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Reflections On The Medjugorje 40th Anniversary

August 9, 2021 Featured Today No Comments

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY

The fortieth anniversary of the original Medjugorje visions took place recently, against a backdrop of four decades of visionary activity which has either enthused, or perplexed, Catholics around the world.
And so now, after the biblically appropriate period of 40 years, what are we to make of it? As indicated it has been for some an inspiration, and for others, worried about the impact it has had on the Fatima message amongst other things, a great concern.
Regarding the enthusiasts, it is perhaps worth noting that the 40th anniversary was a low-key event, as least as regards the media and the Internet, in that there were few stories celebrating this milestone for the Medjugorje phenomenon.
This could be an indication that it is finally running out of steam — but it should also be said that there is still a good deal of enthusiasm for the visions and the visionaries, and that it would be premature to write the whole thing off just yet.
As regards Medjugorje itself, the most important developments in recent years have centered on the Commission set up under Pope Benedict XVI and headed by Cardinal Ruini. This body issued a Report and responsibility for dealing with this devolved onto Pope Francis, who while praising it in general, apparently also expressed skepticism regarding the alleged Medjugorje visions.
The Ruini Report was completed in 2014 and handed over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Almost immediately, though, its contents were leaked: the Italian journalists Giacomo Galeazzi and Andrea Tornielli in dealing with it declared via the La Stampa news service that, “The verdict could be positive albeit partial but no concrete decision has yet been reached.”
Despite this, the Pope continued to be critical of Medjugorje, and in a June 2015 homily spoke of those Christians looking for novelties who say, “Where are the visionaries who can tell us exactly what message our Lady will be sending at 4 o’clock this afternoon?”
This statement was certainly taken as a negative reference to Medjugorje; and in April 2016, in another homily, he lumped together fortune tellers and alleged visionaries.
Then, in February 2017, it was announced by the Vatican that Pope Francis was appointing Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warszawa-Praga as a special envoy to Medjugorje with the task of acquiring a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation there. The announcement went on to say that the envoy would not be looking at the merits of the alleged visions, which, since they were “questions of doctrine,” came under the responsibility of the CDF.
Those opposed to Medjugorje would question if it is appropriate to think in terms of pastoral solutions to the problem of Medjugorje before the more basic question of authenticity has been determined.
Be that as it may, on May 13, 2017, on the flight back to Rome from Fatima, where he had just canonized Jacinta and Francisco Marto, Pope Francis spoke of Medjugorje, and The Ruini Report, which he described as “very, very good,” while also saying that the CDF, under Gerhard Cardinal Mueller, had expressed some “doubts,” about the phenomenon.
The Pope then went on to say that The Ruini Report indicated that the “first apparitions” must continue to be studied. But speaking of alleged current apparitions, Pope Francis said the report had its doubts, which he would personally express more strongly, in line with his previous criticism of the idea of the Madonna as the head of a telegraphic office who sends out daily messages.
A few days later, Andrea Tornielli revealed the way the Ruini Commission members had voted regarding Medjugorje, despite the fact that its deliberations were supposed to have been kept secret. He claimed that there had been “thirteen votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first seven appearances in Medjugorje,” with one vote against and one suspended.
On May 18, one of the Commission members, Fr. Salvatore Perrella, was interviewed by the Italian newspaper, Avvenire. He said that the “Commission did not make a definitive pronouncement,” but rather decided to distinguish between what happened at the beginning and what has happened since then. Fr. Perrella also noted that the facts about Medjugorje are so complex “that the Pontiff is free to conduct a further investigation.”
At the end of May 2018, Archbishop Hoser’s mandate as special envoy to Medjugorje was extended indefinitely by Pope Francis. As apostolic visitator, he became responsible both for the pastoral needs of pilgrims and for the local Medjugorje parish community.
Later in the year, in November, the Aleteia site posted an article based on a conversation about Medjugorje between Chiara Amirante, the foundress of the Nuovi Orizzonti (“New Horizons”) community and Pope Francis.
She said that he had told her positive things about Medjugorje, and was actually in favor of it, having previously been misinformed about the nature of the visions.
On May 13, 2019, the Vatican News service site carried an article with the headline, “Pope Authorizes Pilgrimages to Medjugorje” in which an announcement made by the apostolic visitator, Archbishop Hoser, and the apostolic nuncio of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, was publicized.
This announcement was essentially a repetition of information previously made public, regarding papal authorization for pilgrimages by dioceses and parishes to Medjugorje, with the proviso that this was not to be interpreted as authentication of the alleged apparitions.
A further important Medjugorje development took place in 2020, when leaked versions of The Ruini Report were published by two Italian journalists, David Murgia and Saverio Gaeta. These versions were practically identical, and if they had not been reliable, then undoubtedly there would have been an intervention by the Church — but this did not happen. Therefore, we can conclude that the authors published the genuine text of The Ruini Commission Report.

Deeply Worrying

A detailed analysis of this, however, raises serious questions about its soundness, especially regarding the assertion that the first seven alleged apparitions had a supernatural origin, while it also rules out a possible demonic origin for them as something “gratuitous and unfounded.” And it is surely deeply worrying as regards the whole Medjugorje phenomenon that the Commission accused one of the seers, Ivan, of repeatedly lying and of lacking credibility.
There are also question marks about the nature of the Ruini Commission, since it did not contain an expert on the history of what actually took place in Medjugorje — which is clearly a serious defect for a body charged with coming to a judgment about the alleged visions.
As regards the Medjugorje visionaries, the Report effectively sees them as an embarrassment, and argues that they should be sidelined in favor of promoting Medjugorje itself, to the extent that the Church should not be responsible for their activities.
The situation then is that, given the shortcomings of the Report, it could well be many years before a definitive judgment about Medjugorje is finally rendered, one which could well see the formation of a new, larger, and more fully International Commission, one with a mandate of finally getting to the truth about Medjugorje on the basis of fact rather than emotion. Such a Commission will need to have an explicit focus on the alleged visions, and particularly on the transcripts of the original tapes, rather than on the “fruits” of Medjugorje.
The sad reality is that Medjugorje has damaged genuine Marian devotion at a time when Catholics ought to have been much stronger in their support for the Fatima message. For now, this will continue to be neglected as good Catholics are led astray by Medjugorje, with serious adverse consequences for both the Church and the world.

  • + + (Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. His updated book on the above topic, Medjugorje Complete, has recently been published by Angelico Press. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published shortly — details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk.)
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