The Third Commission (1987 - 1990)
In January 1987, upon the suggestion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, president of the Bishops’ Conference, and bishop Žanić made a joint communiqué in which they announced the formation of the third Commission and in which they asked the faithful not to organize pilgrimages motivated “from above” which would ascribe to the events of Medjugorje (O. P., p. 196). The Commission was comprised of 11 priests (6 religious, 5 diocesan), 4 physicians and psychologists and one religious sister as secretary.
The Commission held 23 meetings in Zagreb at the Secretariat of the Bishops’ Conference. The first meeting was in April 1987 and the twenty-third in September 1990.
A characteristic of the third Commission was to work on the findings and results of the previous Commissions and ex novo. Everything was done under oath and no statements for the public were made. The results of their four-year long efforts were presented to the members of the Bishops’ Conference in Zagreb in 1990. Discussions at the Bishops’ Conference on the “apparitions” were held on four occasions: 25 April, 9 October and 27 November 1990, and the Declaration on Medjugorje was accepted through a vote held in Zadar on 10 April 1991: 19 bishops voted for the Declaration while 1 abstained.
The Declaration states: “During the regular session of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia, held in Zadar from April 9-11, 1991, the following was accepted:
From the very beginning, the Bishops have been following the events of Medjugorje through the local Bishop, the Bishops’ Commission and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia for Medjugorje.
On the bas[is] of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed [non constat de supernaturalitate - see footnote2] that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.
Yet the gathering of the faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, inspired by reasons of faith or other motives, require the pastoral attention and care, first of all, of the local Bishop and then of the other bishops with him, so that in Medjugorje and all connected with it, a healthy devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the teachings of the Church may be promoted. The Bishops will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim. At the same time, they will continue to study all the events of Medjugorje through the commissions.
Zadar, 10 April 1991
The Bishops of Yugoslavia”
A few notes worth considering:
- The non constat de supernaturalitate status clearly leaves open the room for further data to be considered, while at the same time also making clear, that nothing examined up to the time of this commission indicated anything of supernatural origin.
- Since this did not receive an absolute negative judgment (constat de non supernaturalitate), the declaration comprehends that visitors will need pastoral care.
- The declaration did not give permission for a cult following of "Our Lady of Medjugorje" to develop3, something which by right, belongs to the competent authority, in this case the Bishop's Conference of Yugoslavia. Rather, the pastoral care, in part, was intended to enable a healthy devotion to Our Lady according to the teachings of the Church (Encyclical Marialis Cultis).
1) Source: Međugorje: Secrets, messages, vocations, prayers, confessions, commissions, Bishop Ratko Peric, Diocese of Mostar-Duvno (address given in Maynooth, Ireland in 2004.
2) See post: Apparitions: Types of Decisions the Church can Hand Down
3) From the post: Who discerns apparitions and private revelations?, we see that the cult following is only permitted after the local Ordinary discerns that there is nothing contrary to established positive and negative criteria. There is plenty of evidence that the cult following was discouraged not only by the local Bishop, but by the Bishops Conference. In 1987, YBC President, Cardinal Kuharic declared, "it is not permitted to organize either pilgrimages or other religious manifestations based on an alleged supernatural character attributed to Medjugorje's events" In 1990, one year before the Zadar Declaration, Bishop Zanic listed 29 serious problems with Medjugorje. Bishop Zanic worked hard to discourage a cult following which is seen in a series of documented communications compiled by EWTN.
4) Subsequent clarifications on pilgrimages have been made by the Holy See (link forthcoming).
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