Pilgrims surround a statue of Mary on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. CNS photo/Matko Biljak, Reuters

Pope allows pilgrimages to Medjugorje

By  Cindy Wooden
  • May 16, 2019

Vatican City -- Parishes and dioceses are now allowed to organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, but it must be clear that the Catholic Church has not recognized as authentic the alleged Marian apparitions there.

Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser, the Pope’s apostolic visitor to Medjugorje, and Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, the nuncio to Bosnia-Herzegovina, announced the Pope’s decision to lift the ban on official pilgrimages May 12.

Alessandro Gisotti, the interim director of the Vatican press office, said care must be taken to ensure pilgrimages are not “interpreted as an authentication of well-known events, which still require examination by the Church.” He said Church-sponsored pilgrimages must “avoid creating confusion or ambiguity from the doctrinal point of view.”

In 1981, six young people from Medjugorje claimed Mary had appeared to them. Some of the six say Mary still appears and gives them messages each day, while others say she appears only once a year now.

Diocesan commissions studied the alleged apparitions from 1982 to 1984 and again from 1984 to 1986, and the then-Yugoslavian bishops’ conference studied them from 1987 to 1990. All three commissions concluded that a supernatural event could not be affirmed.

In 2010, retired Pope Benedict XVI established a papal commission to study the alleged apparitions. The report has not been made public, although Pope Francis has spoken about the commission’s work. He said pilgrims to the Marian site deserve spiritual care and support, but he expressed doubts about the apparitions continuing for more than 35 years.

Pope Francis said his “personal opinion” is that “these alleged apparitions have no great value.”

The “real core” of the commission’s report, he said, is “the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact,” that thousands of pilgrims go to Medjugorje and are converted. “For this there is no magic wand; this spiritual-pastoral fact cannot be denied.”

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