The Diocese of Mostar-Duvno didn't have much choice but to respond to some headlines in Croatian language press sparked by a speculative claim in the Italian, Vatican Insider, suggesting an apostolic administrator would be appointed by the Vatican to take over the parish in Medjugorje, and care of pilgrims.
Behind all that flowery love for the "gospa" of Medjugorje there is a creepy contempt for Bishop Ratko Perić and his predecessor, Bishop Pavao Žanić. The latter, a very Marian bishop who led annual pilgrimages to shrines around the world, was initially hopeful about authenticity, but turned against it when he discovered the lady of Medjugorje instigating insubordination and disobedience. Bishop Zanić, supporters say, collaborated with the communists to take down Medjugorje (see here and here). While supporters of Medjugorje think the current bishop is just a hindrance who is getting in the way of approval, sketpics and critics troubled with Medjugorje, like myself, see him protecting Holy Mother Church, and the dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by following his conscience in his discernment. It would have been easier for him to yield to the wave of popularity than to stand his ground.
So, the other day, Vatican Insider, which has not been very friendly to the Bishop of Mostar, shared news with it's Italian readers, of Archbishop Vigano's letter to U.S. bishops about Medjugorje reminding them 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."
The Diocese of Mostar-Duvno has responded through the Vicar General, Don Željko Majić. He pulls together certain communications which demonstrate that, contrary to what is presented by pro-Medjugorje sources, the Holy See does not have it in for the local bishop, so to speak. Rather, it is quite the contrary.
I don't have a translation of the piece, which you can put into an auto-translator from Croatian, but I am familiar with the documents he cites, most or all of which, are now in English. So, I'll capture the gist of what he is saying here and provide links.
Don Majić begins by explaining that the speculation by Vatican Insider cause not a little confusion among the faithful, and discernment is best done in light of what has been stated by the local bishop, the bishops' conference, and the Holy See - all of which are in harmony. He points out that there is nothing anyone can use that has been put out, at any level of the Church to date, that one could even infer such idle speculation.
Now these two items we know about from the letter, now online, by Archbishop Vigano, papal nuncio to the United States. This translation was run through an auto-translator with very little touch-up, so it is not perfect, but you get the idea.
Letter: 27th February 2013th - Nuncio of the Holy See in the United States, Archbishop Viganò, by order of the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, sent on 27 February this year, a letter the Bishops' Conference USA that U.S. diocesan bishops - there are nearly 200 - to inform, as soon as possible, the priests and the faithful to not participate in the meetings, lectures and public celebrations that are organized during the scheduled appearance of the Medjugorje "seers" who in their performances, and include as the program and its private "apparitions", and where the authenticity of the "apparitions" taken "for granted".
Letter: 21st October 2013th - The same Nuncio thought it necessary to send another equally serious warning, under the same protocol, the U.S. bishops 21st October this year, mentioning specifically "seer" Ivan Dragicevic, who normally part of the year with his family in Boston, a part of Medjugorje, and who had appointments in some parishes in the United States, which were then canceled. This letter had a great media presence and visibility. And we have it published in Croatian, English and Italian.
The Vicar General then goes on to discuss the 2006 homily of Bishop Perić in Medjugorje, which I will get to in a moment.
Just as some background in this post, more than the Vicar General provides -- in 2007, then Archbishop Angelo Amato, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, asked the bishops of Tuscany to share the same 2006 homily with priests of their dioceses. This happened when they were in Rome for their ad limina visit in 2007. A fax was sent by the bishops to priests of the diocese, shown, in part, below, that reads (also a crude auto-translate):
|See bigger 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.
So, going back to the statement by Don Majić, he points to the substantive part of that 2006 homily (the full english version here) that Archbishop Amato wanted the bishops of Tuscany to share with priests of their dioceses back in 2007:
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:
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.
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, 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”.
5 - As the local Bishop, I maintain that regarding the events of Medjugorje, on the basis of the investigations and experience gained thus far, throughout these last 25 years, the Church has not confirmed a single “apparition” as authentically being the Madonna. The fact that during these 25 years there has been talk of tens of thousands of “apparitions” does not contribute any authenticity to these events, which according to the words of our current Pope, who I encountered during an audience on 24 February this year, commented that at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith they always questioned how all these “apparitions” could be considered authentic for the Catholic faithful. They particularly do not seem to be authentic when it is known beforehand that these so-called “apparitions” will occur:
To one of the “seers” on the 18th of March every year, but along with this she will also receive an “apparition” on the 2nd of each month, with “messages” which you can expect, according to the established procedures;
The second will receive an apparition on every day of the year, and if this were not enough, an added special “apparition” on the 25th of each month along with a type of press release, which once again you can foresee and expect;
The third will receive an “apparition” on the 25th of December, on Christmas day, along with a message similar to the ones already mentioned;
The fourth will receive an “apparition” on the 8th of September every year along with a specific message;
The remaining two will receive the same, every day along with “messages” that can be anticipated since they are variations on the same theme. This fact and the flood of so-called apparitions, messages, secrets and signs, do not strengthen the faith, but rather further convince us that in all of this there is nothing neither authentic nor established as truthful.
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!
Then, the Vicar General briefly mentions the meeting with the bishops of Tuscany and CDF in his statement.
The next section in his statement in response to the Vatican Insider piece, is a paragraph discussing interpretation of the non constat de supernaturalitate finding of the former Yugoslav Bishops' Conference in 1991. He quotes an interview with Archbishop Amato in Avvenire (see English translation by Richard Chonak here and be sure to read the updates).
Finally, he points back to the fact that a commission has been set up at the level of the Holy See in March of 2010 and asks that, in an ecclesial spirit, people wait for a judgment by the Church.
I think the kind of speculation being churned out by Vatican Insider and Croatian press, is needlessly sowing confusion among the faithful. The Holy See is not the White House, whereby you have people sitting in rooms looking at polls to see how popular opinion is growing, then advising the Pope. A real apparition has no need of being "sold" to the masses because it sells itself. It has no need of being lobbied into acceptance by the Holy See because if it is legitimate, everything, with the help of the Holy Spirit will fall into place.
Here is Pope Benedict XVI worth pondering:
Today, however, it is particularly important to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei can not grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium. - Source: Cardinal Newman Society
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