Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”
We are now in the period of waiting before the Holy See announces a decision regarding the reported apparitions at Medjugorje.
In recent days, several developments have emerged which people have examined to see what they might reveal about that decision.
One set of stories claims to know the decision reached by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Here are 12 things to know and share . . .
1) What are the basic facts about Medjugorje?
Medjugorje is a town located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of the former Yugoslavia.
In 1981, several young people there began reported receiving apparitions of the Virgin Mary. This led to the development of a global movement around the reported apparitions, which are reported to be still-ongoing today.
Over the course of time, the bishops in whose territory Medjugorje lies have made various pronouncements in which they have not supported the authenticity of the apparitions. These can be found online here.
In addition, in 1991, the then-Yugoslavian bishops conference issued a report which concluded:
On the base of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.
This represents a negative judgment on the authenticity of the apparitions.
The report can be read, along with additional background, here.
In 2010, the Holy See formed a commission under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to study the subject.
That commission completed its work and turned over its findings to the CDF for evaluation.
Following the CDF determination, Pope Francis will then make the final determination of what, if anything, is to be done.
2) What are the new developments that have been reported in recent days?
There are several. They include:
- A response by Pope Francis to a question put to him during a recent trip to the former Yugoslavia.
- Remarks made by Pope Francis in one of his a daily homily.
- Remarks that Pope Francis is alleged to have made in private, as reported in a new book.
- Reports in the Italian press that the CDF has reached its decision on Medjugorje.
The last of these claims to deal with an official action, so we will look at it first.
3) What is being reported about the CDF and its decision on Medjugorje?
According to Catholic World News:
The CDF reportedly held a feria quarta meeting on June 24, at which the prelates discussed the findings of a special papal commission that had investigated the Medjugorje phenomenon. According to several Italian journalists—notably Vatican-watch Gianluca Barile—the CDF agreed with that commission’s finding that there is no evidence of supernatural activity at Medjugorje. . . .
The CDF, according to the Italian media reports, has essentially supported the judgment rendered in 1991 by the bishops of what was then Yugoslavia. The CDF will reportedly recommend that pastors should not sponsor or support events that presume the reality of the visions claimed by the Medjugorje “seers.”
However, the CDF will reportedly urge recognition of Medjugorje as a special “place of prayer,” in light of the numerous reports of intense spiritual experiences enjoyed by visitors there. Pilgrimages to Medjugorje will not be forbidden, provided that they do not center on the alleged apparitions.
4) How likely are these reports to be accurate?
It is certainly possible that Barile and his colleagues in the Italian press got ahold of a genuine and accurate leak from someone with knowledge of the CDF decision.
If so, they got ahold of the information remarkably fast, because the CDF supposedly made the decision on June 24th, and the Italian press was reporting on it within 24 hours.
It could be true.
On the other hand, the Italian media reports a lot of stuff that is inaccurate.
Also, there have been numerous false reports about Medjugorje over the years, including premature reports of a Medjugorje decision that were later retracted.
We may get further clarification on this issue if the Holy See Press Office chooses to comment.
If they do, it will be necessary to read their statement(s) very carefully to see what is and is not being said.
UPDATE: Vatican Insider claims that the CDF has not made a decision on Medjugorje and won't wor some time. We still have no word from the Vatican Press Office, so we have conflicting accounts in the Italian press.
5) What is Pope Francis alleged to have said in private regarding the subject?
According to Te Deum Laudamus:
A pro-Medjugorje website in Brazil is reporting that Pope Francis, while in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, made some rather blunt comments concerning Medjugorje, and about activities of the alleged visionaries. The title of the post says a lot: "Pope Francis says those who say they see Our Lady have psychological problems and that the seers of Medjugorje lie to the people." . . .
The website discusses information revealed in a book by Father Alexander Awi Mello, who interviewed the Holy Father during his trip to Brazil. The book, "She's my Mother: Encounters of Pope Francis with Mary" is published by Edições Loyola.
You can read the rest at Te Deum Laudamus, but basically the Pope is reported to have made skeptical remarks concerning the reported apparitions themselves without denying that there has been good connected with Medjugorje as well.
6) How accurate is this likely to be?
There is no way to know, but I wouldn’t suggest putting a lot of weight on this one.
There are too many reports of a pope saying something to someone privately (or even publicly) about Medjugorje that have turned out to be false.
It could be true, but the track record for this kind of report is not good.
7) What did the pope say in his recent daily homily?
According to the account on the Vatican web site:
“On this path”, Francis continued, there are also “those who always need newness from the Christian identity: they have forgotten that they were chosen, anointed, that they have the guarantee of the Spirit, and they search: ‘Where are the prophets who tell us today the letter that Our Lady will send us at 4:00 in the afternoon?’, for example, no? They live by this”. But “this is not the Christian identity. The last word of God is called ‘Jesus’ and nothing more”.
Some commentators have seen the dismissive reference to receiving a letter from Our Lady at 4:00 in the afternoon as indicating a dismissive attitude toward the claim of Medjugorje seers to receive messages from the Blessed Virgin on a frequent, even daily, basis at set times.
Thus Medjugorje.com states:
Our Lady usually appears for Her daily apparitions every evening in Medjugorje at 6:40 p.m. or at 5:40 p.m. Daylight Savings Time. Our Lady may appear to certain visionaries at a different time if they are traveling or for certain situations. When Ivan has his prayer groups on Monday and Friday nights, Our Lady appears to him at 10:00 p.m.
8) How significant is this as an indicator of Pope Francis’s attitude toward Medjugorje?
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has made remarks of this nature in his daily homilies.
According to the account on the Vatican web site, he said the following in a daily homily from November 14, 2013:
“Jesus tells us something quite interesting in this regard: this spirit of curiosity, which is worldly, leads us into confusion”. In the Gospel he says: “the days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Lo, there! or ‘Lo, here!’ ... It is curiosity that leads us to listen to these things,” he said. “They tell us: the Lord is here, he is there, and there! But I know a visionary, a visionary who receives messages from Our Lady”. To which the Pope added: “Look, Our Lady is a Mother and she loves us all. But she is not a post woman who sends messages every day”.
In reality, Pope Francis said, “these novelties draw us away from the Gospel, from wisdom, from the glory of God, from the beauty of God”. And he added: “Jesus says that the kingdom of God does not come in a way that attracts attention”; rather, it comes through wisdom. “The kingdom of God is in your midst”, he said, and “the kingdom of God is this work, this action of the Holy Spirit who gives us wisdom, who gives us peace.”
Pope Francis thus seems to have a skeptical attitude toward claims of unusually frequent and predictable Marian apparitions (“messages every day,” “at 4:00 in the afternoon”).
He does not mention Medjugorje in this connection, but it is by far the most prominent Marian phenomenon reporting frequent and predictable apparitions.
At least on the face of things, this suggests a certain skepticism toward the Medjugorje reports.
That’s not to say that, when the final decision is made, Pope Francis will definitely reject the Medjugorje claims. If the CDF came to him with what it considered strong evidence in favor of them, he might accept that finding.
However, it does suggest that he might well approve a finding from the CDF against the reports of apparitions at Medjugorje.
9) What did the Pope say in the interview he gave when he visited the former Yugoslavia?
There has been a question about this because of a translation issue.
In Italian, Pope Francis began his remarks with the words “Sul problema di Medjugorje . . .”
Some commenters (at least in English) seized on the word problema as an indication that Pope Francis takes a negative attitude toward Medjugorje—that he views it as a “problem.”
When I heard this claim, I was immediately skeptical, because the word problema does not necessarily carry a negative connotation. It can, in fact, simply mean “issue.”
Saying, “Sul problema di Medjugorje . . .” need mean no more than “On the issue of Medjugorje . . . .”
This is, in fact, the interpretation offered in the Vatican web site’s English translation, which is now out.
10) What does the Vatican’s English translation say?
It reads as follows:
[Journalist] Silvije Tomašević:
Good evening, Your Holiness. As one might expect, many Croats came as pilgrims to Sarajevo, and want to know if Your Holiness is coming to Croatia… But since we are in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is also great interest concerning a declaration on the phenomenon of Medjugorje…
In regard to the issue of Medjugorje, Pope Benedict XVI at the time convened a committee presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini; there were other Cardinals, theologians and specialists on the committee as well. They did an investigation and Cardinal Ruini came to me and gave me the study they did, after many years of labour, I don’t know, maybe three of four years, more or less. They did a fine job, a fine job indeed. Cardinal Müller (Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) told me that he would be having a feria quarta (a meeting dedicated to this specific question) at the right time; I think it was done on the last Wednesday of the month. But I am not sure… We are close to coming to a decision. And then the results will be communicated. For the moment, all that is being done is to give guidelines to the bishops, but along the lines that will be taken. Thank you!
[Father Lombardi (i.e., the Vatican press spokesman) notes that the proposed feria quarta has not yet, in fact, taken place.]
11) What does this tell us about what the decision is likely to be?
Pope Francis was deliberately circumspect on the issue and answered by primarily talking about the mechanics of the process rather than what its result will be.
He also was not closely familiar with the present state of the matter, as he was mistaken about whether the meeting of the CDF had taken place.
However, the very end of his comments may be significant. According to the Vatican’s English translation, he said:
For the moment, all that is being done is to give guidelines to the bishops, but along the lines that will be taken.
If this translation is accurate, it would seem to signal the general nature of what the decision is likely to be.
Pope Francis refers first to what is being done “for the moment” and notes that this consists of “giv[ing] guidelines to the bishops.”
This appears to be a reference to a series of recent communiqués from the CDF to various bishops instructing them not to allow gatherings which presuppose the veracity of the Medjugorje apparitions.
These communiqués have been supportive of the 1991 Yugoslavian bishops’ conclusion and have included restrictions on having Medjugorje seers make appearances in parishes.
The significant thing is that Pope Francis appears to refer to these directives and then seems to indicate that they are “along the lines that will be taken.”
If this translation is accurate, it suggests that the eventual decision is likely to be at least a general reaffirmation of the position that has been taken in the recent CDF communiqués.
12) What should we do at this point?
Wait. Pray. Consider reports like these serenely and carefully, and be prepared to give open-minded and supportive consideration to the Holy See’s eventual decision—whatever it may be.
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