Aleteia

Official pilgrimages to Medjugorje are being authorized, confirms Pope Francis’ envoy

Catholic pilgrims kneel around a statue of Virgin Mary, overseeing the area around a pilgrimage site near the Southern-Bosnian town of Medjugorje on June 25, 2012. The Virgin Mary is said to have appeared the first time here on June 25, 1981, to youths and is since then a magnet for Christians. Medjugorje is located in the Hercegovina region that is mostly populated by Bosnian Catholic Croats. For 31 years, the alleged phenomenon was ignored by Roman Catholic authorities until 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI issued an order to form an investigation team to search for the truth in case of Medjugorje sightings. AFP PHOTO/ ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP PHOTO / ELVIS BARUKCIC
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Archbishop Henryk Hoser tells Aleteia that it still falls to the pope to make final decision on commission's report about veracity of reported apparitions.

“The devotion of Medjugorje is allowed. It’s not prohibited, and need not be done in secret,” confirmed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga, Poland, now some months after being sent to Medjugorje by Pope Francis to evaluate not the veracity of the apparitions, but the state of the pastoral care being provided to the millions of pilgrims who flock to the site every year.

Formerly, pilgrimages to the site were not to be organized by official Church groups, though the faithful could make them privately or through other organizations. Now, the stance on officially-organized pilgrimages will open.

“My mission is precisely to analyze the pastoral situation and propose improvements,” the archbishop told Aleteia, about his assignment at the shrine in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has attracted tens of millions of people since Marian apparitions reportedly began there in 1981.

“Today, dioceses and other institutions can organize official pilgrimages. It’s no longer a problem,” explained the archbishop, speaking to us from his residence in a Warsaw neighborhood. “Pope Francis recently asked an Albanian cardinal to give his blessing to the faithful present in Medjugorje,” he added.

“I am full of admiration for the work the Franciscans are doing there,” the Polish prelate reported. “With a relatively small team—there is only a dozen of them—they do a huge job of welcoming pilgrims. Every summer they organize a youth festival. This year, there were 50,000 young people from around the world, with more than 700 priests.”

“There is a massive number of confessions. They have about 50 confessionals, which are not enough. These are very deep confessions,” he said.

“This is a phenomenon. And what confirms the authenticity of the place is the large amount of charitable institutions that exist around the sanctuary. And another aspect as well: the great effort that is being made at the level of Christian formation. Each year, they organize conferences at different levels, for various audiences (priests, doctors, parents, young people, couples …)”

“The decree of the former episcopal conference of what used to be Yugoslavia, which, before the Balkan war, advised against pilgrimages in Medjugorje organized by bishops, is no longer relevant,” he said.

There are other cases of locations of apparitions, like Kibeho, in Rwanda, where the diocesan bishop agreed to allow the devotion, and then continued the analysis for the recognition of the apparitions.

The archbishop revealed that the conclusion of the Commission for the analysis of the apparitions of Medjugorje, which Benedict XVI had entrusted to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, appears to be favorable.

“What I find touching is that all the seers have turned to family life,” Archbishop Hoser reflected. “In our day and age, the family is of enormous importance. All of them have a family. Those who were teenagers at the time, are already grandmothers; 37 years have passed!”

“But this decision will have to be made by the pope. The file is now at the Secretariat of State. I believe the final decision will be made,” concluded Archbishop Hoser.

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