In his book Medjugorje Dossier, released this month in Italian, Italian journalist and writer Saverio Gaeta has published the findings of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, which judged the Marian apparitions of Medjugorje credible.
In these previously unpublished writings, the members of the Commission explain the reasons why, by an overwhelming majority (13 out of 15 voters), they considered that the beginnings of the Medjugorje phenomenon have a supernatural origin, and cannot be judged a merely human phenomenon.
The first seven apparitions
In particular, they believe that they “can affirm with reasonable certainty that the first seven apparitions are intrinsically credible, as they were capable of arousing in those who experienced them a reawakening of faith, a conversion of their way of life, and a renewed sense of belonging to the Church.” The apparitions took place from June 24 to July 3, 1981, i.e. over a period of 10 days.
Five of the apparitions took place on Podbrdo (“Apparition Hill”), one in the parish facilities of Medjugorje, and another in the village of Cerno, where the then-visionaries, adolescents at the time, were taken by car by police officers.
What happened to the alleged visionaries
In these seven cases, the author points out, publishing the Commission’s conclusions: it is the Mother of Christ who awaits the visionaries; the “phenomenon” (the Gospa, the Figure) stands before the visionaries, always in the same place (in the first five); the visionaries remember exactly the place and time of the first apparition; the message is not addressed to individuals, but to all those present (visionaries/hearers); the phenomenon occurs “suddenly” and by surprise; and the phenomenon causes fear and disturbance in the souls of the visionaries.
In subsequent apparitions, the apparition causes less and less surprise and is, in some sense, pre-programmed.
No mental alteration
On the basis of these premises, the examination conducted by the International Commission has led to very clear conclusions regarding Medjugorje.
First of all, the visionaries weren’t suffering from any psychological disturbances: teens at the time, “they were normal adolescents, not manipulable and not unduly influenced by others, able to recognize deception and to take a stance in response to it.”
With regard to the previous history of the alleged visionaries, “nothing in [their history] prepared them in any sense for the alleged first seven apparitions of the Gospa; the apparitions are something that bursts into their lives and their experiences without having been requested, sought, desired, imagined, willed or induced.”
There are no ulterior motives
The environment in which the visionaries grew up had “the traits of traditional Christian piety, with a significant Marian aspect due in part to the Franciscan charism, but not such as to make them expect, hypothesize, or desire—and much less to invent with malice—a supernatural manifestation of the holy Mother of the Lord.”
With regard to the knowledge then available to the presumed visionaries, both on a cultural level and on the level of Christian truths, “at the moment of the first seven presumed apparitions, they appear not to have any special knowledge, inclinations or interests that set them apart.”
They could not know what was going on in the world
Regarding the degree of participation of the presumed visionaries in ecclesial life at that time, “it is not possible to detect, at the time of the first seven alleged apparitions, any particular protagonism or commitment on their part.”
Finally, “with regard to information which could be available to the alleged seers concerning the events then taking place outside Yugoslavia, both in Europe and in the world, it’s not abundant, given the typical structures of a totalitarian state such as that of Marxist inspiration founded after the Second World War by Tito (†1980).”
The Commission’s “judgment”
All these considerations lead the Commission to say that “the results of the investigation show in a sufficiently reasonable way that the object of examination, i.e. the first seven alleged apparitions, manifests an essential and structural character of not being deducible from—and, indeed, exceeding—the history, identity and possibilities of both the alleged seers and their living environment.”
In practice, the visionaries, or presumed visionaries, did not have the characteristics to invent such a detailed phenomenon of such magnitude. “At the same time,” writes the Commission, “the unpredictable and special religious bond that the event introduces into the experience of its first recipients appears compatible with the supernatural character of the sign.”
A “familiar” Gospa
The first seven apparitions aroused in them “a subjectivity, a responsibility and a protagonism for which the presumed visionaries were neither prepared nor accustomed.” The subject of the first seven alleged apparitions, the Gospa, “presents herself with characteristics and familiarity that are unprecedented with regards to what the alleged visionaries might have known about her.”
The devil has nothing to do with it
Also, the object of the requests/messages, “namely peace in its essentially theological dimension, acquires an urgency, a dimension and a meaning that extends well beyond the horizons already possessed, lived and desired by the presumed visionaries and their living environment.”
The report excludes “the hypothesis of a demonic origin for the beginnings of the phenomenon”; such a hypothesis “appears gratuitous and unfounded, being in contrast with what has been observed in the initial profile of the phenomenon, as well as with the positive fruits derived from the phenomenon itself.”
Indissoluble link with Christ
The theological elements that unite the first seven apparitions show that “the subject, the Gospa, manifests and maintains an indissoluble bond with the Christ of God, and her person and her actions are incomprehensible outside of this bond.”
The requests/messages of the subject, the Gospa, “have a theological structural dimension, both in their cognitive-intellectual dimension and in their practical-operational dimension.”
Lastly, the report says that the Gospa’s manifestation “revives in the presumed visionaries the sense of their belonging to the Church.”
On the basis of these data, the International Commission believes that it can affirm with reasonable certainty that the first seven apparitions are intrinsically credible.
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