Vatican Mulls Sending Overseer to Medjugorje
By Rodolfo Toe
Pope Francis is considering nominating an apostolic representative to the shrine town of Medjugorje, around 30 kilometres south of the Bosnian city of Mostar, where alleged apparitions by the Virgin Mary have caused much controversy.
“The possibility of nominating an apostolic administrator for Medjugorje, who will administer it depending directly on the Holy See, is a possibility that is being studied at the moment,” Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the press service of the Vatican, said on Monday.
This measure, however, is just “a hypothesis”, Lombardi stressed, noting that it would be “premature to talk about it as if it was … an imminent decision.”
Nominating an apostolic representative for Medjugorje might help settle the quarrel which has lasted for decades between the Bosnian Catholic hierarchy, which has never recognised the authenticity of the apparitions, and the local Franciscan community, who run the shrine.
The Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in what was then the small village of Medjugorje on June 24, 1981, to six youngsters, who say they have continued to receive regular messages and visions from her ever since.
In the meantime, Medjugorje has grown into one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, drawing an estimated 2 millions visitors every year.
However, neither the Catholic diocesan hierarchy in Bosnia, nor the Vatican, has recognised the authenticity of the apparitions.
In 2010, the Vatican set up a commission to investigate the phenomenon.
Last year, immediately after his visit to Sarajevo, Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church would soon publicise its decision on Medjugorje.
However, it is still not clear when this conclusion will be known.
The main theological problem for the Church is the fact that Mary allegedly continues to appear to the six seers, and on a scheduled basis, Matteo Matzuzzi, a Vatican expert working for the Rome-based newspaper Il Foglio, told BIRN.
“The fact that apparitions of the Holy Mary are still ongoing, and that they happen on a scheduled basis, is the main obstacle to Vatican recognition of the shrine”, Matzuzzi said, noting that some of this seers organise tours abroad, where they organise public gatherings at the exact time when they say they will receive the apparition.
The current Pope appears unimpressed. “The Virgin Mary … is not the head of a post office, who sends messages every day,” Francis said in 2015.
Nominating an administrator for Medjugorje, the Zagreb-based newspaper Vecernji List pointed out, would help normalise the issue, giving the shrine a degree of official approval from the Vatican while leaving most say-to-day authority over the shrine to the local Franciscan community.
Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo, who contributed to the work of the Commission created in 2010, declined to comment on the topic to BIRN.
The Diocese of Mostar and Trebinje — where Medjugorje is located — and the head of the Franciscan Order in Bosnia, Jozo Marincic, also declined to release a statement.
A source from Puljic’s Archdiocese of Vrhbosna [Sarajevo] told BIRN that the issue is still extremely delicate for the Catholic Church in Bosnia.
“The conclusion of the commission created by the Vatican cannot still be made public and Cardinal Puljic does not want to compromise himself in the eyes of the Vatican, as he was part of the commission himself,” the source said.