Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Prague, Poland, to be the Holy See’s special envoy to Medjugorje, the Vatican announced today.

In a statement, the Vatican said Archbishop Hoser’s mission “has the aim of acquiring a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation there and above all, of the needs of the faithful who go there in pilgrimage, and on the basis of this, to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future.”

It added: “The mission will therefore have an exclusively pastoral character. Archbishop Hoser, who will continue to exercise his role as bishop of Warsaw-Prague, is expected to finish his mandate as Special Envoy by summer of this year.”

Speaking to reporters, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke stressed that the envoy’s role was not that of an “apostolic visitation”. He also underscored that he “won’t enter into the merits of the Marian apparitions” which are “questions of doctrine” and so the “responsibility of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

Burke said a 2010 to 2014 international commission that investigated the certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje was a separate matter and still “under study”. He did not say when any decision will be made.

Speculation was heightened in the summer of 2015 that the Holy Father would be about to make a decision on the commission's report. Pope Francis said he was at the “point of making decisions, [and] then they will be announced,” but gave no indication of any timeline. Then-Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said a decision wasn’t imminent but would most likely take months.

The commission of experts undertook a detailed study of reports of Marian apparitions at Medjugorje which began in 1981. These apparitions continue regularly to this day, according to the shrine’s six “seers”, attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year. 

The local hierarchy has sought to discourage the “Medjugorje phenomenon” which prompted the Vatican to carry out its own investigation.

In remarks to 140 Superiors General of male religious orders and congregations last November, but published for the first time this week in La Civilta Cattolica, the Holy Father reportedly alluded to Medjugorje, saying the real Madonna is not “at the head of a post office”, every day sending “a different letter” that says: “‘My children, do this and then the next day do that.’”

“No, not that Madonna. The real Madonna is the one who generates Jesus in our hearts, a Mother,” he said. “The superstar Virgin Mary, who seeks the limelight, the Pope insisted, ‘is not Catholic.’”

The Pope made similar comments, also taken to be in the context of Medjugorje, in June 2015. 

Archbishop Hoser attended both synods on the family. He criticized the first for betraying the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II. In April 2016, shortly before the publication of the Pope’s apostolic exhortation on the synods, Amoris Laetitia, he warned of a “pseudo-merciful” attitude in the Church today, deriving from a mentality of “political correctness” which avoids uncomfortable truths.