“These are all specifics that make the work of a final decision more difficult,” he explained.
Archbishop Hoser, who holds the title of archbishop as a personal recognition from Pope John Paul II, heads the Polish Diocese of Warszawa-Praga.
When the archbishop’s appointment as papal envoy was announced in February, Holy See press officer Greg Burke stressed that his mission was pastoral, not doctrinal, and would not consider the substance of the Marian apparitions there. That topic is under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Archbishop Hoser praised various expressions of faith he found in Medjugorje: the centrality of the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, devotion to the Word of God, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to the rosary, and meditation on the mysteries of the faith and the Way of the Cross. He also praised the frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“From the religious perspective Medjugorje is very fertile grounds for religious vocations,” he said. About 610 priests have cited Medjugorje as a motivating force in their vocation, with the greatest number of these vocations coming from Italy, the U.S. and Germany.
For the archbishop, this is a significant contribution given the crisis of vocations in some countries.
Medjugorje is only about 36 years old, he observed, but it attracts an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims each year. By comparison, Lourdes, France attracts 6 million people per year, 150 years after the apparition.
Archbishop Hoser noted the need to consider parish life for those who live there and the effects of the many pilgrims.
The number of pilgrims poses “a huge challenge” for the priests who serve in Medjugorje, with expansions to the church infrastructure needed to accommodate them. The number of pilgrims has also caused an increase in the number of hotels, restaurants and other facilities to accommodate them.
Some people have come from elsewhere to settle in Medjugorje.
The archbishop noted the various humanitarian groups and activities in Medjugorje, some of which have roots in the town. There is the Franciscans’ Domus Maria, Mary’s House, which serves orphans, young people in difficulty, persons struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, the disabled and handicapped. The retreat house Domus Pacis provides spiritual exercises, serving over 42,000 participants in 1,200 groups each year.
There are also various seminars dedicated to priestly formation, married couples, doctors and medical professionals, people with disabilities, and a new pro-life seminar.
All of this activity could be applied in other parts of the world, the papal envoy said.
“People perceive there things that they don’t have at home,” Archbishop Hoser said of Medjugorje. “In many old Christian countries, individual confessions do not exist anymore. In many countries, there is no Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. In many countries, there is no Way of the Cross anymore. There’s no rosary anymore. In Britain, in France, they told me the last time they prayed the Way of the Cross was 30 years ago. And such dryness of sacred space obviously leads towards a crisis of the faith.”
He praised the emphasis in Medjugorje on the Virgin Mary’s title “Queen of Peace,” especially during the period which Pope Francis has called a “piecemeal Third World War.”
He cited the Balkans’ suffering of a civil war in the 1990s with the breakup of Yugoslavia. In addition, he cited his own experience in Rwanda, and the destruction in Syria, which hosts the oldest Christian presence in the world.
“To invoke the Queen of Peace, the Mother of God: this is the specific role of Medjugorje. It is most important.”
“My friends, you should be carriers of joyful news,” he told the press conference. “And you can say to the whole world that in Medjugorje, there is a light... we need these spots of light in today’s world that is going down into darkness.”