A FRENCH BISHOP AND VATICAN CONGREGATION ON MEDJUGORJE
The Bishop of Langres in France, Msgr. Leon Taverdet, took recourse to the Apostolic See February 14, 1996 to ask what the position of the Church is regarding the apparitions in Medjugorje and whether it is permitted for one to go there for pilgrimage. The Holy See’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered March 23, 1996 through its Secretary Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone. We present his response in its entirety.
SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Vatican City, March 23, 1996
Prot. No. 154/81-01985
In your letter of February 14, 1996 you inquired what is the present position of the Church regarding the alleged “apparitions in Medjugorje’ and whether it is permitted to the Catholic faith to go there for pilgrimage.
In reference to that, it is my honor to make known to you that, regarding the authenticity of the apparitions in question, the Bishops of the former Yugoslavia confirmed in their Declaration of April 10, 1991 published in Zadar:
“. . .On the basis of investigation up till now it cannot be established that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.
However, the numerous gatherings of the faithful from different parts of the world, who are coming to Medjugorje prompted both by motives of belief and certain other motives, require the attention and pastoral care in the first place of the bishop of the diocese and of the other bishops with him so that in Medjugorje, and everything related to it, a healthy devotion toward the Blessed Virgin Mary would be promoted in conformity with the teaching of the Church.
For that purpose the bishops shall issue separate appropriate liturgical-pastoral directives. Likewise by means of their Commission they shall further follow and investigate the total event in Medjugorje.”
The result from this, in what is precisely said, is that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, are not permitted to be organized either on the parish or on the diocesan level, because that would be in contradiction to what the Bishops of former Yugoslavia affirmed in their fore mentioned Declaration.
Kindly accept, your Excellency, an expression of my profoundly devoted affection!
+ Tarcisio Bertone
CONGREGATIO PRO DOCTRINA FIDEI
Pr. No 154/81-06419 Citta del Vaticano, Palazzo del S. UffizioMay 26, 1998 To His Excellency Mons. Gilbert Aubry, Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Reunion
In your letter of January 1, 1998, you submitted to this Dicastery several questions about the position of the Holy See and of the Bishop of Mostar in regard to the so called apparitions of Medjugorje, private pilgrimages and the pastoral care of the faithful who go there. In regard to this matter, I think it is impossible to reply to each of the questions posed by Your Excellency. The main thing I would like to point out is that the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance. As for the credibility of the “apparitions” in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: “On the basis of the investigations so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.” Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations, it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina to eventually reopen the examination of this case, and to make any new pronouncements that might be called for.
What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of “Famille Chretienne”, declaring: “My conviction and my position is not only ‘non constat de supernaturalitate,’ but likewise, ‘constat de non supernaturalitate’ of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje”, should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.
Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentification of events still taking place, and which still call for an examination by the Church.
I hope that I have replied satisfactorily at least to the principal questions that you have presented to this Dicastery, and I beg Your Excellency to accept the expression of my devoted sentiments.
Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone(Secretary to the “Congregatio”, presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger)
This is the summary of the letter:
- The declarations of the Bishop of Mostar only reflect his personal opinion. Consequently, they are not an official and definitive judgement from the Church.
- One is directed to the declaration of Zadar, which leaves the door open to future investigations. In the meanwhile, private pilgrimages with pastoral accompaniment for the faithful are permitted.
- A new commission could eventually be named.
- In the meanwhile, all Catholics may go as pilgrims to Medjugorje.
The Bishop of the Diocese in which Medjugorje is located, Msgr. P. Zanic (now retired), was favorable in the beginning however, but as time went on, he became the apparitions’ chief opponent.
One of the main reasons was an old conflict between himself and the Franciscans. It is the Franciscans who are in charge of the parish in Medjugorje. In May of 1986, Bishop Zanic pronounced a negative judgment. However, because of the way in which the investigation was conducted, Rome refused to accept his decision and asked the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference to establish a new commission. The new commission has been at work since 1987 and has not, as yet, arrived at a conclusion.
On November 28, 1990, the Bishops Confrence of Yugolsavia made the following statement:
“On the basis of the investigations so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.” (Nov. 28, 1990) (** see note below!)
“However, the numerous gatherings of great numbers of the faithful from different parts of the world, who are coming to Medugorje prompted both by motives of belief and various other motives, do require attetion and pastoral care – in the first place by the Bishop of the diocese, and with him, also the other Bishops, so that both in Medugorje and in everything connected wit it, a healthy devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary may be promoted in accordance with the teaching of the Church”
The Bishops of Yugoslavia
In Zadar, April 10, 1991
** The Archbishop of Belgrade, Mgr. Franc Perko, stated in an interview for the international press: “It is not true that from the document summarized by the bishops at the end of November it expressly follows nothing supernatural is happening in Medugorje. The bishops wrote: ‘non constat de supernaturalitate’ – supernaturality is not established – and not: ‘constat de non supernaturalitate’ – it is established that there is nothing supernatural. This is a big difference. The first formulation does not permit itself to be interpreted in a definitive way; it is open to further developments.”
DECLARATION OF THE BISHOPS’
CONFERENCE IN ZADAR
At the ordinary session of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia in Zadar from April 9 – 11, 1991 the following was adopted.
The bishops, from the very beginning, have been following the events of Medjugorje through the Bishop of the diocese [Mostar], the Bishop’s Commission and the Commission of the Bishops Conference of Yugoslavia on Medjugorje.
On the basis of the investigations so far it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.
However, the numerous gatherings of the faithful from different parts of the world, who come to Medjugorje, prompted both by motives of belief and various other motives, require the attention and pastoral care in the first place of the diocesan bishop and with him of the other bishops also, so that in Medjugorje and in everything connected with it a healthy devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary may be promoted in accordance with the teaching of the Church.
For this purpose the bishops will issue specially suitable liturgical-pastoral directives. Likewise, through their Commission they will continue to keep up with and investigate the entire event in Medjugorje.
In Zadar April 10, 1991
The Bishops of Yugoslavia
(Zagreb Glas Koncila May 5, 1991)
Comment and explanation by Msgr. Franc Perko,
Archbishop of Belgrade
The bishops wrote: “non constate de supernaturalitate” (supernaturality is not established) and not: “constat de non supernaturalitate” (it is established that there is nothing supernatural). This is an enormous difference. The first formulation does not permit itself to be interpreted in a definitive way; it is open to further developments.
For more information, a book entitled “Medugorje and the Church” may be purchased from:
United For The Triumph Of The Immaculate Heart
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Tel. & Fax: 219-287-7875
(available in French and English)