Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Are pilgrimages to Medjugorje permitted or not???

This is one of the most discussed topics on the subject of Medjugorje: Pilgrimages.

Keep in mind as you read this, that the 1978 CDF document on apparition discernment used by bishops says (emphasis mine in bold):

b) Then, if this examination appears favorable, to allow certain public demonstrations of cult and devotion, while continuing to investigate the facts with extreme prudence(which is equivalent to the formula: “for the moment, nothing is opposed to it”).

With that in mind, you may notice two common threads in each of these communications out of the Bishop's conference and the Vatican.

With regards to that last part, it is also prudent to consider something that Msgr. Henri Brincard, the Bishop of Puy-en-Velay (accompanying Bishop of the Association of Marian organisations), said in a letter written on behalf of the French Bishops in 2000:

In conclusion, allow me to make the following reflection:
"I have no authority to pronounce any ecclesial judgement whatsoever on the events of Medjugorje. I am therefore the first to have to give an example of obedience, notably in respecting the pastoral decisions of my confrere of Mostar and in complying with joy to his wishes.

"I do not see how I can go to Medjugorje without giving my support, by the very fact of my having come there, to the events who's discernment and assessment rests henceforth with the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such support would fly in the face of a traditional teaching of the Church, recalled in Lumen Gentium and applicable to all the successors of the Apostles (11): "Individual bishops, in so far as they are set over particular Churches, exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them, not over other Churches nor the Church universal."
And now, for the communications we have to date on pilgrimages, in chronological order.

FEBRUARY 1987: Franjo Cardinal Kuharic on Pilgrimages

Franjo Cardinal Kuharic, President of the Yugoslav Bishop's Conference, noted in a 1987 press release in which he announced the new Commission which would eventually produce the Zadar Declaration in 1991, the following:

While waiting for the results of the Commission's work and the Church's verdict, let the Pastors and the faithful honor the practice of the usual prudence in such circumstances. For that reason, it is not permitted to organize either pilgrimages or other religious manifestations based on an alleged supernatural character attributed to Medjugorje's events. Marian devotion, legitimate and recommended by the Church, must be in accordance with the directives of the Magisterium, and especially the apostolic encyclical Marialis Cultus February 2, 1974 (cf. AAS, 66, 1974, p. 113-168).

APRIL 1996: Archbishop Tarciscio Bertone on Pilgrimages


Vatican City, March 23, 1996

Prot. No. 154/81-01985

Your Excellency,

In your letter of February 14, 1996 you inquired what is the present position of the Church regarding the alleged "apparitions in Medjugorje' and whether it is permitted to the Catholic faith to go there for pilgrimage.

In reference to that, it is my honor to make known to you that, regarding the authenticity of the apparitions in question, the Bishops of the former Yugoslavia confirmed in their Declaration of April 10, 1991 published in Zadar:

". . .On the basis of investigation up till now it cannot be established that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.

However, the numerous gatherings of the faithful from different parts of the world, who are coming to Medjugorje prompted both by motives of belief and certain other motives, require the attention and pastoral care in the first place of the bishop of the diocese and of the other bishops with him so that in Medjugorje, and everything related to it, a healthy devotion toward the Blessed Virgin Mary would be promoted in conformity with the teaching of the Church.

For that purpose the bishops shall issue separate appropriate liturgical-pastoral directives. Likewise by means of their Commission they shall further follow and investigate the total event in Medjugorje."

The result from this, in what is precisely said, is that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, are not permitted to be organized either on the parish or on the diocesan level, because that would be in contradiction to what the Bishops of former Yugoslavia affirmed in their fore mentioned Declaration.

Kindly accept, your Excellency, an expression of my profoundly devoted affection!

+ Tarcisio Bertone

AUGUST 1996: Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls

Speaking on Aug. 21st 1996 in Rome Vatican Press Office spokesman, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, sought to clarify the status of pilgrimages to Medjugorje. He noted, after citing the 1991 Zadar Declaration,

"You cannot say people cannot go there until it has been proven false. This has not been said, so anyone can go if they want ... When one reads what Archbishop Bertone wrote, one could get the impression that from now on everything is forbidden, no possibility" for Catholics to travel to Medjugorje. But, in fact, "nothing has changed, nothing new has been said ... The problem is if you systematically organize pilgrimages, organize them with the bishop and the church, you are giving a canonical sanction to the facts of Medjugorje ... This is different from people going in a group who bring a priest with them in order to go to confession ... I was worried that what Archbishop Bertone said could be interpreted in too restricted a way. Has the church or the Vatican said no (to Catholics visiting Medjugorje)? NO. ... The difference, in the terms of canon law, is that an official pilgrimage, organized by the diocese with the bishop, is a way of giving a juridical sanction to the facts; you are saying this is true."

MAY 1998: Letter from Abp Bertone to Bishop Aubrey (added emphasis in green)

Pr. No 154/81-05922
Citta del Vaticano, Palazzo del S. Uffizio
May 26, 1998

To His Excellency Mons. Gilbert Aubry,
Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Reunion


In your letter of January 1, 1998, you submitted to this Dicastery several questions about the position of the Holy See and of the Bishop of Mostar in regard to the so called apparitions of Medjugorje, private pilgrimages and the pastoral care of the faithful who go there.

In regard to this matter, I think it is impossible to reply to each of the questions posed by Your Excellency. The main thing I would like to point out is that the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance. As for the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: "On the basis of the investigations so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations." Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina to eventually reopen the examination of this case, and to make any new pronouncements that might be called for.

What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of "Famille Chretienne", declaring: "My conviction and my position is not only 'non constat de supernaturalitate,' but likewise, 'constat de non supernaturalitate' of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje", should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.

Finally, 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 authentification of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.

I hope that I have replied satisfactorily at least to the principal questions that you have presented to this Dicastery and I beg Your Excellency to accept the expression of my devoted sentiments.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone

That statement I've highlighted in green, has been severely distorted by promoters of Medjugorje. It has been presented in such a way as to lead readers to believe he has been "stripped of his authority". The bishop made clear in that letter he was speaking for himself because in the succeeding paragraph, he invites the Church to take on the matter for further study. More these kinds of distortions in a later post which will be linked here.