FOR DISCERNING APPARITIONS
REGARDING THE EVENTS OF MEDJUGORJE
Medjugorje, a parish in the diocese of Mostar-Duvno in Herzegovina is known not only to Catholic Croats but to the entire world. For 14 years now, much has been spoken and written on the "seers", and on the "apparitions" of the Blessed Virgin Mary in this parish. The ecclesiastical ministry of the diocesan Bishop Msgr. Pavao Zanic, has been marked by commissions, investigations, communiqués, declarations, meetings with the "seers", persuasions and dissuasions regarding these events. His coadjutor and successor, from the time of his taking over the ministry of bishop in Mostar (1993), has received many letters of varying content, expressing all types of advice and suggestions on the events of Medjugorje. Some have sought to impede these phenomenon, while others have endeavored to have them approved and propagated. He himself volens-nolens has been asked in some public appearances and interviews to say something and to explain himself. He never refrained though, from supporting the Declaration of the Bishops Conference of 1991. He also mentioned the events of Medjugorje at the Bishops Synod in Rome, in October of 1994. Therefore, this current and contemporary theme cannot be ignored.
It is impossible to provide a brief summary of the events tied to Medjugorje. There exists an abundant amount of literature1 from the naive to the fanatic. This article limits itself to bringing out the theological criteria for heavenly "private" apparitions on earth. Many worthwhile articles and books have been written on this topic which systematically and expertly write on "private" apparitions and revelations.2 For this reason, the aim of this article is to gather criteria which can help those who already know certain facts, to compare them to these rules and evaluate the conclusions. Consequently, to bring forth the official documents and declarations of the Church regarding the events in the parish of Medjugorje in the diocese of Mostar-Duvno and finally, to summarize the position of the Diocesan Chancery in a few points keeping in mind the well-known Declaration of the Bishops Conference of 1991.
1) According to the teachings of the II Vatican Council, the historical person of Jesus, his appearance and revelation, by word and deed, through miraculous signs, passed on to us through his apostles, is the final and complete revelation of God, to which nothing essential can be added or taken away. Therefore, beyond this first revelation, there shall be no other revelation before Jesus' Second coming. In this sense, the Council is quite unambiguous: "As a result, he himself - to see whom is to see the Father (cf. Jn 14:9) - completed and perfected Revelation and confirmed it with divine guarantees. he did this by the total fact of his presence and self-manifestation - by words and works, signs and miracles, but above all by his death and glorious resurrection from the dead, and finally by sending the Spirit of truth. he revealed that God was with us, to deliver us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to eternal life"3
2) Holy Scripture: in the Old Testament, the word "listen" is used twice a often as the words "to see" or "to look" (1080 : 520). Along with this, the relationship of man to God, including the most humble friend of God, is a relationship of words and not one of seeing or of vision: One cannot see God and remain alive, was also valid for Moses. God revealed his glory to him but not his face (cf. Ex 33:20-23). On the other hand, "listening" to the word of God is the regular attitude of the believer, the prophet and the king. It is no surprise that the Jewish Credo-I believe, does not begin with the words "I believe in God almighty", but rather with: Shema Israel - Hear, O Israel (Deut 5:1).
In the New Testament, especially in the Letter to the Hebrews (1:1-2), emphasis is made to the fact that God has spoken many times and in many ways to the fathers and prophets. Yet all revelation - of the Holy Trinity and of our salvation - definitely and completely, is found in the revelation of the only son of God, who is the reflection of the Glory and imprint of God's being. The theology of St. John the apostle and evangelist particularly emphasizes this vision and revelation of the son: "No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (Jn 1:18). Jesus is the revelation of the Father, his image and icon. Hence, he who sees the son, sees the Father. Jesus shall praise those who believe and have not seen (Jn 20:29). In John's theology, "seeing" and "believing" are one and the same. The Word of God, the Second Divine Person did not "appear" in a human body, but became body and lived amongst us, in our human condition, in space and time. This revelation is the substance of our faith and also the highest expression of revelation. For this reason, the religion of Christ is the religion of the Incarnation, which surpasses all types of apparitions. After his death and resurrection, Christ appeared many times in his glorious body, identical to the preceding one he had. These apparitions had a dual purpose: on the one hand, they proved Jesus' resurrection, and on the other, through these apparitions Jesus finished his instructions to his disciples: he gave them the power to confess sins, he established their general mission to proclaim the Gospel to all creation, he told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, and to give witness to all, so that people could believe, be baptized and saved. After the ascension of Jesus, apparitions are no longer necessary.4
3) Theological problems and explanations. Theologians who are professionally involved in studying Revelation are loath to talk about private apparitions and messages. Yet amongst the people, many of the faithful are inclined to believe in such phenomenon, because they provide something visible, touchable, something which can be felt or sensed. This is especially true if this is something which becomes visible in their lives in the form of some kind of emotional aid, a healing or similar experience. Such phenomenon and beliefs can easily slide into true superstition and forms of magic, especially if the desired "grace" or "miracle" doesn't occur in the way the person expected and "prayed for". In such situations, it is not uncommon to come across even - suicide. Yet, it must be objectively recognized that in the last years and decades, tens of millions of people have made pilgrimages to the recognized Marian shrines of the world, such as Lourdes, Fatima, Czestochowa, Loreto, Marija Bistrica, ecc. This is also another reason why so much is written and spoken on the problem of private apparitions. Moreover, he who in his ecclesiastical ministry feels it his responsibility, (whether this be in a theological, investigative or episcopal teaching ministry), has the duty to defend the faith of the common folk and not to allow (under the veil of various public religious gestures), the concealing of any superstitions, nor permit the faith of the people to be based upon false apparitions.
Theologically speaking, in order to accept private apparitions as authentic, they must be characterized by some essential traits and be free of dubious elements.
R. Silic, a professor of theology in Sarajevo, advised the priests of his time briefly and clearly: "May pastors of souls be careful not to quickly believe in revelations so that they may not be deceived by pious women."5
Another Franciscan priest from Herzegovina, K. Vasilj, provides three criteria: 1) The appearing Mary must be in total concordance with Mary of the New Testament; 2) The person who claims that Mary is appearing to him/her must be completely sincere and truthful; 3) That person must also be psychologically healthy, unperturbed by illusions and hallucinations.6
A serious theological article on apparitions was written ten years ago by a Jesuit professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Rev. Jean Galot. He presents three problems which should be resolved while questioning the authenticity of apparitions: 1) Did a true apparition occur? 2) Is the person who presented this trustworthy? 3) Can the theology of the apparitions be explained and placed within the life of the Church?7 This third problem should be placed first, and the theologian gives it much attention. Describing various apparitions depicted in the Bible, he also brings out his own theological considerations. In the faith, there exists a fundamental light which is shrouded by darkness. Hence, some seek apparitions in order to confirm their faith. they would like to compensate that which they lack in believing by "seeing". "It is exactly this desire which drives a good number of today's Christians towards persons who say that they have apparitions or visions."8
The first criterion for discerning authenticity is rarity and exceptionality. Apparitions are essentially very rare occurrences. They cannot replace the faith. "Hence, apparitions which would continue for a long period of time, becoming a part of daily life of the seers, would tend to transform christian living into seeing and would then liberate if from the darkness of faith. such frequency would be a motive to doubt the authenticity of the apparitions."9
The second criterion for judging authenticity would be the conformity of the ensuing messages and revelations to the truths of the faith. If there were to be any doctrinal errors, or affirmations incompatible with the teachings of the Gospel, with christian love; or if they were to contain slander, to instigate rebellion, to entice "disobedience towards Church authority", in such cases their validity would have to be questioned.10
Thirdly, "it would equally be detrimental if the transcendental origin of the apparitions were to indicate a certain human manipulation: when the recipients of apparitions determine the place, date, regularity or program. They do not then concern a phenomenon from above, but more or less a direct experience of the actors on earth".11
Fourthly, one has to consider the fruits also. "It must be observed that the spiritual fruits alone cannot suffice in discerning the authenticity of apparitions. There have been cases where many conversions were registered, which then only wound up being rejected by church authorities as unfounded."12
Z. Puljic, once a member of the diocesan commission for the investigation of the events of Medjugorje, and who today is Bishop of Dubrovnik, emphasizes the necessity of a serious analysis of the following elements for the discernment of the authenticity of apparitions:
- the psychological equilibrium of the person;
- the object or content of private apparitions,
- the moral implications on the "seer" or on others who accept them.13
Other theologians present up to eight criteria for discerning authentic from false private apparitions and revelations. In order to evaluate them, one would have to respond to these questions:
- What is the basic information on the "seers" like, and how are they judged to be?
- Has there been a concrete realization of the seers' announced predictions?
- Is the seer honest and respectful towards his superiors (spiritual director, pastor, bishop)?
- Is an absolutely authentic text of the "messages" obtainable?
- Does there exist any harmony between the so-called messages and revelations to the official teachings of the Church?
- Are the so-called messages useful towards the eternal salvation of people?
- Have the so-called apparitions survived all the difficulties of time and all investigations?
- Have there been significant fruits in every aspect?14
R. Fisichella, a respected professor of theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, after making some biblical observations, stresses the following criteria for discerning the authenticity and truthfulness of private apparitions:
- These visions must never overshadow the authentic and radical Revelation described in Holy Scripture;
- They must always respect the mystery and secrecy of genuine revelation; "it is absurd, to not say blasphemous, - not only to Western mentality - that during a vision one could photograph the face of Jesus or the Virgin!";
- They must respect the mutual completion of charisms; and the greatest of these is love; hence they should not be directed against love which is the center of Christian revelation.15
Furthermore, for a theological analysis of so-called private apparitions, it is important to keep in mind the social and cultural factors of the place where the apparitions occur, a linguistic verification of the descriptions of the apparitions would be necessary, and finally, a thorough psychological analysis of the seers. One also must recall that apparitions are always something "extraordinary", rare, and this is an important element for their discernment. "If apparitions were to occur on a daily basis in the life of a believer, or if they were to continue for years, this would obviously create serious problems for the theology of faith".16 Every apparition must refer to or return to the revelation of Christ, presume it and lead towards it as well.
Referring to the "scientific research" on the "apparitions" at Medjugorje,17 of R. Laurentin, a French priest and publicist, J. Curic, a professor at the Catholic Theological Faculty in Zagreb, provides a few significant critical points which greatly contribute towards clearing up the mentioned difficulties:
- Curic first of all differentiates between the popular term "scientific" as it was comprehended in the 19th century and the way it is understood today in the 20th century. Real scientists today are much more humble and careful, due to the likely rebuttals and replies they can easily receive tomorrow for their conclusions of today.18
- While the French scientist lists facts and figures, he remains in line with his historical profession. but when he presents the actual "visions" of the seers, he does not take into consideration the "experience of the presence" as a significant element of spiritual consciousness. This is one of his greatest drawbacks according to the Croatian Jesuit.19
- A three day stay in Medjugorje during the Christmas rush, gave Laurentin the opportunity to establish that the seers are mentally healthy, simple and totally honest. Curic observes though, that God does not reserve his gifts only to those who are "scientifically" sane. He portrays Laurentin's great leaps to conclusions: "Meanwhile, if he were to come to a perfectly certain conviction that the seers of Medjugorje are totally sincere in their declarations, this would not give him the right to conclude - that the subjective sincerity of their speech proves the objective truthfulness of their visions."20
- Following this, Curic poses a general problem of principle: "what if anything can science research and verify regarding extraordinary, miraculous phenomenon, whether they be of divine or demonic origin? It appears that Glas Koncila did not proceed properly when it reiterated the "scientific nature" of Laurentin's approach to the Madonna's "apparitions"; as if the problem of the authenticity of these apparitions (after all our Balkan controversies), could now be resolved in a proper manner - the scientific way." Laurentin recognizes that in the end "the verdict must be left up to the Church". Curic then responds: "Why would this scientist, having concluded his scientific research, now restrain his scientific conclusions and bow before the unscientific authority of the Church? If science can scientifically establish that a certain virus causes cancer, then no bishop could ever deny this conclusion! Hence, if science scientifically establishes that the Madonna is "appearing" in Medjugorje, can the bishops along with their commissions deny this?" Here the critic is examining two things. The first: God's grace cannot be an "object" of scientific research; second: yet, through grace, God can touch a person in such a way that this encounter manifests itself in a miraculous healing, miraculous knowledge, ecc. But science is incapable of establishing the miraculous nature of these happenings!21
- Curic differentiates between mystical and prophetic types of private revelations. Mystics usually cannot and do not know how to express what they have experienced. Prophetic souls "behave themselves diversely: they are convinced of the truthfulness of their experience and consciously wish to go public, so that people may listen and follow their 'message'". The phenomenon of Medjugorje falls into this prophetic category. Yet the mystical and prophetic types of revelations cannot be verified by science, but only through a spiritual evaluation.22
- Curic also presents the differences between public Revelation which is absolutely necessary for salvation and which extends for all eternity to all of mankind, and private revelations which no one has the right to impose upon or extend towards others. This results from the private nature of private revelations.23
- This type of private revelation does not lose its private character even after the so-called "approval" or "nihil obstat" of the Church, which can also revoke this "approval". Curic's conclusion is: "Whoever believes along with Laurentin that the Madonna has truly appeared to the seers of Medjugorje - and not once or twice, but thousands of times - that person would have to keep in mind the historical fact that even very noble Divine initiatives have ended in failure, because they were defeated by the disproportionate propaganda of various naive and fanatical persons. On the other hand, one shouldn't forget that according to the Bible, God is not bound by our human legal or scientific methods."24
4) The position of the Church. Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, who became Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758), explained the value and strength of "approval" which is given to apparitions, visions and revelations: "It is important to know that the public approval (of apparitions) after serious examination, is provided for the education and benefit of believers. But even though such approved revelations cannot claim nor be given the consensus of the Catholic faith, they nevertheless require the assent of human faith according to the rules of prudence, in virtue of which these revelations are considered probable or piously credible."25 This wise rule is also valid today.
In the most recent Catechism of the Catholic Church there exists a clear position regarding "private" apparitions and revelations: "Throughout the ages, there have been so-called 'private' revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church."26
5) The phenomenon of Medjugorje and Declarations of the Church. From 1981 onward, three ecclesiastical Commissions have worked in succession on studying the phenomenon of Medjugorje. They could not avoid taking into consideration the above mentioned principles and criteria during their investigations. The Commissions, the local Bishop and the Bishops Conference through the course of time, gave certain communiqués, declarations or explanations, which were accepted or rejected by the followers or the opponents of "supernatural apparitions". Here are the most important official declarations, signed and dated by the competent authorities:
- In mid August 1981, in the declaration of Msgr. Pavao Zanic, Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, which was open to honest interpretation, it was said that the "most difficult question remains whether this is the subjective experience of the children or something supernatural?"27
- On the 14th of January 1984, the archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, prohibited the seers of Medjugorje from appearing in all the parishes of the archdiocese of Zagreb until an ecclesiastical judgment was passed on the events.28
- On the 24th of March 1984, the first communiqué of the expanded Commission was made public. The Commission asked that the mass media refrain from giving judgments of the events until the competent Church Commission provides its judgment. It also asked that organized pilgrimages not be allowed; that the "seers" and church personnel in Medjugorje not give any statements regarding the so-called "apparitions": "Since the events in the parish of Medjugorje have had a considerable echo in our local Church and throughout the world, the Bishop Ordinary felt it necessary to expand the present four-member Commission in order to choose new members from all the theological faculties from the Church in Croatia and Slovenia, from various theological disciplines as well as experts in medical sciences... the Commission does not approve of priests or Catholic lay people organizing pilgrimages to Medjugorje, or public appearances of the seers before it has made a judgment on the authenticity of the apparitions."29
- On October 11th 1984, in the second communiqué, we read amongst other things: "The Commission has decided to further study all the experiences of the children and the interpretations of these experiences by the pastoral works of Medjugorje, even though it already notices some difficulties of disciplinary and theological nature in the messages of Medjugorje."30
- On the 12th of October 1984, the Bishops Conference asked that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje not be organized: "The Bishops advise that regarding the events of Medjugorje, it is necessary to await the judgment of the competent Church authorities which shall be given after a thorough and expert examination of the events. Hence, official pilgrimages to Medjugorje cannot be organized as if the Church had already given a positive judgment on these events."31
- On the 30th of October, Bishop Zanic presented the (unofficial) position of the Diocesan Chancery in a 15 point statement demonstrating negative factors and facts tied to the phenomenon of Medjugorje.32
- On March 8th 1985, the third communiqué of the mentioned Commission on the results of single experts and studies was made known. Amongst other things it said: "The commission feels that the most difficult question arising from the events regards the ecclesiastical disobedience of two former chaplains of Mostar who refused to be transferred, appealing to the messages of Medjugorje."33
- On the 18th of April 1985, the Bishops conference once again made an appeal to the faithful against making official pilgrimages to Medjugorje: "The Bishops are following the events of Medjugorje in Herzegovina with due attention. They have reconfirmed their previous directives and decisions regarding these events during this meeting."34
- On May 23rd 1985, came the warning of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - signed by the secretary of the Congregation Msgr. Alberto Bovone - addressed to the Italian Bishops Conference, to not organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje. Here is the entire text of the letter sent by the Holy See to the secretary of the Italian Bishops Conference, Msgr. Egidio Caporello:
"Your Excellency, from many parts, especially from the competent Ordinary of Mostar (Yugoslavia), one can gather and lament the vast propaganda given to the 'events' tied to the so-called apparitions in Medjugorje, for which pilgrimages and other initiatives have been organized that only contribute to the creation of confusion amongst the faithful and interfere with the work of the appointed Commission which is delicately examining the 'events' under scrutiny.
In order to avoid enhancing this mentioned propaganda and speculation going on in Italy, despite all that has been expressed and recommended by the Bishops Conference of Yugoslavia, could this Presidency please suggest to the Italian Episcopate to publicly discourage the organizing of pilgrimages to the so-called centre of apparitions, a well as all other forms of publicity, especially written materials, which could be considered prejudicial to a sober assertion of the facts on the part of the Special Commission which has been canonically formed for this purpose.
I take this opportunity to express the assurances of my highest regards..."35
- On the 31st of May 1985, came the fourth Communiqué of the mentioned Commission in which the themes and difficulties worked upon were presented: "... a comparison of the concept of conversion as presented in the gospels to the phenomenon of Medjugorje; problems of discipline regarding two former chaplains of Mostar who appeal to the messages of Medjugorje; theological problems regarding some of the messages of Medjugorje; and insufficient documentation on the supposed miraculous healings."36
- On September 27, 1985, the fifth Communiqué of the same Commission was published in which they briefly explained what the participants were doing.37
- In January of 1987, on the suggestion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that a commission of experts be established at the level of the Bishops Conference, a communiqué by Cardinal Kuharic and Bishop Zanic was published: "While waiting for the results of the Commission's investigations and the judgment of the Church, may Pastors and the faithful observe prudence in these circumstances. Therefore, organized pilgrimages or other manifestations, motivated by supernatural attributes given to the phenomenon of Medjugorje are not allowed."38
- On the 25th of July 1987, during a Mass held in the parish of Medjugorje, Bishop Zanic referred to the so-called apparitions. Here is a paragraph which was cited in many newspapers throughout the world: "It is said that Our Lady began appearing at Podbrdo on mount Crnica, but when the police banned going there, she went into homes, on fences, into the fields, into vineyards and tobacco fields, she appeared in the church, on the altar, in the sacristy, in the choir loft, on the roof, on the bell-tower, on roads, on the road to Cerno, in a car, in a bus, on a carriage, in a few places in Mostar, in more places in Sarajevo, in the convents of Zagreb, in Varazdin, in Switzerland, in Italy, again on Podbrdo, on Mt. Krizevac, in the parish, in the parish rectory, ecc. Surely not even half the places of the so-called apparitions have been counted, and a sober person who venerates Our Lady, would naturally ask himself: Dear Mother of God, what are they doing to you?"39
- In 1990 the diocesan Bishop Zanic published his position on Medjugorje by summarizing in 28 points that which deeply dissuaded him regarding the truthfulness of the so-called supernatural apparitions, and which also scandalizes many faithful today regarding the events of Medjugorje.40
- On the 10th of April 1991, came the Declaration of the former Bishops Conference on the basis of the results of its Commission, which said that there are no valid reasons which could verify the events of Medjugorje as supernatural apparitions or revelations. The Declaration in its entirety follows:
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 base of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.
Yet the gathering of 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 199141 The Bishops of Yugoslavia"
"I Vescovi della Conferenza Jugoslava, riuniti in sessione ordinaria, a Zadar nei giorni 9-11, si sono accordati sulla seguente:
I Vescovi fin dall-inizio seguono i fatti di Medjugorje mediante il Vescovo diocensano, e la commissione della Conferenza Episcopale Jugoslava per Medjugorje.
In base alle investigazioni finora condotte non e possibile afferrmare che si tratti di apparizioni o rivelazioni soprannaturali.
Tutavia, la numerosa presenza di fedeli che giungono a Medjugorje da varie parti, spinti sia da motivi di fede che da altri motivi, esige l'attenzione e la cura pastorale primariamente del Vescovo diocesano, e con lui anche degli altri Vescovi, cosicché a Medjugorje, e in rapporto con la stessa, venga promossa una sana devozione verso la Beata Vergine Maria, secondo l'insegnamento della Chiesa.
I Vescovi daranno anche delle particolari direttive liturgico-pastorali adeguate a tale scopo. nello stesso tempo mediante le loro commissioni essi continueranno a seguire ed esaminare nel loro insieme i fatti di Medjugorje.
Zadar, 10 aprile 1991 Vescovi della Jugoslavia"
The original text in Croatian:
zasjedanju Biskupske konferencije Jugoslavije u Zadru, 9-11. travnja 1991.
usvojena je sljedeca
Na temelju dosadasnjeg istrazivanja ne moze se ustvrditi da se radi o nadnaravnim ukazanjima i objavama.
Medutim, brojna okupljanja vjernika s raznih strana koji u Medugorje dolaze potaknuti i vjerskim i nekim drugim motivima zahijevaju paznju i pastoralnu skrb prvenstveno dijecezanskog biskupa, a s njime i drugih biskupa, kako bi se u Medugorju, i povezano s njime, promicala zdrava poboznost prema Blazenoj Djevici Mariji, u skladu s ucenjem Crkve.
U tu svrhu biskupi ce izdati i posebne prikladne liturgijsko-pastoralne smjernice. Isto tako preko svojih ce Komisja i dalje pratiti i istrazivati cjelokupno dogadanje u Medugorju.
Zadar, 10. travnja 1991. Biskupi Jugoslavije."
Later on, war broke out in the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The followers of the phenomenon of Medjugorje still claim that Our Lady is "appearing". The Diocesan Chancery has warned on many occasions that one cannot claim nor preach in churches on supernatural apparitions due to the fact that it is impossible to confirm that Our Lady is appearing. Hence, official pilgrimages to Medjugorje are not allowed.42
6) The Church has still not recognized the supernatural nature of the "apparitions" at Medjugorje
Having in mind the previously mentioned rules which the Commission members empowered with the task of investigating the phenomenon have taken into consideration, on the basis of which they have suggested to the local Bishop and the Bishops Conference to maintain the conviction that it is impossible to prove the supernatural nature of the "apparitions"; and also keeping in mind what was said and written in the past and especially recently on the events in the parish of Medjugorje, we present a few basic positions which the Diocesan Chancery has in various ways made public and duly informed the Holy See on, and still maintains today:
1. "The Case of Herzegovina" - Medjugorje. The local Bishop of Mostar Msgr. Pavao Zanic, at the beginning of the so-called apparitions in 1981, was open to news that on the territory of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno, in the parish of Medjugorje, there appeared the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, when the so-called seers in their "messages", which were presumed to be those of the Blessed Virgin, began giving anti-Church statements linked to the "case of Herzegovina" regarding parishes, parish jurisdiction and canonical faculties, defending the disobedience of certain Franciscan pastors of souls, prudence demanded taking a more cautious stance. The competent church authorities, first of all the Diocesan Bishop on the basis of investigations made by his two Commissions from 1982-1986, and then the Commission of the Bishops Conference on the grounds of its investigations from 1987-1990, both brought forth the following negative judgment regarding the supernatural nature of the apparitions at Medjugorje: 'it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations", of the Madonna or any other saints. Therefore, it is forbidden to claim and profess the contrary, in churches and ecclesiastical communities, that is, as if Our Lady appeared there or is still appearing.
2. The fruits. Despite the numerous people who come to Medjugorje "with religious and other motives", and even though there are religious, priests and bishops, the curious and those seeking physical healings and spiritual conversions; despite the tens of books and brochures written in favor of the so-called apparitions at Medjugorje, all from the pens of famous writers in the world; despite the hundreds of thousands of confessions and holy communions made, which the supporters of Medjugorje consistently stress, the Declaration of the Bishops Conference clearly states: "it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations", of the Madonna. The fruits which are so often mentioned, are not proof that they result from "supernatural apparitions or revelations" of the Madonna, but insomuch as they are authentically Christian, they can be understood as a product of the regular workings of the grace of God, through faith in God and the intercession of Mary the Mother of Christ, and through the Holy Sacraments present in the Catholic Church. Not to mention anything at all about the negative fruits!
3. The "messages" of Medjugorje on prayer, fasting, faith, conversion and peace, repeated daily as something new but in reality always the same, as if the Madonna conveyed them to the "seers", are already present in Holy Scripture and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Anyone wishing to obey and live according to God's commandments and the teachings of the Church can pray, fast, believe, convert and work for peace anywhere in the world. This Christian requirement and duty cannot be lessened nor enhanced or strengthened by any confirmed apparition, let alone thousands of unsubstantiated "apparitions" at Medjugorje.
4. Contradictions. In some of the statements made by the so-called seers of Medjugorje published in the last 14 years, there are such contradictions, falsehoods and banalities, which cannot be attributed at all to our heavenly Mother Sedes Sapientiae - Seat of Wisdom, since there does not exist even a minimal guarantee of credibility. On the basis of such statements and the events tied to the statements: it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern "supernatural apparitions or revelations", of the Madonna or others. The talk of a "great sign", of "ten secrets", which Our Lady supposedly conveyed to the children, resembles the scare tactics which are typical of non-Catholic communities and not the sound teachings of the Catholic Church.
5. Normal people. Of the six former children of Medjugorje who claimed that the Madonna "appeared" to them, one of them entered the seminary, another entered a type of mixed religious community, and with the passing of time both of them left their respective communities. Five of them have married, including the latter two mentioned. These faithful, even after thousands of so-called apparitions, remain so "normal" in their behaviour, that only their words attest to their "encounters" with the Madonna. They remain "normal" as do all other "normal" faithful who have never seen the Madonna, yet as Catholics still firmly believe in Her and fervently pray for her intercession. Our holy faith which is based upon listening to the Word of God and not upon seeing heavenly apparitions, is at the same time a obsequium rationabile (Rom 12:1), which contradicts the insistent propaganda on daily or very frequent "apparitions". Some are behaving in direct contradiction to the beatitude which Jesus said to the doubting apostle Thomas: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20:29).
6. Charitable activities. Despite all the charitable-humanitarian aid which has been collected and is still being collected throughout the world during this terrible war in this war-stricken area, through the help of the mass-media serving the Medjugorje propaganda machinery, (in the name of Medjugorje and also passing through Medjugorje channels to the needy), there exists no reason to profess the claim that "these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations", neither of the "Queen of Peace" nor of any other type of supernatural apparition.
7. Destroyed and undestroyed churches. Neither can it be considered proof of the supernatural nature of the "apparitions" the fact that the church of St. James the Apostle in Medjugorje was not hit by grenades during this war, while for instance, both of the churches of Mostar and many other churches in Herzegovina, Bosnia and Croatia were bombed and destroyed.
8. The unrelenting process of "apparitions". Those who for the last 14 years claim that the "Queen of Peace is appearing" in Medjugorje precisely every day43 (even though on June 30th 1981 it was said that there would be "apparitions for only three more days"),44 who not knowing how to stop the process of "apparitions" without stopping those who come there called by some so-called apparitions or with other motives, are certainly not doing any favours to the honour and truth on the Madonna, the Mother of the Church. Nor are they doing any favours to the Church itself, the spiritual Mother of all Catholics who base their Catholic faith in God and devotion to Mary not upon some childish stories and hallucinations, but upon the authentic Revelation of God and its authentic interpretation guaranteed by the Holy Spirit received through the living Magisterium of the church.
9. Tourism. By stating the truth that it is impossible to prove and affirm that the Blessed Virgin Mary has ever appeared to anyone in Medjugorje, we do not wish to dissuade the efforts of the Republic and the media to attract the greatest possible number of tourists to our country. Yet, let these necessary and useful tourist aims be based upon our praiseworthy Christian traditions and the martyrdoms for the faith undergone in the past and present, along with the well-known values and beauty of our homeland, which the Almighty has given her, and not upon unsubstantiated and groundless supernatural "apparitions", "revelations" and "messages". The Croatian civil authorities and media should clearly differentiate these facts and keep in mind the official position of the Church, if they wish to adhere to the principle of not intervening in the affairs of the Church and want to remain objective.
10. No shrine and no pilgrimages. Neither the Diocesan Bishop as the head of the local diocese of Mostar-Duvno, or any other competent authority has ever officially declared the parish church of St. James the Apostle in Medjugorje as a "Marian Shrine" and no "cult" of the Madonna based upon so-called apparitions has even been proclaimed. Due to these discrepancies, the local Bishop has repeatedly forbidden anyone from preaching or speaking in churches on the supernatural nature of these so-called "apparitions and revelations", and he has asked that no official pilgrimages be organized be they at the level of parishes, dioceses or generally in the name of the Church. These and similar warnings were made by our former Bishops Conference and the Holy See. Whoever acts to the contrary, is directly going against the official statements of the Church, which even after 14 years of so-called apparitions and widespread propaganda, still remain valid in the Church.
A healthy devotion to the Mother of God in accord with the teachings of the Church, especially with the Papal Exhortation "Marialis cultus" of 1974, must be nurtured and promoted in every person, family, church, parish and diocese of the Catholic Church.
Mostar, May 1995
1I. Sivric, in
his well documented book La face
cachée de Medjugorje, tome I, Ed. Psilog, Saint-François-du-Lac,
Canada, 1988, gathered in the first seven years of the "apparitions" over
200 sources, p. 381-394.
2I cite only those which I have used in this article:
R. SILIC, Caveant animarum directores, in: Dobri Pastir, 3-4/1950, 27-30;
K. VASILJ, Marija. Povodom neobicnih pojava u Medugorju, in: Hrvatska Revija, 3/1984, 367-387;
J. CURIC, Znanstvena istrazivanja u Medugorju? in: Obnovljeni zivot, 3-4/1984, 329-339;
J. GALOT, Le apparizioni private nella vita della Chiesa, in: Bogoslovska smotra, 1-2/93, 76-88;
RI. RISICHELLA, Dio ci ha parlato attraverso suo Figlio, in: Homiletic and Pastoral Review, New York, 7/94, 28-31. 51-56.
3Dei Verbum, 4.
4Cfr. J. GALOT, Op. cit., 22-23.
5R. SILIC, Op. cit., 28: "Caveant ergo directores animarum, ne cito revelationibus credant, et a piis feminis decipiantur."
6Cfr. K. VASILJ, Op. cit., 374.
7Cfr. J. GALOT, Op. cit., 19.
9CF. Idem, 30.
13W.P. (Z. PULJIC), Op. cit., 1989, 250.
14See M. MAZZA, who cites A. POULAINA, The Graces of Interior Prayer, Op. cit., 30-31. 51-56. In presenting the mentioned criteria, the author also applies them to the facts and declarations of the phenomenon of Medjugorje. He systematically disproves the authenticity of those apparitions.
15R. FISICHELLA, Op. cit., 43-44
17R. LAURENTIN, Javlja li se Gospa u Medugorju?, in: Glas Koncila, 4, 5, 6/1984, 7.
18Cf. Idem, 329-330.
19Cf. Idem, 330-331.
20Idem, 331, quote: 332.
22Cf., Idem, 334-335.
23Cf. Idem, 336-337.
25De Servorum Dei beatificatione et Beatorum canonizatione, Liber II, 32, No. II. Quoted in: J. GALOT, Op. cit., 32: "...Sciendum est approbationem istam nihil aliud esse quam permissionem ut edantur ad fidelium institutionem et utilitatem, post maturum examen: siquidem hisce revelationibus taliter approbatis, licet non debeatur, nec possit adhiberi, assensus fidei catholicae, debetur tamen assensus fidei humanae iuxta prudentiae regulas, iuxta quas nempe tales revelationes sunt probabiles et pie credibiles..."
26The Catechism of the Catholic Chuirch, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1994, n.67.
27P. ZANIC, Izjava u javnost, in: Crkva na Kamenu (pastoral newspaper of the dioceses of Herzegovina), 7-8/1981, 24; Biskupova izjava o "ukazanjima" u Hercegovini, in: Glas Koncila, 16.VIII.1981, 1; See also the Bishop's defence of the Franciscan priests of Medjugorje before the Presidency of the former state authorities. The letter to president Kreigher and Pred odgovornoscu, in: Crkva na Kamenu, 9-10/81, 1 and 2.
28N. 63/1984, in: Glas Koncila, 1 April 1984, 5.
29A two-day consultation of the expanded commission for Medjugorje. Press release, in: Glas Koncila, 1 April 1984, 1 and 5; Circa gli eventi di Medjugorje nella Diocesi jugoslava di Mostar-Duvno, in: L'Osservatore Romano, 12.V.1984, 2.
30Novo o Medugorju, in: Glas Koncila, 28.X.1984, 9.
31Jesenski Sabor BKJ, in: Glas Koncila, 21. October 1984, 2.
32P. ZANIC, La posizione attuale (non ufficiale) della Curia Vescovile di Mostar nei confronti degli eventi di Medjugorje (The present <unofficial> position of the Diocesan Chancery of Mostar regarding the events of Medjugorje). Addressed to the Holy See and Bishops Conferences of the world. See G. CAPRILE, Circa i fatti di Medjugorje, in: Laa Civilta Cattolica, 18.V.1985, 363-371.
33Od posta do tajnovitih znakova (From fasting to secret signs), in: Glas Koncila, 24 march 1985, 5.
34Priopcenje za javnost, in: Glas Koncila, 28 April 1985, 3.
35Entire text in: La Civilta Cattolica, 19 October 1985, 173; See Tajnik Kongregacije za nauk vjere o dogadajima u Medugorju (The Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the events of Medjugorje), in: Glas Koncila, 30 June 1985, 3, where the position of the Congregation is presented by an Italian weekly.
36Priopcenje sa dvodnevnog zasjedanja Komisje za ispitivanje dogadaja u zupi Medjugorje (A communiqué from the two-day meeting of the Commission for investigating the events in the parish of Medjugorje), in: Glas Koncila, 16 June 1985, 5.
37Izvjestaj iz Medugorja, u: Glas Koncila, 20 October 1985, 5.
38Priopcenje za tisak o Medugorju (Press release on Medjugorje) in: Crkva na Kamenu, 2/1987, 1; Biskupska konferencija Jugoslavije sastavila novu Komisju za istrazivanje medugorskkih dogadaja (The BCY forms a new Commission to investigate the events of Medjugorje), in: Glas Koncila, 18 January 1987, 1; Comunicato stampa su Medjugorje, in: L'Osservatore Romano, 14 febbraio 1987, 2.
39Izjava mostarskog biskupa o Medugorju (A Declaration of the Bishop of Mostar on Medjugorje), in: Crkva na Kamenu, 8-9/1987, 2.
40A 20 page booklet in Croatian, English, Italian, German and French.
41Izjava Biskupske konferencije Jugoslavije o Medugorju, in: Glas Koncila, 5 May 1991, 1.
42See Izjava biskupa o Medugorju nas obvezuje (The Bishops Declaration is binding), in: Crkva na Kamenu, 7/1991, 2; Gospina cast (The honour of Our Lady), in: Istina oslobada (The Truth sets us free), Miscellaneous collections of Bishop Pavao Zanic, edited by T. VUKSIC, Crkva na Kamenu, book 30, Mostar 1992. The position of the Diocesan Chancery of Mostar was also presented by Msgr. LUKA PAVLOVIC, Vicar General, in various articles: Lazni Papin delegat (A False Papal Delegate), in: Glas Koncila, 12 June 1994, 5; Zadarska izjava vrijedi! (The Declaration of Zadar is still valid!), in: Glas Koncila, 10 July 1994, 6; Hrvatski i medjugorski jezik (Croat language and the language of Medjugorje), in: Glas Koncila, 7 August 1994, 10; Price za naivne (Stories for the Naive), in: Glas Koncila, 25 September 1994, 2. See also Slobodna Dalmacija, 11 January 1995, 9.
43For some time now "messages" have been made public on the 25th of each month. Does this mean that she is not appearing on the other days?
44Cfr. I. SIVRIC, Op. cit., 44-50.