Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vatican studies visions of Virgin at Medjugorje

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has begun formally investigating reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the Medjugorje shrine in southern Bosnia.

An international commission of inquiry headed by Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini — a top adviser to the late Pope John Paul II — has been formed to study the case and report back to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican said in a statement Wednesday.

The Medjugorje apparition has been disputed since 1981, when six youths said they had regularly seen visions of the Virgin there. Unlike Fatima in Portugal or Lourdes in France, the Vatican has been cautious about calling the sightings authentic, and neither Rome nor the local diocese has formally approved Medjugorje as an official shrine site.

But the lack of official recognition hasn't stopped the remote village 70 miles (110 kilometers) southwest of Sarajevo from thriving. More than 30 million faithful have visited the area since 1981.

One of the highest-ranking recent pilgrims was Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who visited over New Year's, sparking a minor diplomatic incident since official church pilgrimages to Medjugorje are barred.
Schoenborn stressed that he traveled to the shrine in a private capacity. But he celebrated Mass there, met with the visionaries and granted several interviews afterward in which he called for Medjugorje pilgrims to receive the pastoral care — both physical and spiritual — that they would need there.

He also called the shrine a tree that "bore many fruits," in terms of vocations, conversions and rediscovery of faith.

His comments prompted the local bishop of Mostar, Monsignor Ratko Peric, to write him a letter Jan. 2, sharply criticizing his visit and stressing that his presence there was by no means a formal recognition of the apparitions. The local church has cast doubt on the claims, in part because one of the visionaries says the apparitions have continued monthly for over a quarter century.

Schoenborn met with the pope on Jan. 15 and wrote to Peric saying he regretted "if you have the impression that my pilgrimage to Medjugorje did a disservice to peace. Rest assured this was not my intention."
The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican decided to launch the investigation based on a request from Bosnian bishops.

The current Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, wrote in 1996 that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje weren't to be organized at parish or diocesan levels since bishops from the former Yugoslavia had affirmed in 1991 that there was no way to confirm that "supernatural apparitions and revelations" had taken place.

Associated Press reporters Daniela Petroff in Rome and Veronika Oleksyn in Vienna contributed to this report.

Vatican studies visions of Virgin at Medjugorje 

Holy See confirms creation of Medjugorje Commission

.- A statement was released by the Holy See on Wednesday confirming the formation of a commission to investigate the “phenomenon” of Medjugorje.
The Vatican communique reads: “Under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, an international commission of investigation on Medjugorje has been constituted. Said Commission, composed of cardinals, bishops and experts will work in a reserved manner, subjecting the results of their studies to the authority of the Dicastery.”

Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that no other information was available at this point besides the role of Cardinal Ruini as president. However, he did say that the commission will be formed by “more or less” 20 members.

Responding to a question from a journalist about the possible inclusion of Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar, whose diocese includes Medjugorje, Fr. Lombardi said that he is not in possession of a list of members.
The Vatican spokesman reviewed the history of investigations into the possible Marian apparitions of Medjugorje, noting that they began on a diocesan level. When it was seen that the “phenomenon was broader than the diocese,” it was passed on to the episcopal conference of the former Yugoslavia, which, he noted, no longer exists.

The commissions at those levels never came to a conclusion on the question of whether or not the alleged apparitions are supernatural, so the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina have asked the CDF to take over investigations, the Vatican spokesman explained.

As the commission carries out their activities, Fr. Lombardi continued, they will decide whether or not to communicate information regarding their findings. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that it will be a “very discreet” project “given the sensitivity of the subject,” he remarked.

Speaking in Italian, he said to expect that investigations will take “a good while” to reach their completion and emphasized that the results of the commission’s activities will be submitted to the CDF, under whose mandate they are operating. The commission will only offer their technical findings to the Congregation, which in turn will “make decisions on the case.”

For now, the composition of the commission is “reserved,” as is the method they will pursue in their investigations, Fr. Lombardi said in closing.

Holy See confirms creation of Medjugorje Commission

Vatican probes claims of apparitions at Medjugorje

By Daniel Flynn
VATICAN CITY (Reuters Life!) - The Vatican has opened an investigation into reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the small town of Medjugorje in southern Bosnia which have drawn more than 30 million pilgrims and divided the Catholic Church.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church's top doctrinal body, has named an international commission of inquiry headed by Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, a confidant of former Pope John Paul, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

Since six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary on a hillside near Medjugorje in 1981 -- reminiscent of famous apparitions in the French town of Lourdes and Fatima in Portugal -- Catholics have debated whether the visions were a modern-day miracle, wishful thinking or an elaborate fraud.

"This commission, composed of cardinals, bishops, theologians and experts, will work in a confidential manner and submit the result of its investigation to the Congregation," the Vatican said in a statement.

Unlike Fatima or Lourdes, the Vatican has not officially recognized the apparitions in the small town, some 100 km (62 miles) southwest of Sarajevo, and claims about it are controversial.

Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar, the nearest city in Bosnia, warned Catholics last year against uncritical belief in the Medjugorje sightings and issued a series of restrictions on the parish.

In July, Pope Benedict defrocked Rev. Tomislav Vlasic, a Franciscan priest who served as a former "spiritual director" to the six visionaries, after a year-long probe into charges he exaggerated the apparitions and had fathered a child with a nun.

Months later, Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a close ally of Benedict, stirred controversy with a well-publicized visit to the shrine in December that drew a public reproach from Peric.

Schoenborn, who issued a letter of apology, had insisted his visit there was private.

Despite clashes between the Franciscan priests running the site and the Vatican, which expelled 10 of them from the order for promoting the site in defiance of its warnings, the village became a pilgrimage destination, giving many visitors a renewed sense of spirituality and locals a steady source of revenue.

The 1992-95 Bosnian war disrupted the flow of pilgrims, but with three now middle-aged locals still reporting visions, thousands still flock to the town every year.

(Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)
Vatican probes claims of apparitions at Medjugorje

No comments: