Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fr. Lombardi: Commission sends report on Medjugorje to CDF

(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirmed on Saturday that the international commission investigating the events in Medjugorje held its last meeting on 17 January. The commission, created by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
The commission has reportedly completed its work and will submit the outcomes of its study to the Congregation.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

2013 CDF, twice to US Bishops on Medjugorje...

Here is the above letter, typed out in html.

October 21, 2013 
Apostolic Nunciature
United States of America
PN 3980 
Reverend Monsignor Jenkins, 
I write at the request of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who asks, that the Bishops of the United States be advised, once again, of the following (cf. my letter of 27 February 2013, of the same protocol number). Thus, his Excellency wishes to inform the Bishops that one of the so-called visionaries of Medjugorje, Mr. Ivan Dragičević, is scheduled to appear at certain parishes around the country, during which time he will make presentations regarding the phenomenon of Medjugorje. It is anticipated, moreover, that Mr.Dragičević will be receiving "apparitions" during these scheduled appearances.   
As you are well aware, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is in the process of investigating certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje. For this reason, the Congregation has affirmed that, with regard to the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, all should accept the declaration, dated 10 April 1991, from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, which asserts: "On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations." It follows, therefore, that clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such "apparitions" would be taken for granted.   
In order, therefore, to avoid scandal and confusion, Archbishop Müller asks that the Bishops be informed of this matter as soon as possible.  
I take this opportunity to present to you my sentiments of profound esteem, and remain, 
Sincerely yours in Christ, 
+Carlo Maria Vigano
Apostolic Nuncio 
Msgr. Ronny Jenkins
General Secretary of the USCCB
3211 Fourth Street NE
Washington, DC 20017

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

1997 Response of Bishop Peric on invalid confirmations in Capljina


Anonymous. The Slobodna Dalmacija daily, of October 6, 1997, on page 4, published an article written by three journalists, that on Sunday October 5th, 1997, at the parish of Capljina in the diocese of Mostar-Duvno, an anonymous so-called bishop, from an anonymous country, anonymous diocese and of anonymous origin, held a "confirmation". Others add that he spoke German, and that a Franciscan, who is unlawfully present in Capljina, translated for him into Croatian. The hosts felt it unnecessary to present the unlawful "minister of confirmation" to the faithful, and the illegal guest didn't deem it essential to present himself either, except for the following: "I come to you from a far away, yet beautiful country. My homeland is more than a thousand miles from your lovely country and your beautiful city", as reported by the SD.

The holy sacraments are lawfully and legitimately conferred by the competent ministers who are united to the Church, according to the precepts of Canon Law, and who have a sincere intention, with the foreknowledge of the participants and the permission of the local bishop. Where there is force and deceit, there is no sacrament. We always invite the candidates for confirmation to be courageous witnesses for Christ, yet here the "minister of confirmation" himself has been hidden behind a veil of anonymity and secrecy!

Hired. To such "shepherds", Jesus would say: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber" (Jn 10:1).
The anonymous guest in Capljina did not enter the Church through the main doors, because for 15 months now, a brick wall has been built up in front of them blocking the entry of the legitimate pastors of the Church. This guest jumped in from the other side, rejecting every Christian tradition, all norms of courtesy and neglecting the specific law of the Church. They say he even carried the signs of the bishop's office, a mitre and crosier, which no normal bishop of the Catholic Church would ever do on the territory of another diocese without the express permission of the local bishop.

Irresponsible. If a bishop of the church is truly involved, then he surely knows in what kind of illegal activity he has fallen into with his illegitimate church "favour". Church law states that a bishop outside his diocese cannot administer confirmation without the "express or at least reasonably presumed consent of the local Ordinary" (can. 390). In this case, the Slobodna Dalmacija specifically published (SD October 3, 1997, p. 15), that the local Ordinary did not grant permission for confirmation in the parish of Capljina to any bishop or priest. A confirmation for the candidates of Capljina was held in June of last year. There was a confirmation this year as well in June, and another is scheduled during the school year. This anonymous guest certainly knows the norms of the Church. He even mentions the local bishop and his motives: "Your bishop has his reasons for not doing this and I do not wish to pass judgement on this". On the other hand, the guest says about himself: "I wish to emphasize that I too have my reasons for being here today in Capljina". He apparently also spoke with Rome: "I also tried in Rome to contribute towards finding a happy solution for this situation, but my efforts, for what I know, have remained unsuccessful". The unlawful stranger doesn't mention with whom he spoke, what he suggested and why his "efforts" have remained "unsuccessful". How can he then neglect the Holy See and do as he pleases in the areas of governance and the sacraments in another diocese and a different country?

"Spiritually unhappy." Yet the anonymous guest reveals a secret about himself. He only mentions one place that he is coming from: Medjugorje! From his words one understands that he is a regular visitor of Medjugorje: "I came to your homeland for the first time ten years ago. The reason for that each time I came home after visiting Medjugorje, I felt happier and more peaceful. But last year I came home quite sad and spiritually unhappy. The real reason for my uneasiness and great sadness were these walled-up doors of your church in Capljina. Even though this sign written in five languages speaks all for itself, I continued asking friends for more news on the situation" (SD of October 6th, 1997).

After this type of testimony and actions of the "minister of confirmation", the Medjugorje fanatics should probably avoid warning the local bishop of the importance of separating the problem of Medjugorje from the problem of Capljina, the "case of Medjugorje" from the "case of Herzegovina!" This anonymous, irresponsible, hired, "unhappy spirit" wishes to solve the "case of Capljina" whilst coming from Medjugorje! He is coming to the aid of Franciscans who are unlawfully residing in Capljina, who are disobeying the Decree of the Holy See, neglecting the decisions of the Franciscan Order, and ignoring the norms of the local Church as mentioned in the distancing declaration of the "ad instar" provincial dr. fra Tomislav Pervan (SD, October 7th, 1997). The unlawful "Monsignor" of Capljina (that's how they say he was referred to in the canon of the Mass!) initially inspired by the spirit of Medjugorje with "peace and happiness", and then later on with sadness and great unhappiness, upon seeing that things are not going the way he and those who invited him would like them to go, is now working against unity, peace and order, against the regulations and canons of God's Church, and he's also abusing the sacrament of the Holy Spirit. Medjugorje transmitted the first "messages" 15 years ago, when in January 1982, the so-called "Madonna" through one of the "seers" got involved in a question of the jurisdiction of the local Church by defending some disobedient Franciscan chaplains and rebuking the local bishop Pavao, that he made a "reckless decision". The "seer" used an even harsher word in her description! And now, Medjugorje has spiritually inspired an unlawful "minister of confirmation" who goes to Capljina to dissolve Church unity and to deceive hundreds of candidates for confirmation.

Canonical and non-canonical. On Sunday October 5, 1997, we were at Our Lady's national Shrine in Marija Bistrica. We participated in the enthronement ceremonies of the new Military Ordinary in the Republic of Croatia. Before this event, all the bishops participated in the solemn diocesan and episcopal celebrations in Pozega, Varazdin and Zagreb cathedral church. Everyone has delighted to witness these events occurring as they should, with the Papal Decree being read aloud, the crosier handed over and Mass beginning with the new bishop presiding. Yet what would have happened if a certain priest, religious or mayor of the city had jumped out of the crowd and grabbed the crosier from archbishop Bozanic or bishop Skvorcevic and said: "This is mine! This is my diocese!" Everyone would have remained breathless. The Police would probably have had to intervene and the sick person would have been sent to hospital. In Capljina, the sick person had a mitre on his head during Mass - even during the canon, if we are to believe the witnesses. St. Paul once said even to those he ordained, "Fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert..." (Acts 20, 29-31. "Wolves" from the outside and "heretics" from the inside! Hence, it is impossible not to react to such abuse, scandal and lawlessness!

I truly feel sorry for the Catholic faithful of Capljina, especially those who are refugees and the candidates for confirmation, whose parents have constantly inquired: Will there be a confirmation? Will it be lawful and valid? We instructed the Christian consciences to follow the norms of the Church. A few listened and these deserve credit. We have no other choice than to await that the Peter of our days by his supreme authority, place the disorderly into order, and to pray that the Holy Spirit enlightens the pats(?) and hearts of all!
Mostar, October 7, 1997
+ Ratko Peric
bishop of Mostar-Duvno

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Monday, December 31, 2012

Was a "cultus" permitted by the Church for "Our Lady of Medjugorje?"

One of the many images that come up
when doing an internet search on
"Our Lady of Medjugorje"

Reviewing official documents on Medjugorje, do we find that a public cultus (cult of devotion) has been granted in the name of "Our Lady of Medjugorje?"  Or, is the Church permitting merely private devotion according to the teachings of the Church, which would not include devotion in the name of the alleged apparition, not yet deemed worthy of belief?

In the 1978 norms that deal with discernment of presumed apparitions, the Church sets up three stages (emphasis mine in bold; added emphasis underlined with my comments bracketed in red)
When Ecclesiastical Authority is informed of a presumed apparition or revelation, it will be its responsibility:
a) first, to judge the fact according to positive and negative criteria (cf. infra, no. I); [See the document for criteria used. Note that fruits are not yet judged at this stage; rather, it is the events themselves that are examined.] 
b) then, if this examination results in a favorable conclusion, to permit some public manifestation of cult or of devotion, overseeing this with great prudence (equivalent to the formula, “for now, nothing stands in the way”) (pro nunc nihil obstare). [Note the word "public" was used in reference to the cult of devotion permitted.  ]

c) finally, in light of time passed and of experience, with special regard to the fecundity of spiritual fruit generated from this new devotion, to express a judgment regarding the authenticity and supernatural character if the case so merits. [If a cultus is granted for a presumed apparition we would see approval to use devotions in it's name. Devotions like the Rosary belong to the patrimony of the Church and are recommended in the exhortation, Marialis Cultus.]

Let us go back to the 1991 Zadar Declaration, which, as of today, remains the official position of the Church. 19 bishops of the former Yugoslav Bishops' Conference said it cannot be affirmed that anything supernatural is connected with the phenomenon, and one bishop abstained from voting. Did the 1991 Zadar Declaration permit a public cultus? Here is a clue (emphasis mine in bold; added emphasis underlined):

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.

Before we move on to examine later communications on this point, let's look closer at the above paragraph from the Zadar Declaration.  First, it acknowledges people are gathering in Medjugorje. It did not prohibit people from visiting, but it also did not grant a cult of devotion to the lady of Medjugorje. Rather, the devotion it wanted fostered was to be "according to the teachings of the Church."

Where do we find explanation of what the Church considers, "a healthy devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary?" Once again, we can point primarily to Marialis Cultus - For the right ordering and development of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Any true devotee of Mary should carefully read this beautiful exhortation which sets out to:

"...dwell upon a number of questions concerning the relationship between the sacred liturgy and devotion to the Blessed Virgin (I), to offer considerations and directives suitable for favoring the development of that devotion (II) and finally to put forward a number of reflections intended to encourage the restoration, in a dynamic and more informed manner, of the recitation of the Rosary, the practice of which was so strongly recommended by our predecessors and is so widely diffused among the Christian people (III)"

If the 1991 Zadar Declaration had granted a cultus, we would have seen actions similar to those associated with Our Lady of America.  Cardinal Burke, upon reviewing the case for his canonical opinion on it's status, had this to say:

Our Lady of America
Having reviewed the correspondence between Sister Mary Ephrem and her spiritual director of many years, Monsignor Paul F. Leibold, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, who later became the Bishop of Evansville and, then, Archbishop of Cincinnati, it is clear that the devotion, as proposed by Sister Mary Ephrem, received his approbation. In addition to the correspondence by which Monsignor Leibold declared the approval of the devotion, he also carried out the first of Our Lady of America's requests, made through Sister Mary Ephrem, namely, he had a medal struck with the image of Our Lady of America on one side and the coat of arms of the Christian family on the other.
Just to be clear, Cardinal Burke didn't grant the cultus since this belongs to the ordinary of the diocese; rather, he is saying that, by his actions, the former Archbishop of Cincinnati had permitted the cult of devotion.  Signs of this included his approval of a devotion and the striking of a medal, among other things.   Note that we do not see an opinion on the judgment of the alleged apparitions themselves; it is merely an acknowledgement that public devotion to Our Lady of America was granted by then Archbishop Leibold.

To contrast this, we can look at Bishop Ricken's approval of apparitions, in 2010, of Our Lady of Good Help.   Prior to that, it was in the same state as was Our Lady of America, with only a public cult of devotion approved.

Bishop Ricken at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help

Was a cultus permitted after the Zadar Declaration?

Without a doubt, many point to a 1998 letter by then Archbishop Bertone to Mons. Gilbert Aubrey concerning pilgrimages to justify what they believe to be permission for a cult of devotion to "Our Lady of Medjugorje." In fact, such a title would be inappropriate to use since it was never granted by the Church, as we will soon see.

At the bottom of this collection of communications on pilgrimages that flowed in the late 1990's, we will find the letter to Mons. Aubrey. On pilgrimages it says (emphasis mine in bold; added emphasis underlined):

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.

Nothing here grants public cult of devotion, but merely tells people they may visit Medjugorje privately.   Prior to that, in the same link we find a 1996 statement by then Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls who offered this:

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 ... 
Note that in everything we have seen thus far, the statements have attempted to help people understand that facts and events are still being studied and care must be taken not to give the impression that the Church has granted canonical sanction.  In fact, this is what is so contradictory in the behavior of certain bishops who have permitted visionaries of this unapproved apparition to have manifestations of visions in their own cathedrals, and in parishes or shrines in their dioceses.  It leads people to believe that the alleged apparitions have been sanctioned by the Church. Put another way, such things lend credibility to a phenomenon not yet deemed worthy of belief, and not granted a public cult of devotion.

CDF Responds to Bishops of the Region of Tuscany, Italy

In 2007, bishops from Tuscany met with then Archbishop Angelo Amato who was the secretary for the  Congregation for the Doctrine of the  Faith (and now a member of the Medjugorje commission).  They inquired about Medjugorje and the CDF secretary's response is captured in a fax they sent to the priests of the diocese.  This is a cleaned up Google translation of the fax:

During their "ad Limina" visit, the Bishops of the Region of Tuscany, from April 16-20, 2007, in a meeting at the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Secretary Monsignor Angelo Amato, who spoke to us of apparitions of Medjugorje, has invited us to make public the homily the Bishop of Mostar, in order to clarify the religious phenomenon linked to this site. 
In compliance with this invitation to make known, and pray, especially priests, to read it carefully and to learn the lessons necessary for the proper enlightenment of our faithful.

The 2007 fax sent out to priests then duplicated what was in section III of Bishop Peric's 2006 homily in Medjugorje. Among the things that the secretary of the CDF wanted the bishops of Tuscany to convey by his recommendation for them to study that specific homily:

I am truly grateful to the Holy Father the Pope, to John Paul II of blessed memory and to the reigning Benedict XVI, who have always respected the judgements of the bishops of Mostar-Duvno, of the previous as well as the current bishop, regarding the so-called “apparitions” and “messages” of Medjugorje, all the while recognizing the Holy Father's right to give a final decision on these events. The judgements of the bishops, after all the canonical investigations made thus far, can be summarized in these following points (emphasis mine in bold; added emphasis underlined; comments bracketed in red]:
1 - Medjugorje is a catholic parish in which liturgical and pastoral activities are carried out, just as in all the other parishes of this diocese of Mostar-Duvno. No-one except the official Church authorities is then authorized to attribute the formal title of “shrine” to this place
2 - On the basis of Church investigations of the events of Medjugorje, it cannot be determined that these events involve supernatural apparitions or revelations. This means that till now the Church has not accepted, neither as supernatural nor as Marian, any of the apparitions.  [He is deferring to the 1991 Zadar Declaration].
3 - Priests who canonically administer this parish of Medjugorje or those who come as visitors, are not authorised to express their private views contrary to the official position of the Church on the so-called “apparitions” and “messages”, during celebrations of the sacraments, neither during other common acts of piety, nor in the Catholic media[!!!].  
4 - The Catholic faithful are not only free from any obligation to believe in the authenticity of the “apparitions” but they must also know that church pilgrimages are not allowed [watch for the qualifier, "if"], whether official or private, individual or group, or from other parishes, if they presuppose the authenticity of the “apparitions” or if by undertaking them attempt to certify these “apparitions”

This goes back to what then Archbishop Bertone said in his 1998 letter on pilgrimages. and on what Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in 1996.

Even when the new commission was announced in 2010, we saw no approval for a cult of devotion, nor has there been anything even remotely resembling approval of a cultus since then.


A cult of devotion to "Our Lady of Medjugorje" has not been granted by the Church.  Items and devotions bearing this title have been made illicitly, without approval by the Church, which is responsible for authorizing these things.  This has contributed to confusion among the faithful for some 30 years. Likewise, priests and bishops permitting their own local cultus to "Our Lady of Medjugorje" do so ahead of the Church.  How much more confusion is caused when they bring visionaries in to their parishes, shrines, and cathedrals to have public manifestations of visions to "Our Lady of Medjugorje?" It should leave us all that much more perplexed that any bishop in any other country would permit these things when no where in the regions making up the former Yugoslavia do we see bishops allowing them.  Division at an ecclesial level can only give rise to division among the laity, as we have seen.

I have laid out my understanding of the documents and I defer to the Church should further clarifications be offered that say otherwise.  This is among the things I hope to see the Holy See address after the Holy Father pronounces his clear message on the question of Medjugorje.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

A word of caution about "news" from pro-Medjugorje sites

I've posted on this before, but I've cleaned it up some so it is easier to follow. 

One thing I have learned about "news" on Medjugorje from pro-Medjugorje sites is that there is selective reporting and some sources take liberties with the words of Church officials.  Below is one of the most offensive examples. It is found on the site of, which is considered the official site of the phenomenon and copied into many english language websites and blogs. A March 2010 interview with the then Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Archbishop Alessandro D'Errico, broadcast by Radio Mir at the end of the 48th session of the Bishops' Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was twisted beyond belief.

To show you what lengths propagandists will go to, I give you two points from that interview which I have broken into separate paragraphs for easier comparison.  First, I give the official Croatian by the BiH Bishops Conference, followed by a nearly literal translation of that version by Fr. Philip Pavic, OFM (who was a translator in Medjugorje for the better part of a decade). The third thing offered will be what passed along to english language readers. Emphasis is mine in bold.

Croatian from BiH Bishops Conference:
Iz osobnoga iskustva, svakoga puta kada sam susreo Svetoga Oca imao je veliko zanimanje za pitanje Međugorja, pitanje u koje je upućen od samoga početka kada je bio prefekt Kongregacije za nauk vjere. Radi se o pitanju za koje on osjeća odgovornost kao vrhovni poglavar Crkve da izrekne jasnu poruku.  
Fr. Philip Pavich, OFM translation: 
From personal experience, every time I met the Holy Father he had great interest in the question of Medjugorje, a question to which he was directed from the very beginning that he became prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It deals with a question for which he feels responsible as the supreme head of the Church to pronounce a clear message. 

Note, that among other things, the word "question" (pitanje/pitanju in the Croatian) is missing in three places (emboldened above) in this first paragraph.

“Whenever I would meet Holy Father, he was always very much interested in Medjugorje. He was involved in everything, starting with the time when he was Head of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is aware that this is the issue of special importance, and he, as supreme authority of the Church, needs to give his precise statement about that matter. 

How the second point is dealt with is just as curious. Here is the Croatian from the BiH Bishops' Conference site. Note the grammatical period dividing the last two sentences.
Sveti Otac osobno dobro poznaje i to mi je više puta rekao – dobro poznaje cijeli fenomen. Zna za velika dobra koje se čine na ovome području od strane svećenika, redovnika, franjevaca, laika. A druge strane pita se kako dolaze tako suprotstavljene informacije o tome fenomenu. 
Here is the translation by Fr. Pavich:
The Holy Father personally knows it very well and he has told me that several times - he is well acquainted with the whole phenomenon. He knows about the great good that is being done in this region by the priests, the Franciscan friars, and the laity. And on the other hand he asks himself how come there is information in such opposition to this phenomenon.

Here is the distortion by  At the end of the second paragraph, they insert a conjunctive adverb "therefore" that does not exist in the original. This helps to change the meaning at the end of the paragraph.  The translation ultimately misleads people into thinking the Holy Father can't understand how so many people could be against Medjugorje.
Holy Father is very much familiar with Medjugorje phenomenon; he even mentioned that to me personally. He is aware of huge amount of positive and good influence of local priests, religious, Franciscans, lay people, and therefore, it is very difficult for him to perceive that there can be so many opposing information about the same matter

I am perplexed as to why a website, which is supposedly lending support to visionaries who claim to be seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary - a woman pure and inviolate - would resort to offering such untruths regarding the words of the Pope's representative to that country. I wrote to them in 2010 requesting they get their text in harmony with the official version released on the site of the BiH Bishops Conference, but my email was never acknowledged.  I did, however, receive some emails which threatened to release slander about me. To my knowledge that never came to pass, but nothing would surprise me at this point.  I doubt the Blessed Virgin Mary would be pleased with such tactics, but for some, the ends justifies the means and Medjugorje should be protected at all costs.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The 1975 Decree - Romanis Pontificibus (Herzegovina Case)

In many books, websites, and other media on the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje, there is discussion of something referred to as the "Herzegovina Case".  It has also been referred to as the "Herzegovina Affair","Herzegovina Question" and "Herzegovina Conflict". It is more loosely expressed in blogs, forums, and comment boxes as "the rift between the local bishop and the franciscans" (not an accurate expression by any means).

It concerns the distribution of parishes between Franciscans of the Herzegovina Province, and diocesan clergy of Mostar-Duvno as laid out in the 1975 decree, Romanis Pontificibus.  The name of the decree has been discussed, but in the English speaking world we have not seen the actual document, until today. This is not so much a conflict between those local franciscans and the local bishop, but a matter between members of that province of franciscans and the Holy See itself.

It should be noted, that most franciscans have been cooperating.  Others, however, resisted unto usurping - quite forcibly - several parishes in the late 1990's, ultimately leading to their removal from the Order of Friars Minor, and "a divinis" suspensions.   On February 20, 1999, Romanis Pontificibus was definitively implemented by the then Vicar General of the OFM, Br. Stefano Ottenbreit and Msgr. Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno. The Papal Nuncio at the time, Msgr. Mario Cassari, represented the Holy See.

Still, a number of Franciscans of the Herzegovina Province refused to sign a declaration of obedience, incurring other penalties.

Parish Breakdown in Mostar-Duvno

It is helpful to see these numbers today, as you read what is below.  Using data from pages at the diocesan website, I know in Mostar-Duvno, the Franciscans of the Herzegovina Province are responsible for 30 of the 66 parishes, with the rest in the hands of diocesan priests.

Bishop Peric is also the apostolic administrator for the ancient diocese of Trebinje-Mrkan, which has 16 parishes run by 32 diocesan priests (the franciscan custody does not reach into Trebinje-Mrkan).

CEP, 1975-06-06

Prot. N. 2021/75
by which the question pending in the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno is decided.

Roman Pontiffs, ever solicitous for the good of souls, have always taken care, whenever local Churches sufficiently developed their own structures and the conditions of circumstances and times permitted, not only to establish everywhere the sacred ordinary hierarchy, but also, as the usual order of canon law directs, to entrust the same Churches to diocesan clergy.

Thus in the previous century in Europe, Pope Pius IX restored the episcopates in England, Wales, and Holland, while Pope Leo XIII established local Churches in Bosnia-Herzegovina and entrusted them to residential bishops. This same Pope, by the apostolic constitution Ex hac augusta of [5 July] 1881, erected the ecclesiastical province of Vrhbosna, which also contained Herzegovina, and appointed a residential bishop for the diocese of Mostar, to which he joined the ancient title of Duvno.

In these regions, which are the witnesses of so great a faith, that fire which Christ came to set upon the earth, although there were great dangers, remained always kindled, which accomplishment came about especially from the praiseworthy zeal and apostolic spirit of the Friars Minor, who for so many years, while bearing many hardships, brought about the expansion and strengthening of the Kingdom of Christ among the local people.

Through the Constitution we mentioned above, the same Vicar of Christ, fully aware of the particular situation in Herzegovina, and wanting to provide for the further devolvement of that Church, the care of which was entrusted at that time to the Friars Minor, advised the bishop of Mostar of his responsibility to establish a substantial and suitable diocesan clergy to whom would be entrusted the care of souls as is customarily done in all places wherein the sacred hierarchy has been established. Thus, from the advice of Pope Leo XIII of venerable memory, the diocesan clergy of the Church of Mostar-Duvno began to be developed and has been blessed with a providential increase in vocations especially in these more recent years.

Nevertheless, in the ecclesiastical province of Vrhbosna it seems that a certain doubt remains concerning mutual relations between the diocesan and the religious clergy and indeed great difficulties have arisen, especially in the Diocese of Mostar.

On account of these difficulties, which had also arisen elsewhere, the Holy See issued important norms, such as the apostolic constitution Romanos Pontifices, given by the same Pope Leo XIII to England in 1881, which was later, in the wake of clear and generous fruits, extended to several other regions. The teaching expounded in this Constitution and the norms contained in it, as well as others, rely on other pontifical prescripts laid down after the Council of Trent as promulgated by Pope Benedict XIV in 1744 in the apostolic constitutions Firmandis and Cum nuper charissimus, now belong to the common law of the universal Church.

These rules therefore apply to the ecclesiastical province of Vrhbosna, even more so because time has proven them to be of the greatest benefit to souls and they among others, were either directly or indirectly received by Vatican Council II.

As for what expressly applies to the diocese of Mostar-Duvno, the agreement which in 1899 the local Ordinary and the religious Order of Friars Minor entered into and which in the same year the Holy See confirmed, remains in full effect, unless this decree establishes otherwise and always with due regard for the right of the Holy See to make other provision. Furthermore the decision of the Sacred Congregation “for the Propagation of the Faith” issued 26 March 1965, by which the rescript concerning the assignment of parishes “freely by the Holy See” granted by the Congregation of the Council in 1923 was declared entirely extinct, abrogated and devoid of all authority, and remains in force, as does the decree which the Pontifical legate in Yugoslavia, at the mandate of the same Sacred Congregation “for the Propagation of the Faith”, issued on 13 November 1967.

No one can in the future invoke any privilege concerning pastoral ministry, acquired in any manner, unless it will have been obviously provided for in this decree and thus indeed will be plainly consistent with this document and the particulars established in it.

The theological rationale for the norms of which we have made mention up to this point are contained in the general ecclesiological teaching of Vatican Council II, which indeed teaches that “bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church,” (LG 20, cit. om.). This too refers to them: “from the Lord, to whom was given all power in heaven and on earth, [bishops receive] the mission to teach all nations and to preach the Gospel to every creature” (LG 24). And likewise “individual bishops, who are placed in charge of particular Churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God committed to their care” (LG 23b).

Moreover, “It is the bishop's role, as the ruler and center of unity in the diocesan apostolate, to promote missionary activity, to direct it and to coordinate it but always in such a way that the zeal and spontaneity of those who share in the work may be preserved and fostered. All missionaries, even exempt Religious, are subject to his power in the various works which refer to the exercise of the sacred apostolate” (AG 30b).

Because the pastoral task of the Church is ordinarily conducted through the institute of parishes, for this reason the second Vatican Council set forth a general principle that applies to their overall governance. Thus in the decree Christus Dominus 32 it states that “the same concern for souls should be the basis for determining or reconsidering the erection or suppression of parishes and any other changes of this kind which the bishop is empowered to undertake on his own authority.”

It belongs to the Ordinary of the place to provide for the governance of parishes. Yet the aforesaid decree (CD 35, 1b) exhorts the moderators of religious institutes to offer their assistance to bishops, even by taking up, for a time, the care of parishes.

About the care of parishes entrusted to religious even exempt, the following points from the same decree should be recalled: “All Religious, exempt and non-exempt, are subject to the authority of the local Ordinaries in those things which pertain to the public exercise of divine worship-except where differences in rites are concerned-the care of souls, the sacred preaching intended for the people, the religious and moral education of the Christian faithful, especially of the children, catechetical instruction and liturgical formation. They are subject to the local Ordinary also in what pertains to the decorum proper to the clerical state as well as in the various works which concern the exercise of the sacred apostolate” (CD 35, 4).

To this same end, the general principle is confirmed in the aforesaid decree of the Council by which a bishop must be led in ordering parish activity, in that “the parish exists solely for the good of souls” (CD 31b). In the light of this outstanding principle the bishop brings about necessary modifications by his own authority, as is confirmed in the Motu proprio [of Pope Paul VI] Ecclesiae Sanctae (cf. I, 21, 3): “The bishop of the diocese on his own authority can establish or suppress parishes or change them in any way after consultation with the council of priests”, so that even if some rights are perhaps acquired by others, they should be suitably comported to these points.

It follows from what has been said before that it seems most opportune for the same decree to say (in CD 35, I): “All Religious should always look upon the bishops, as upon successors of the Apostles, with devoted respect and reverence. Whenever they are legitimately called upon to undertake works of the apostolate, they are obliged to discharge their duties as active and obedient helpers of the bishops”. This norm, as is obvious, indeed applies even more to those religious to whom the care of parishes is entrusted.
In other respects, it is proper that one be mindful of the exemption, “by which Religious are called to the service of the Supreme Pontiff or other ecclesiastical authority and [are] withdrawn from the jurisdiction of bishops”, not in such a way, obviously, as to interfere with the Supreme Pontiff making dispositions concerning religious “for the good of the universal Church”…, and neither taking away from the fact that “[t]his exemption, however, does not exclude Religious in individual dioceses from the jurisdiction of bishops in accordance with the norm of law, insofar as the performance of their pastoral office and the right ordering of the care of souls requires.”

Such an exemption “refers chiefly to the internal order of their communities so that in them all things may be properly coordinated and the growth and perfection of the Religious common life promoted” (CD 35, 3).
Thus, “[f]or a grave reason any member of a Religious institute can be removed from the position assigned to him either at the will of the authority who made the appointment, after he has advised the Religious superior, or at the will of the superior after he has advised the one who made the appointment. In this matter the superior and the authority are legally equal and the action of the one does not require the consent of the other, nor is the one bound to make known to the other the reason for his judgment, much less prove it, though recourse to the Apostolic See, in devolution, remains open” (Ecclesiae Sanctae, I, 32).
But the juridical observations which we have set-out up till now are informed by pastoral solicitude also; for the good of souls requires that between religious members and diocesan clergy “[a] well-ordered cooperation is to be encouraged between various religious communities and between them and the diocesan clergy. There should also be a very close coordination of all apostolic works and activities which especially depend upon a supernatural attitude of hearts and minds, rooted in and founded upon charity. The Apostolic See is competent to supervise this coordination for the universal Church; sacred pastors are competent in their own respective dioceses” (CD 35, 5).

The desired cooperation and coordination of this sort will be well advanced if, canonical rules having been observed, there are included priests from both clergies among the members of the various groups that are in the diocese, in the way suggested for presbyteral and pastoral councils in Ecclesiae Sanctae /I, 15-16/.
The end therefore, for which reason this decree was issued, is connected with that task of sanctifying proper to the Church, and it can in no way be attained except in virtue of that supernatural attitude of hearts and minds, which is rooted in and founded upon charity (CD 35, 5). The call to fraternal conversion and reconciliation most insistently propels [one] toward this. In it, according to the words of the Supreme Pontiff there is posited one of the outstanding propositions of the Holy Year (cf. bulla Apostolorum Limina): The grace of conversion and reconciliation which is proper to the sacred celebrations of the Jubilee provides the most crucial foundation of juridical norms and confirms that apostolic efficacy which is expected from their performance. By the hope of this grace the diocese of Mostar-Duvno will, beyond any doubt, proceed by great strides towards its own ecclesial renewal, and the full cooperation of diocesan and religious priests, participants in the one priesthood of Christ will be formed into a whole along with all the Christian faithful [united] with their holy Pastor.

Therefore this Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples or Propagation of Faith, attentive to documents either issued by the Ecumenical Council Vatican II or promulgated by the Apostolic See for their execution, and all things being maturely weighed, having heard all those with an interest in them, and also with the consent of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church and of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, decides and establishes this which follows concerning the assigning, distribution, and division of parishes, always with due regard of the Holy See to make other arrangements on the account of changes in circumstances, which might happen:

1. Attentive to the mutual agreement between the two parties with an interest here, and in consideration of the merits which the Friars Minor of the Province of Herzegovina have secured for themselves, the Holy See accepts that it be taken as a general rule that half of the faithful of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno remain entrusted to the pastoral care of the same religious, while the other half entrusted to diocesan clergy.
This apportionment - once there will be an equal number of the faithful entrusted to each party, according to this generally set-out plan - will remain legitimate in the future.

2. After the execution of this decree and until other norms are established, before the local Ordinary proceeds, for the good of souls and while respecting the laws to be observed, with regard to new dismemberments or divisions of parishes entrusted to the care of the Franciscan Fathers, he must consult the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples or Propagation of Faith.

3. With the derogation from the decision given in 1965 by the [Sacred] Congregation for the Propagation of Faith having been made, and with due consideration of the mutual agreement concerning this matter between the two parties, the pastoral care of the parishes in Izbično, Klobuk, and Kongora, is entrusted to the Friars Minor of the Province of Herzegovina.

4. The Franciscan Fathers, within one year from the day of the promulgation of this decree, must hand over to the diocesan clergy the parishes of Blagaj, Jablanica, Ploče, and Nevesinje.

5. Likewise with the decision given by the [Sacred] Congregation for the Propagation of Faith in 1965 having been derogated, the parish of Čitluk is entrusted to the pastoral care of the Friars Minor of Herzegovina.
But, according to this same decision of the [Sacred] Congregation, the entire pastoral care of the parish of Čapljina, with no part of its territory being taken away, must be transferred within a year from the Franciscan Fathers to the diocesan clergy. The Ordinary of Mostar-Duvno will reimburse the Province of the Friars Minor of Herzegovina the costs undertaken by the Franciscan Fathers for the building of their religious residence, but not the costs for constructing the church of the parish.

6. The Parish of Mostar, up to this point wholly entrusted to the pastoral care of the Friars Minor, according to the mutual agreement of the two parties concerning this, will be divided within one year and in the territory taken, in the meantime, there will be constituted a cathedral parish which will be entrusted to the diocesan clergy.

7. Likewise from the parish of Humac, which up to now has been wholly entrusted to the pastoral care of the Friars Minor, territory will be separated in which, in the meantime, there will be erected, within one year, according to the agreement of the two parties concerning this, parishes Crveni Grm-Prolog and Zvirić-Bijača, to be entrusted to the diocesan clergy.

As for what applies to the parishes in Crnač, Grude, and Mostarski Gradac, there still applies the decree issued by the apostolic delegation in Yugoslavia on 13 November 1967, which still retains its obligatory force according to the norms concerning this issued by the [Sacred] Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. As for the full execution of the decree, the Holy See permits that the manners and rationales be preserved which are contained in the documents which are separately redacted.

To bring about all these things, the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples or Propagation of the Faith establishes [the following] executors. From one side, His Excellency Peter Čule, bishop of Mostar-Duvno, together with his coadjutor [bishop with right of succession], His Excellency Pavao Žanić, titular bishop of Edistiana; and from the other side, the Reverend Father Constantine Koser, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, granting to them the necessary and opportune faculties, with the obligation on their part of transmitting to the same Sacred Congregation as soon as possible a copy of the act of the completed execution.

The same Sacred Congregation confirms His Excellency Stephan László, bishop of Eisenstadt, as Apostolic visitor to Herzegovina for referral and, if there is need, for providing, while it associates with him in the same task the Reverend Father Vladimir Vlašić, S.J., rector of the interdiocesan minor seminary of Zagreb.

Our most holy father Pope Paul VI, in an audience granted on 5 June 1975 to the undersigned cardinal prefect, held the present decree ratified in all respects and confirmed it and ordered it to be given public effect not withstanding anything to the contrary even if worthy of special mention.

Given in Rome, from the halls of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples or Propagation of Faith, on 6 June 1975.

Agnellus Cardinal Rossi,

[Duraisamy Simon] Lourdusamy,

The official translation in Croatian published in: Glas Koncila, 14/1975, p. 4.
The original Latin published in: Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum, Roma, II/1989, pp. 85-89.

English translation: Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD

Further reading:

  • (2004) The Truth both Frees and Binds Us (Bishop Peric goes into greater detail about the scandalous activities of the ex-Franciscans and how this plays into Medjugorje)

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Temporary Note: Links to be Updated

Italian researcher, Marco Corvaglia, who has a rather extensive selection of works in English, has recently changed his web address.  You will see many links in my sidebar which have (Marco Corvaglia) after the title.  These were to his site. 

I need to udpate these.  You can see a complete list at his site (see the right sidebar when you get there):

I will update my sidebar links within a week or so. Until now, go directly to his page for English language readers. 

Note also that he has a French available, and obviously.... Italian. 

I will delete this temporary post after links have been updated in my sidebars.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Should bishops allow "seers" of Medjugorje to speak in their dioceses?

Note: In 2013, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a letter to US Bishops reminding them not to permit visionaries to speak on Church property while the investigation is ongoing.

Below this line is the original post.

We need to break this question down.  

The second question, with it's many parts, needs to be answered first, in order to comprehend the answer to the first question.  Here are the two questions together:

1) If public speaking engagements by Medjugorje "seers", along with public "visions", and devotions, medals, statues based on "Our Lady of Medjugorje", etc. are prohibited by the Ordinary of Mostar-Duvno, should bishops in other dioceses permit these things in their territory?

2) Multi-part question:
a)Does Bishop Peric have authority to prohibit those things stated above?
b)If "yes", what gives him that authority?
c)Has Bishop Peric issued prohibitions/directives?
d) If so, is there proof that the Holy See supports him in these prohibitions/directives and are they meant to be honored in other dioceses?

Now I will answer these starting with #2 - the question of Bishop Peric's authority to make certain prohibitions/directives:

2a) Does Bishop Peric have authority to prohibit those things listed in question 1, above?

Yes. Bishop Peric has this authority on these pastoral matters in Medjugorje.  He also has responsibility to ensure that liturgical activity in Medjugorje is in harmony with the teachings of the Church on liturgy. 


2b) What gives him this authority?

The 1991 Zadar Declaration which remains in effect (Nota Bene: The announcement of a new commission does not abolish this declaration).

It states,
"....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...."

A few notes on the above:

- While subsidiarity - driving decision-making down to the lowest level of authority - is often discussed in context of the Church's social teachings, we can also see it at work here.  The bishop's authority was not stripped by the 1991 Zadar Declaration, but reinforced.  The declaration says, "first and foremost" with regards to the local bishop.

- Subsequent communications, such as those concerning pilgrimages, have all referred back to the 1991 Zadar Declaration. 

- The 1991 Zadar Declaration then encourages collegiality when it says "and the other bishop's with him".

- It gives him authority over what happens pastorally not only in Medjugorje, but in all connected with it.

- The declaration makes clear that it wants a healthy devotion to the BVM according to the teachings of the Church. The teachings of the Church on Mary, specifically referencing Marialis Cultus, encourages time-tested, approved devotions. Above all, it does not include devotions based on unapproved private revelations.

- It is illicit, and a form of liturgical abuse, to promote unapproved private revelations, during liturgical activities.  The 1991 Zadar Declaration merely reinforces what is proper in the liturgy when it says, "The Bishops will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim..."


2c)Has Bishop Peric issued prohibitions and directives?

Yes. Most notably are those which came at the end of his 1996 homily in Medjugorje. It's too much to quote in full here, but in part, he said:

Therefore I responsibly call upon those who claim themselves to be “seers”, as well as those persons behind the “messages”, to demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish. In this fashion they shall show their necessary adherence to the Church, by neither placing private “apparitions” nor private sayings before the official position of the Church. Our faith is a serious and responsible matter. The Church is also a serious and responsible institution!

So, he explicitly prohibits these things in the parish of St. James.

If they cannot do these things in the parish of St. James, common sense would dictate that he is not going to permit them to have them in any other parish in the diocese.

In fact, isn't it interesting that you don't see the Medjugorje "seers" given a platform in any parish or cathedral in the entire country of Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH)? What you see demonstrated here are, "the other bishops with him". This includes not only BiH, but Croatia, which makes up a large part of the former Yugoslavia. So, in 29 years, the "seers" of Medjugorje have not been given public speaking engagements, nor have they been allowed to have "visions" on Church property in the former Yugslavia, or in BiH and Croatia today.  More on that in a moment...

Bishop Peric also re-iterated more formally his directives, which he is authorized to give, and added some, in 2009 (see part 3 here).

With regards to statues and devotions, that was was denied in 1985 by Bishop Zanic when he explicitly ordered these things to be put away, as well as called for the "messages" to cease and the "seers" head off into privacy.  This was the first real evidence that the cult-following was not only not approved, but denied!


2d) Does the Holy See support him in these directives and prohibitions. Is there proof? And should it be taken seriously by other bishops with regards to their having a platform in other dioceses?

The Holy See supports him in all that was said in his 2006 homily with regards to Medjugorje. In fact, we see that the CDF interprets it in a way that makes it applicable in other dioceses.

What is the proof?

This 2007 fax from the Bishops of Tuscany to the priests of the diocese concerning Medjugorje instructing them to read that same 2006 homily by Bishop Peric.

What does the fax say? (crude google translate version here)

During the visit "ad Limina" of the Bishops of the Region of Tuscany, in the period 16/20 April 2007, we had a meeting at the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Secretary Monsignor Angelo Amato, who speaks to us of apparitions of Medjugorje, has invited us to make public the homily the Bishop of Mostar, in order to clarify the religious phenomenon linked to this site.

In compliance with this invitation to make known, and pray, especially priests, to read it carefully and to learn the lessons necessary for the proper lighting of our faithful.

In a 2009 homily, Bishop Peric stated publicly, that Cardinal Levada told him that this is how all inquiries are handled on Medjugore by the CDF now.

Now we turn to Question #1:

1) If public speaking engagements by Medjugorje "seers", along with public "visions", and devotions, medals, statues based on "Our Lady of Medjugorje", etc. are prohibited by the Ordinary of Mostar-Duvno, should bishops in other dioceses permit these things in their territory?
But not before looking at the subject of pilgrimages, which reverse.

We all know that pilgrimages are permitted. However, there are conditions attached though - very specific conditions. They are not permitted to be organized at the parish or diocesan level. In chronological order we have this explained by Vatican officials.

In Prot. No. 154/81-01985, dated March 23, 1996, then Archbishop Bertone stated....

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

Then Vatican Spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls added in August of 1996:

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...

And, finally in Pr. No 154/81-05922, dated May 26, 1998, then Archbishop Bertone again responds, this time to Msgr. Gilbert Aubry:

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.

(All of these communications are collected in one blogpost here: Are pilgrimages permitted to Medjugorje or not?

One last thing we need to understand is what it means when +Bertone stated with regards to private pilgrimages where are permitted...,

"...on condition that they are not regarded as an authentification of events"

This means that even if giga-billions of people visit Medjugorje each year, they are not considered/regarded as a sign of authenticity of "events". No matter how much people want to force the issue with large number of people, large numbers of vocations, and conversions, this is not how the Church discerns authenticity of private revelations.  This word "events" is used to basically describe the who, what, where, when and how of the actual "apparitions" and all related to it. That comes first in discernment.

In other words, if a giga-billion people showed up to watch a woman sawed in half in a box by a magician, the giga-billion people being there does not make what appears to be true, an objective reality.  


It is reasonable to conclude that if pilgrimages are not permitted to be organized on a diocesan or parish level, then the parish or diocese ought not be bringing the pilgrimage to the people. It has the same effect on people that an organized pilgrimage would have: It lends credibility to the unapproved "apparitions", in the minds of the faithful.

It's a break with tradition and it is against collegiality.  Are there any other private revelation in the history of the Church where bishops around the world simply decided to host "seers" in parishes, shrines and cathedrals who are forbidden to have public events on Church property in the diocese of origin?

How is it, that when the "seers" of Medjugorje are given a platform, outside of Mostar-Duvno, at a diocesan cathedral, or a parish, or a popular shrine, these priests and bishops are not, " a canonical sanction to the facts of Medjugorje"?  (referencing what Joaquin Navarro-Valls said earlier on pilgrimages)

It is relativistic to make exceptions for Medjugorje because of the wave of enthusiasm.

I'm afraid the same wave of enthusiasm has led to consequentialism, as well, whereby certain Church leaders believe it is inauthentic, but want to squeeze every vocation and conversion they can out of it. That is noble. But it is also justifying the means to gain an end.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

2005 Article about Cardinal Bertone on Medjugorje - Is he a skeptic?

This is a partial translation from Italian of an article which ran in Corriere in 2005 (original source).  In it, we learn about an experience that Cardinal Bertone had with angry "Medjugorjeans" after he dared to voice his own skepticism.

...the ultra-Marians who heard him speak on Bruno Vespa's "Door to door" a few evenings ago weren't happy to hear his skepticism about the apparitions of Civitavecchia and Medjugorje, and fired back point-blank, by mail or the microphones of God: "Unseemly and offensive reactions of faithful and priests who describe themselves as 'Medjugorjean'", the Cardinal censured on Monday: unacceptable attacks "even from Radio Maria, certainly not compatible with the promoters of authentic Marian devotion".

Probably no one would have noticed the dispute, if Bertone had not decided to make it public. "A priest was first to point out what happened Friday evening on Radio Maria," the archdiocese explained. At 9 p.m., ninety minutes live with listeners, with the director of the much-followed Marian station, Fr. Livio Fanzaga... "Bewildered" is the most frequent word from the speakers: how is it possible that an archbishop goes on Rai Uno to say, for the Church, at this moment, there was no supernatural event at Civitavecchia or at Medjugorje either? In reality, Bertone knows what he's saying: Ratzinger's right hand, professor of canon law, and prelate, sent by the Pope to Fatima for Sr. Lucia's funeral, he's followed all the investigation on the apparitions in Herzegovina, and knows the story of the statue of Mary weeping blood in Lazio. He doesn't deny the right to pray to the Virgin in places where she's not present, but he "deplores the excesses of fanaticism, such as the events in various churches, in which they promise the possibility of being present at an apparition of the Madonna on March 18 at a scheduled time".

The clouds burst. The devotees of miracles break out on the radio and in two weeks of mail to the curia in Genoa: "We don't agree in the least with what was said about the apparitions being programmed like a show" (Aldo); "Bertone said he never met the seers in person, or least not to his knowledge" (Efisio); "Cardinal Bertone wasn't clear about anything"; "the journalist Socci knows more about it than him"; "the place to make such arguments isn't a TV set: I don't think Vespa's show is the Cathedral of St. Peter" ( On Civitavecchia they brought in a former bishop, Girolamo Grillo, who commented venomously: "If Bertone had read my dossier, he would have learned that I never spoke of supernatural events or inexplicable events, so that the Archbishop of Genoa would have to take the lid off the hot water".

In faithful Genoa, they're with the archbishop, even among the rebellious priests unpopular at the curia. "The Doges dedicated their acts to the Madonna; the Virgin was crowned here as 'Queen of the City'," says Fr. Andrea Gallo, friend of De André and of the poor. "But the tradition is more sober: to the Madonna della Guardia, where there was an apparition, the Genovese came secretly, preferably by night. I haven't been to Lourdes either, not at all. The cardinal is right to take this up with Radio Maria: they're hammering away at propaganda; it's a crusade. But what do we expect to get from it? If I tell young people to use a condom, I'll be hauled in front of an ecclesiastical court. If they use the Madonna to ask for money, nobody does anything. That station is a hot potato. It's not the voice of Mary, because it benefits from a certain fanaticism, a little like the /maghetti/ on TV who get rich off people's suffering". Less severe is Fr. Gianni Baget Bozzo, a collaborator of Radio Maria: "The Church is not obliged to accept a miraculous fact, and regarding Medjugorje, Bertone is saying the legitimate things that the bishop of Mostar also says. It's too much that they are so attached to it. But they are right to some extent..." Who? "The people who go to Medjugorje or Civitavecchia. Probably it's not really true. But why discourage people who basically just want to pray to Our Lady?"

Many thanks to Richard Chonak for this translation.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Croatian Bishop's Conference Official Bulletin - Glas Koncila - Common Question on "Pilgrimages" to Medjugorje

Recently looking through articles at the official bulletin of the Croatian Bishop's Conference - Glas Koncila (Voice of the Council), I found this question and answer among the "Common Questions" (Opća pitanja). I wrote to Glas Koncila asking them if they could provide a date when this went onto the website. It seemed as if the question was written on April 9th, but a few days later, it read April 12 (meaning the date shown was the current date).  I got quick response from Glas Koncila that it appeared in the February 2001 issue.  The fact that this particular question remains on the website, means they are still receiving these sorts of questions, thus "common" (or FAQ). 

It is offered here in English, not only as a record, but because it contains good information in general about the nature of pilgrimages (what may be defined as a pilgrimage and what may not), who can organize them, and what should and should not happen on them.  Another interesting question is answered within this one on vegetarianism.

My emphases in bold. Summary and notes at the bottom.

Here is a translation of: Doživjela sam duhovni teror na putu za Međugorje; zar crkvena vlast to ne može spriječiti?

I experienced spiritual terror on the way to Medjugorje; can’t church authorities prevent that?

[Full Question]On a bus going to Medjugorje I experienced surprise and scandal. On the way a lady guide, who leads such pilgrimages as a private person, allegedly healed sick people by the laying on of hands and cast out evil spirits from some of them. The scenes were in bad taste. Some of the passengers on whom she carried out her rituals went into an obviously abnormal state, but for her that was a sign that the Devil had really gone out of them.

Among the passengers there happened to be some vegetarians who requested a meal without meat. The guide in front of everyone insultingly accused them of being heretics, followers of Sai Baba and similar non-Christian sects. She herself at the same time wore us out with her smoking.

Don’t church authorities have control over such cases?

A female reader

[Glas Koncila]The case is indeed disturbing and urges certain clarifications. The person involved may not be considered the leader of a pilgrimage, nor may trips like that such as she organizes be called pilgrimages. Real pilgrimages must be within the organization of a church institution or association.

When talking about Medjugorje, it is understood that every believer alone or in a group can go there to pray, but motivated only by personal devotion. Church authorities have not confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions taking place there and church institutions can not invite the faithful on pilgrimage for the reason of Our Lady’s apparitions. There are no such problems when it comes to pilgrimages to other recognized Marian churches, for example, Marija Bistrica, Trsat, Aljmaš and others which have been declared to be Marian shrines and holy place where the faithful can pray and receive the gifts of grace, even though at those places there was neither recognized nor disputed apparitions.

We can not close our eyes to the fact that many believers from our homeland and from the world are going to Medjugorje as though on pilgrimage believing in the apparitions of Our Lady there. No one can forbid that to them nor call it a sin; it is always possible for devout prayers to bear good fruit. But for the reasons mentioned above, those cannot be an official pilgrimages that church representatives would lead. Therefore, it is indeed possible that self-styled organizers set to work and lead those kind of pilgrimages. Some of them without any kind of supervision of church authorities, as witnessed in the above example, can behave altogether arbitrarily, in bad taste and inappropriately spiritually terrorize the faithful who have trusted them. Obviously, those who wish to go to Medjugorje for devotional reasons should be warned not to accept any kind of spiritual guide during the journey. If some travel agency arranges that kind of trip because there are those who are interested, that cannot be forbidden to it, but even it does not have the right to arrange any kind of spiritual leader. The faithful, if it is appropriate, can also pray customary prayers together on the way, but in no way accept extraordinary acts of alleged healings and exorcisings of the Devil. When they reach their goal, they can participate in the devotions that the local spiritual caregivers lead, assuming that they are under the supervision of higher church authorities and that they are acting in accordance with church regulations. If they notice something quite otherwise, they should refrain from it.

This is also an opportunity to recall that our bishops, while once admitting that they did not find evidence for official recognition of the apparitions, were still, independent of that, determined, to provide the faithful who come there the ability to perform appropriate devotions and have reception of the sacraments and that is why the church authorities should help and keep control. Should it come to a serious implementation of that second part of the decision of our bishops, maybe one could find a way to prevent really scandalous cases like the one you experienced. It is a particularly crude abuse of devout intentions and could scandalize the well-meaning faithful and show our faith in the most ugly and corrupt light to those who are not of the faith.

As for vegetarianism, it must be said that there are also vegetarians among the most orthodox, that it is not a religion but a discipline of living, indeed a kind of permanent abstinence that should be commended even if we ourselves do not wish to undertake it. As long as religious parties do not find legally acceptable and appropriate precautions feasible, such would-be pilgrimages will be possible in which it will be able to experience also such deviant people who obviously have no basic knowledge of Catholic faith and spirituality. [Private translation by Fr. Philip Pavic, OFM]

Note: The Croatian Bishop's Conference speaks in a way that reflects the fact that the bishops of Croatia and BiH were once one conference in the former Yugoslavia.  Hence, the language: "Should it come to a serious implementation of that second part of the decision of our bishops, maybe one could find a way to prevent really scandalous cases like the one you experienced."

Main points with additional notes
  • Trips to Medjugorje by individuals or groups are not considered pilgrimages since the phenomenon is not recognized as authentic, nor has the site been approved as a "shrine" or "sanctuary" such as other places named. Church institutions and associations, or those going as representatives may not lead group visits.
  • Individuals or groups may go to Medjugorje "motivated only by personal devotion".
  • In 1987 Cardinal Kuharic stated in the Glas Koncila: "it is not permitted to organize either pilgrimages or other religious manifestations based on an alleged supernatural character attributed to Medjugorje's events."
  • On March 23, 1996 (Prot. No. 154/81-01985), then Archbishop Bertone wrote: "...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..."
  • On August 21, 1996, then Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls explains why: "...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 ..."
  • Finally, on May 26, 1998 (Pr. No 154/81-05922) Archbishop Bertone writes: "...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..."
  • It may not be forbidden or considered sinful for people to visit Medjugorje, as though on pilgrimage. [many who do this are unaware of the distinction, some being misled by tour companies and promoter sites].
  • Devout prayers of visitors is what bears fruit (along with the Sacraments, as pointed out later)
  • Since the current status of Medjugorje does not permit official pilgrimages organized by representatives of Church institutions or associations, other private organizations may be leading them.
  • These tour guides are not under any kind of supervision by Church authorities.
  • Advises against getting involved with "spiritual guides" on such tours.
  • Customary prayers may be prayed along the way (this means devotions according to the teachings of the Church, such as the Rosary, and other approved prayers).
  • Those visiting should not accept, "extraordinary acts of alleged healings and exorcisings of the Devil"
  • Upon arriving in Medjugorje, visitors may participate in devotions led by local spiritual caregivers, "assuming that they are under the supervision of higher church authorities and that they are acting in accordance with church regulations." And, they should refrain from anything to the contrary.  This goes back to the authority given to the local bishop in the 1991 Zadar Declaration when it said (my emphases in bold; comments bracketed in red):
Yet the gathering of the faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, inspired by reasons of faith or other motivesrequire 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 [Note: Marialis Cultus does not have a provision for devotions based on alleged apparitions which have not gained approval at any level of the Church. Hence, devotions based on the alleged apparition, which have not been approved for use by ecclesial authority, are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church]. 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. [Bishop Peric has provided pastoral and liturgical directives here, here, here and here among other places, and his 2006 homily (third link) was acknowledged by the CDF when it advised the Bishops of Tuscany to share it with priests of the diocese.]
  • Independent of the question of authenticity, which was never acknowledged to date and is a question now being handled by the new commission, the Croatian Bishops again acknowledge the second part - the ability of people to go there for devotions.
  •  The Croatian bishops then affirm the authority of the local bishop when they say, "...the church authorities should help and keep control...." and then in pretty strong terms point out: "Should it come to a serious implementation of that second part of the decision of our bishops, maybe one could find a way to prevent really scandalous cases like the one you experienced" 
  • Points to the fact abuses such as the one depicted in the question, "could scandalize the well-meaning faithful and show our faith in the most ugly and corrupt light to those who are not of the faith"

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