Archbishop Henryk Hoser, papal envoy to Medjugorje, has died

The late Archbishop Henryk Hoser The late Archbishop Henryk Hoser. | Wikimedia Commons/CNA.

Archbishop Henryk Hoser, the apostolic visitor of Medjugorje, has died at the age of 78.

The archbishop died in a hospital in Warsaw on Aug. 13 after a long and serious illness, according to an announcement by the Polish bishops’ conference.

Hoser served as the bishop of Warszawa-Praga in Poland from 2008 to 2017 before Pope Francis entrusted him with overseeing the pastoral situation of Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in February 2017.

The Polish prelate was a trained physician, a missionary in Africa for more than two decades, and led the bioethics team for the Polish bishops’ conference.

Born in Warsaw in 1942, Hoser was only a toddler when his father and grandfather died in the Warsaw Uprising against the German occupation.

At the age of 17, he enrolled in the Medical Academy of Warsaw where he obtained his medical degree in 1966. He worked as a doctor in Ziębice before entering religious life.

Hoser joined the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, better known as the Pallottines, in 1969. He was ordained a priest at the age of 31 on June 16, 1974.

After his ordination, Hoser served as a missionary priest in Rwanda from 1975 to 1996. He founded a medical center in Kigali, Rwanda in 1978, and was later elected head of an AIDS epidemic monitoring center.

John Paul II appointed Hoser as apostolic visitor to Rwanda immediately after the Rwandan genocide in 1994. For the next two years, Hoser visited Rwandan dioceses to help priests to renew their pastoral work after the devastating Rwandan Civil War.

Upon his return to Europe, Hoser served as the regional superior of the Pallottines in France from 1996 to 2003 and rector of the Pallottine Mission Office in Brussels, Belgium in 2004.

John Paul II named Hoser an archbishop and auxiliary secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 2005.

Hoser took “Maior est Deus,” meaning “God is Greater,” as his episcopal motto. Benedict XVI named Hoser bishop of Warszawa-Praga in 2008 and Pope Francis sent him to Mediugorje as a special envoy of the Holy See in 2017.

Two months after his appointment as special envoy, Hoser told members of the press that the site bore many genuine expressions of faith, and many vocations were found there. However, he clarified that the final determination of the apparition's authenticity remains to be seen.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while many others claim the visions are non-credible.

The purported apparitions originally began June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the alleged visionaries, the apparitions conveyed a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children – who are now young adults – continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all of the "secrets" intended for them have been revealed.

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In January 2014, a Vatican commission ended a nearly four-year-long investigation into the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the Medjugorje apparitions and submitted a document to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis granted Catholics permission to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje in 2019, though the Church has not yet given a verdict on the apparitions' authenticity.

The pope also sent a message to the Medjugorje Youth Festival this month.

“Have the courage to live your youth by entrusting yourselves to the Lord and setting out on a journey with him,” the pope said.

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