Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Official: Vatican confirms Medjugorje commission

Announcement in the Vatican Bollettino

here is an unofficial translation of the official announcement (updated to the version used from Catholic News Agency)

“Under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, an international commission of investigation on Medjugorje has been constituted. Said Commission, composed of cardinals, bishops and experts will work in a reserved manner, subjecting the results of their studies to the authority of the Dicastery.”

Catholic News Agency has more:

Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that no other information was available at this point besides the role of Cardinal Ruini as president. However, he did say that the commission will be formed by “more or less” 20 members.
Responding to a question from a journalist about the possible inclusion of Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar, whose diocese includes Medjugorje, Fr. Lombardi said that he is not in possession of a list of members.
The Vatican spokesman reviewed the history of investigations into the possible Marian apparitions of Medjugorje, noting that they began on a diocesan level. When it was seen that the “phenomenon was broader than the diocese,” it was passed on to the episcopal conference of the former Yugoslavia, which, he noted, no longer exists. [Notice that his explanation is consistent with the explanation given in 1987 by Cardinal Kuharic which is also consistent with a provision in the 1978 Criteria for Discernment of Apparitions, when the phenomena extends beyond the bounds of the diocese.  Also, to say that there was some other hidden reason not offered publicly for this transfer of final discernment (i.e., that the Vatican wanted it "out of the hands of the local bishop") means we would have to assume that Cardinal Kuharic told a non-truth in the official bulletin of the bishop's conference].
The commissions at those levels never came to a conclusion on the question of whether or not the alleged apparitions are supernatural, so the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina have asked the CDF to take over investigations, the Vatican spokesman explained.
As the commission carries out their activities, Fr. Lombardi continued, they will decide whether or not to communicate information regarding their findings. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that it will be a “very discreet” project “given the sensitivity of the subject,” he remarked.

Speaking in Italian, he said to expect that investigations will take “a good while” to reach their completion and emphasized that the results of the commission’s activities will be submitted to the CDF, under whose mandate they are operating. The commission will only offer their technical findings to the Congregation, which in turn will “make decisions on the case.”
For now, the composition of the commission is “reserved,” as is the method they will pursue in their investigations, Fr. Lombardi said in closing.

Associated Press is now in the action, and it raises the diplomatic problem prompted by Cardinal Schonborn's recent visit.  It looks like AP has had several updates since news first broke.

One of the highest-ranking recent pilgrims was Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who visited over New Year's, sparking a minor diplomatic incident since official church pilgrimages to Medjugorje are barred.

Schoenborn stressed that he traveled to the shrine in a private capacity. But he celebrated Mass there, met with the visionaries and granted several interviews afterward in which he called for Medjugorje pilgrims to receive the pastoral care — both physical and spiritual — that they would need there.

He also called the shrine a tree that "bore many fruits," in terms of vocations, conversions and rediscovery of faith.

His comments prompted the local bishop of Mostar, Monsignor Ratko Peric, to write him a letter Jan. 2, sharply criticizing his visit and stressing that his presence there was by no means a formal recognition of the apparitions. The local church has cast doubt on the claims, in part because one of the visionaries says the apparitions have continued monthly for over a quarter century.

Schoenborn met with the pope on Jan. 15 and wrote to Peric saying he regretted "if you have the impression that my pilgrimage to Medjugorje did a disservice to peace. Rest assured this was not my intention."

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican decided to launch the investigation based on a request from Bosnian bishops. [Note: Again, this is another journalistic source repeating what Fr. Lombardi said.  He did not say that, "the Vatican took the decision from the Bishop's Conference or from the local Bishop", but that it was launched on a request by the BiH Bishops.  This is consistent with a provision in the 1978 Criteria for Discernment of Apparitions in which the competent authority can request intervention.  One has to ask, why are supporters and promoters saying something different than what Fr. Lombardi has offered.  Unless we look upon him as a liar, he should be taken at his word]
The current Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, wrote in 1996 that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje weren't to be organized at parish or diocesan levels since bishops from the former Yugoslavia had affirmed in 1991 that there was no way to confirm that "supernatural apparitions and revelations" had taken place.

Why pray-tell, are Medjugorje visionaries allowed to have speaking engagements and "visions" on Catholic property all around the world, then? 


Given that this will go on for "a good while" and that the findings may or may not get communicated, we can only hope that the Holy See will look at whether Catholic parishes, shrines, cathedrals, chapels and schools, hosting the visionaries is in harmony with the existing 1991 Zadar Declaration (which remains in effect until a new decision is made). 

If "official pilgrimages cannot be organized at the parish or diocesan level", then how can the parish or diocese allow organized "pilgrimages" to come to the people (visionaries traveling the world and having visions in our parishes and cathedrals).  I would argue that it is not harmony with the Church's teachings on Marian devotion to have visionaries from any unapproved apparitions having visions on Church property.

See this ever changing schedule of Ivan Dragicevic's schedule of apparitions on Church property.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!