VATICAN CITY — Thirteen votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first seven appearances in Medjugorje, one vote against and one “suspensive” ballot, which will give a final answer later. A majority of suspensive votes and many doubts instead, concerning the apparition phenomenon from the end of 1981 to today.
These are the results of the work done by the commission on Medjugorje established in 2010 by Benedict XVI and chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
Pope Francis mentioned this report in the press conference on the return flight from Fatima when he revealed the distinction between the first apparitions and the later ones, saying, “A commission of good theologians, bishops, cardinals. Good, good, good. The Ruini report is very, very good. It is well known that the signal that emerged from the Pontiff’s words is positive about the spiritual fruits and the conversions (people who go there and convert, people who meet God, who change life),” but was negative with regard to the current apparitions: “I prefer Our Lady as Mother, and not the head of the telegraph office, who sends a message every day.”
A commission wanted by Ratzinger
From 17 March 2010 to 17 January 2014, a commission chaired by Ruini was set up by the will of Benedict XVI. In addition to the former chairman of the CEI, Cardinals Jozef Tomko, Vinko Puljic, Josip Bozanic, Julián Herranz and Angelo Amato took part. The psychologist Tony Anatrella, the theologians Pierangelo Sequeri, Franjo Topic, Mihály Szentmártoni and Nela Gašpar, the Mariologist Salvatore Perrella, the anthropologist Achim Schütz, the canonist David Jaeger, the speaker of the causes of the saints Zdzislaw Józef Kijas, the psychologist Mijo Nikic and the official of the Doctrine of the Faith Krzysztof Nykiel. Their task was to “collect and examine all the material” about Medjugorje and to present “a detailed report” followed by a vote on the “supernatural nature or not” of the apparitions as well as the most appropriate “pastoral solutions.” The committee met 17 times and screened all documents filed in the Vatican, the parish of Medjugorje and the archives of the secret services of the former Yugoslavia. The commission heard all the seers and witnesses involved, and in April 2012, they carried out an inspection in the village of Herzegovina.
Positive Findings on First Appearances
The commission noted a very clear difference between the beginning of the phenomenon and its following development, and therefore decided to issue two distinct votes on the two different phases: the first seven presumed appearances between June 24 and July 3, 1981, and all that happened later. Members and experts came out with 13 votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first visions. A member voted against and an expert expressed a suspensive vote. The committee argues that the six young seers were psychically normal and were caught by surprise by the apparition, and that nothing of what they had seen was influenced by either the Franciscans of the parish or any other subjects. They showed resistance in telling what happened despite police arrest and death threats. The commission also rejected the hypothesis of a demonic origin of the apparitions.
The doubts about the development of the phenomenon
With regard to the second phase of the apparitions, the commission took note of the heavy interference caused by the conflict between the bishop and the Franciscans of the parish, as well as the fact that the apparitions, pre-announced and programmed individually for each seer continued with repetitive messages. These visions continued despite the fact that the youngsters had said they would end, however this actually has never happened. There is then the issue of the “secrets” of the somewhat apocalyptic flavor that the seers claim to have received from the apparition. On this second stage, the committee voted in two steps. Firstly, taking into account the spiritual fruits of Medjugorje but leaving aside the behaviors of the seers. On this point, 3 members and 3 experts say there are positive outcomes, 4 members and 3 experts say they are mixed, with a majority of positive effects, and the remaining 3 experts claim there are mixed positive and negative effects. If, in addition to the spiritual fruits, the behaviors of the seers is also taken into account, eight members and four experts believe that an opinion cannot be expressed, while two other members have voted against the supernatural nature of the phenomenon.
The Pastoral Solution
Having noted that the Medjugorje seers have never been adequately followed on the spiritual side, along with the fact that for a long time they have no longer been a group, the commission has endorsed the end of the ban on pilgrimages organized in Medjugorje. In addition, 13 members and experts out of the 14 present voted in favor of the constitution of “an authority dependent on the Holy See” in Medjugorje as well as the transformation of the parish into a pontifical sanctuary. A decision based on pastoral reasons - the care of millions of pilgrims, avoiding the formation of “parallel churches,” clarity on economic issues - which would not imply the recognition of the supernatural nature of the apparitions.
The doubts of the Doctrine of the Faith
Francis mentioned them on the airplane. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith led by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller expressed doubts about the phenomenon and about the Ruini report, considered an authoritative contribution to be compared with other opinions and reports. In 2016 a “Feria IV,” the monthly meeting of Dicastry members, was summoned to discuss the Medjugorje case and the Ruini report. Each of the cardinals and bishops who members of the Feria IV received the text of the commission but also other material in the hands of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During the meeting, members were asked to give their opinions. However, Pope Francis, unwilling to have the Ruini report put up for “auction,” decided that the opinions of the Feria IV members had to be sent directly to him. And that’s exactly what happened.
After examining the Ruini report and the opinions of the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope decided to entrust to the Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser a “special mission of the Holy See” to “acquire more in-depth knowledge of the pastoral situation “In Medjugorje, and “above all, the needs of the faithful who come to pilgrimage” to “suggest any pastoral initiatives for the future.” By summer 2017 the Polish Archbishop will deliver the results of his work with which the Pope will make a decision.
This article originally appeared at Vatican Insider. Reprinted with permission.