Pope Francis names apostolic visitor for pastoral care in Medjugorje

Statue of Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Bosnia Herzegovina. Credit: Gnuckx via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Statue of Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Bosnia Herzegovina. Credit: Gnuckx via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

.- Pope Francis Thursday extended the mandate of his special envoy to Medjugorje, tasking him with oversight of the pastoral needs of both the local parish community, and pilgrims who come to visit the site of alleged Marian apparitions that took place in the city.

Henryk Hoser, archbishop emeritus of Warszawa-Praga, was tapped as the pope's special envoy to study the pastoral situation of Medjugorje in February 2017.

On May 31 Francis named him apostolic visitor to the site for an undetermined amount of time “ad nutum Sanctae Sedis,” or “at the desire of the Holy See.”

Hoser's task now, according to a Vatican communique on the appointment, is an “exclusively pastoral” role in continuity with the work Hoser did when first named as the papal envoy.

According to the Vatican, Hoser concluded his work sometime within the past few months. In his new role as apostolic visitor, the archbishop's specific mission, rather than simply looking into the pastoral situation, will be to ensure “a stable and continuous accompaniment” of the parish community in Medjugorje, as well as pilgrims who visit the shrine, “whose needs require special attention.”

The alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje started June 24, 1981, when six children in the town, now a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, claimed to have had a vision 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 visionaries claiming to have received apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

In April 1991, the bishops of the former Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

On the basis of those findings, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed in October 2013 that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted.”

However, Benedict XVI established a commission, headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to study the topic in further detail.

In January 2014, the commission completed their study on the supposed apparitions' doctrinal and disciplinary aspects, and was to have submitted its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The congregation has yet to submit its final document to the pope for a final decision.

Pope Francis tapped Archbishop Hoser as a special envoy to look into the pastoral situation in  Medjugorje in February 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.

Pope Francis has often referenced the alleged Medjugorje apparitions in daily homilies, saying Mary is not a “post-master” who delivers messages everyday on the hour.

When asked by journalists about the apparitions on the flight back from Fatima, Portugal in May 2017, the pope said the original apparitions from more than three decades ago deserve further study, but the ongoing visions seem less credible.

He stressed the need to distinguish between the two sets of apparitions, and referenced the report given to the CDF by Cardinal Ruini in 2014.  

“The first apparitions, which were to children, the report more or less says that these need to continue being studied,” he said, but as for “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts.”

“I personally am more suspicious, I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of an office, who every day sends a message at a certain hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus. And these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value.”

He clarified that this is his “personal opinion,” but added that the Madonna does not function by saying, “Come tomorrow at this time, and I will give a message to those people.”

Tags: Catholic News, Pope Francis, Medjugorje