Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
ROME — “We have gone through all that could and should be probed according to the instructions of Benedict XVI and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, taking into account the current rules on the discernment of alleged revelations.”
These are the words of Father Salvatore Maria Perrella, head of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum in Rome. Fr. Perrella is one of the 17 members of the international commission that Pope Benedict XVI established in 2010 to investigate Medjugorje.
In an interview with Avvenire, on May 18, Fr. Perrella spoke of the commission’s work and explained what, in his point of view, Pope Francis meant when he said one should not believe in “Our Lady, head of the telegraphic office, who sends messages every day.”
“Apparitions are independent from the state of grace of those who have them,” Fr. Perrella told Avvenire. “Even Jesus did not choose saints as his apostles. The commission has therefore analyzed the credibility of the witnesses who receive the visions.”
The two “segments”
Fr. Perrella said Pope Francis “has claimed responsibility for every decision on Medjugorje.” Speaking to journalists, “he explained that the Commission has cut the case into two segments. The first part concerns the seven initial apparitions — let’s call it the founding core — which seemed credible. The other part, that is, the sequel to the apparitions that would continue, has left the Commission perplexed.”
The first phase
In the first 7 apparitions the commission maintains that the six young visionaries were psychologically normal, were caught by surprise by the apparitions, and did not recount what they saw under any external influence from the Franciscans of the parish or others subjects. They did not recount what they had seen despite the police arresting them and threatening them with death. The commission also rejected the hypothesis that the apparitions were of demonic origin.
The second phase
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 scheduled for the seers individually and not as a group, continued with repetitive messages. These continue, even though the “visionaries” said they would eventually come to an end.
Pope Francis’ skepticism
During his inflight press conference on his return from Fatima, the pope made reference to “Our Lady head of the telegraph office who sends a message every day.” What did he mean? Fr. Perrella told Avvenire: “It is a well-established fact that the Virgin conveys messages from heaven, that is, from God. One only needs to read the Gospel when she says: “Do whatever He tells you.” However, the Pope is skeptical about the fact that the so-called “Madonna of Medjugorje” sends continuous message, speaks too much, and presents herself at predetermined times.”
Regarding the first apparitions, Pope Francis stressed during the inflight press conference that additional investigation is still required. “The pope,” Fr. Perrella notes, “has repeated many times that the Ruini Commission did a very good job. However, the facts are so complex … that the pontiff is free to conduct a further investigation.”
“We should recall, as Francis did on his return from Portugal, that the ‘phenomenon’ in Medjugorje is linked to a great popular devotion that has led to many conversions,” Fr. Perrella concluded. “We need to preserve the faithful from banality, superficiality and gossip. The mission of the pope’s special envoy, Archbishop Henryk Hoser, should be understood in this light.”
“What Pope Francis has at heart is preserving the purity of Marian devotion,” Perrella said.