother of Jesus.”
He added that in his personal opinion “these alleged apparitions have no great value.”
The core of the commission’s report, he said, was “the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact” that thousands of pilgrims go to Medjugorje and are converted.