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Mgr. Ratko Peric, Bishop of Mostar

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CRITERIA FOR DISCERNING APPARITIONS: REGARDING THE EVENTS OF MEDJUGORJE - Part 2

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4) The position of the Church. Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, who became Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758), explained the value and strength of "approval" which is given to apparitions, visions and revelations: "It is important to know that the public approval (of apparitions) after serious examination, is provided for the education and benefit of believers. But even though such approved revelations cannot claim nor be given the consensus of the Catholic faith, they nevertheless require the assent of human faith according to the rules of prudence, in virtue of which these revelations are considered probable or piously credible." This wise rule is also valid today.

In the most recent Catechism of the Catholic Church there exists a clear position regarding "private" apparitions and revelations: "Throughout the ages, there have been so-called 'private' revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church."

5) The phenomenon of Medjugorje and Declarations of the Church. From 1981 onward, three ecclesiastical Commissions have worked in succession on studying the phenomenon of Medjugorje. They could not avoid taking into consideration the above mentioned principles and criteria during their investigations. The Commissions, the local Bishop and the Bishops' Conference through the course of time, gave certain communiques, declarations or explanations, which were accepted or rejected by the followers or the opponents of "supernatural apparitions". Here are the most important official declarations, signed and dated by the competent authorities:

- In mid August 1981, in the declaration of Msgr. Pavao Zanic, Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, which was open to honest interpretation, it was said that the "most difficult question remains whether this is the subjective experience of the children or something supernatural?"

- On the 14th of January 1984, the archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, prohibited the seers of Medjugorje from appearing in all the parishes of the archdiocese of Zagreb until an ecclesiastical judgement was passed on the events.

- On the 24th of March 1984, the first Communique of the expanded Commission was made public. The Commission asked that the mass media refrain from giving judgments of the events until the competent Church Commission provides its judgment. It also asked that organized pilgrimages not be allowed; that the "seers" and Church personnel in Medjugorje not give any statements regarding the so-called "apparitions":

"Since the events in the parish of Medjugorje have had a considerable echo in our local Church and throughout the world, the Bishop Ordinary felt it necessary to expand the present four-member Commission in order to choose new members from all the theological faculties from the Church in Croatia and Slovenia, from various theological disciplines as well as experts in medical sciences... the Commission does not approve of priests or Catholic lay people organizing pilgrimages to Medjugorje, or public appearances of the seers before it has made a judgment on the authenticity of the apparitions."

- On October 11th 1984, in the second Communique, we read amongst other things: "The Commission has decided to further study all the experiences of the children and the interpretations of these experiences by the pastoral workers of Medjugorje, even though it already notices some difficulties of disciplinary and theological nature in the messages of Medjugorje."

- On the 12th of October 1984, the Bishops' Conference asked that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje not be organized: "The Bishops advise that regarding the events of Medjugorje, it is necessary to await the judgment of the competent Church authorities which shall be given after a thorough and expert examination of the events. Hence, official pilgrimages to Medjugorje cannot be organized as if the Church had already given a positive judgment on these events."

- On the 30th of October, Bishop Zanic presented the (unofficial) position of the Diocesan Chancery in a 15 point statement demonstrating negative factors and facts tied to the phenomenon of Medjugorje.

- On March 8th 1985, the third Communique of the mentioned Commission on the results of single experts and studies was made known. Amongst other things it said: "The Commission feels that the most difficult question arising from the events regards the ecclesiastical disobedience of two former chaplains of Mostar who refused to be transferred, appealing to the messages of Medjugorje."

- On the 18th of April 1985, the Bishops' Conference once again made an appeal to the faithful against making official pilgrimages to Medjugorje: "The Bishops are following the events of Medjugorje in Herzegovina with due attention. They have reconfirmed their previous directives and decisions regarding these events during this meeting."

- On May 23rd 1985, came the warning of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - signed by the secretary of the Congregation Msgr. Alberto Bovone - addressed to the Italian Bishops' Conference, to not organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje. Here is the entire text of the letter sent by the Holy See to the secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Msgr. Egidio Caporello:

"Your Excellency, from many parts, especially from the competent Ordinary of Mostar (Yugoslavia), one can gather and lament the vast propaganda given to the 'events' tied to the so-called apparitions in Medjugorje, for which pilgrimages and other initiatives have been organized that only contribute to the creation of confusion amongst the faithful and interfere with the work of the appointed Commission which is delicately examining the 'events' under scrutiny.

In order to avoid enhancing this mentioned propaganda and speculation going on in Italy, despite all that has been expressed and recommended by the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia, could this Presidency please suggest to the Italian Episcopate to publicly discourage the organizing of pilgrimages to the so-called centre of apparitions, as well as all other forms of publicity, especially written materials, which could be considered prejudicial to a sober assertion of the facts on the part of the Special Commission which has been canonically formed for this purpose.

I take this opportunity to express the assurances of my highest regards..."

- On the 31st of May 1985, came the fourth Communique of the mentioned Commission in which the themes and difficulties worked upon were presented: "... a comparison of the concept of conversion as presented in the Gospels to the phenomenon of Medjugorje; problems of discipline regarding two former chaplains of Mostar who appeal to the messages of Medjugorje; theological problems regarding some of the messages of Medjugorje; and insufficient documentation on the supposed miraculous healings."

- On September 27th, 1985, the fifth Communique of the same Commission was published in which they briefly explained what the participants were doing.

- In January of 1987, on the suggestion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that a commission of experts be established at the level of the Bishops' Conference, a communique by Cardinal Kuharic and Bishop Zanic was published: "While waiting for the results of the Commission's investigations and the judgment of the Church, may Pastors and the faithful observe prudence in these circumstances. Therefore, organized pilgrimages or other manifestations, motivated by supernatural attributes given to the phenomenon of Medjugorje are not allowed."

- On the 25th of July 1987, during a Mass held in the parish of Medjugorje, Bishop Zanic referred to the so-called apparitions. Here is a paragraph which was cited in many newspapers throughout the world: "It is said that Our Lady began appearing at Podbrdo on mount Crnica, but when the police banned going there, she went into homes, on fences, into the fields, into vineyards and tobacco fields, she appeared in the church, on the altar, in the sacristy, in the choir loft, on the roof, on the bell-tower, on roads, on the road to Cerno, in a car, in a bus, on a carriage, in a few places in Mostar, in more places in Sarajevo, in the convents of Zagreb, in Varazdin, in Switzerland, in Italy, again on Podbrdo, on Mt. Krizevac, in the parish, in the parish rectory, etc. Surely not even half the places of the so-called apparitions have been counted, and a sober person who venerates Our Lady, would naturally ask himself: Dear Mother of God, what are they doing to you?"

- In 1990 the diocesan Bishop Zanic published his position on Medjugorje by summarizing in 28 points that which deeply dissuaded him regarding the truthfulness of the so-called supernatural apparitions, and which also scandalizes many faithful today regarding the events of Medjugorje.

- On the 10th of April 1991, came the Declaration of the former Bishops' Conference on the basis of the results of its Commission, which said that there are no valid reasons which could verify the events of Medjugorje as supernatural apparitions or revelations. The Declaration in its entirety follows:

"During the regular session of the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia, held in Zadar from April 9 - 11, 1991, the following was accepted:

A DECLARATION

From the very beginning, the Bishops have been following the events of Medjugorje through the local Bishop, the Bishops' Commission and the Commission of the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia for Medjugorje.

On the base of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.

Yet the gathering of faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, inspired by reasons of faith or other motives, require the pastoral attention and care, first of all, of the local Bishop and then of the other Bishops with him, so that in Medjugorje and all connected with it, a healthy devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the teachings of the Church may be promoted. The Bishops will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim. At the same time, they will continue to study all the events of Medjugorje through the Commissions.

The Bishops of Yugoslavia

Zadar, 10 April 1991"

Italian translation:

"I Vescovi della Conferenza Jugoslava, riuniti in sessione ordinaria, a Zadar nei giorni 9-11, si sono accordati sulla seguente:

DICHIARAZIONE

I Vescovi fin dall'inizio seguono i fatti di Medjugorje mediante il Vescovo diocesano, e la Commissione della Conferenza Episcopale Jugoslava per Medjugorje.

In base alle investigazioni finora condotte non è possibile afferrmare che si tratti di apparizioni o rivelazioni soprannaturali.

Tuttavia, la numerosa presenza di fedeli che giungono a Medjugorje da varie parti, spinti sia da motivi di fede che da altri motivi, esige l'attenzione e la cura pastorale primariamente del Vescovo diocesano, e con lui anche degli altri Vescovi, cosicché a Medjugorje, e in rapporto con la stessa, venga promossa una sana devozione verso la Beata Vergine Maria, secondo l'insegnamento della Chiesa.

I Vescovi daranno anche delle particolari direttive liturgico-pastorali adeguate a tale scopo. Nello stesso tempo mediante le loro Commissioni essi continueranno a seguire ed esaminare nel loro insieme i fatti di Medjugorje.

Zadar, 10 aprile 1991

Vescovi della Jugoslavia"

The original text in Croatian:

"Na redovnom zasjedanju Biskupske konferencije Jugoslavije u Zadru, 9-11. travnja 1991. usvojena je sljedeca

IZJAVA

Na temelju dosadasnjeg istrazivanja ne moze se ustvrditi da se radi o nadnaravnim ukazanjima i objavama.

Meðutim, brojna okupljanja vjernika s raznih strana koji u Meðugorje dolaze potaknuti i vjerskim i nekim drugim motivima zahtijevaju paznju i pastoralnu skrb prvenstveno dijecezanskog biskupa, a s njime i drugih biskupa, kako bi se u Meðugorju, i povezano s njime, promicala zdrava poboznost prema Blasenoj Djevici Mariji, u skladu s uèenjem Crkve.

U tu svrhu biskupi ce izdati i posebne prikladne liturgijsko-pastoralne smjernice. Isto tako preko svojih ce Komisija i dalje pratiti i istrazivati cjelokupno dogaðanje u Meðugorju.

Zadar, 10. travnja 1991.

Biskupi Jugoslavije."

Later on, war broke out in the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The followers of the phenomenon of Medjugorje still claim that Our Lady is "appearing". The Diocesan Chancery has warned on many occasions that one cannot claim nor preach in churches on supernatural apparitions due to the fact that it is impossible to confirm that Our Lady is appearing. Hence, official pilgrimages to Medjugorje are not allowed.

6) The Church has still not recognized the supernatural nature of the "apparitions" at Medjugorje

Having in mind the previously mentioned rules which the Commission members empowered with the task of investigating the phenomenon have taken into consideration, on the basis of which they have suggested to the local Bishop and the Bishops' Conference to maintain the conviction that it is impossible to prove the supernatural nature of the "apparitions"; and also keeping in mind what was said and written in the past and especially recently on the events in the parish of Medjugorje, we present a few basic positions which the Diocesan Chancery has in various ways made public and duly informed the Holy See on, and still maintains today:

1. "The Case of Herzegovina" - Medjugorje. The local Bishop of Mostar Msgr. Pavao Zanic, at the beginning of the so-called apparitions in 1981, was open to news that on the territory of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno, in the parish of Medjugorje, there appeared the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, when the so-called seers in their "messages", which were presumed to be those of the Blessed Virgin, began giving anti-Church statements linked to the "case of Herzegovina" regarding parishes, parish jurisdiction and canonical faculties, defending the disobedience of certain Franciscan pastors of souls, prudence demanded taking a more cautious stance.

The competent Church authorities, first of all the Diocesan Bishop on the basis of investigations made by his two Commissions from 1982-1986, and then the Commission of the Bishops' Conference on the grounds of its investigations from 1987-1990, both brought forth the following negative judgement regarding the supernatural nature of the apparitions at Medjugorje: "it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations", of the Madonna or any other saints. Therefore, it is forbidden to claim and profess the contrary, in churches and ecclesiastical communities, that is, as if Our Lady appeared there or is still appearing.

2. The fruits. Despite the numerous people who come to Medjugorje "with religious and other motives", and even though there are religious, priests and bishops, the curious and those seeking physical healings and spiritual conversions; despite the tens of books and brochures written in favor of the so-called apparitions at Medjugorje, all from the pens of famous writers in the world; despite the hundreds of thousands of confessions and holy communions made, which the supporters of Medjugorje consistently stress, the Declaration of the Bishops' Conference clearly states: "it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations", of the Madonna. The fruits which are so often mentioned, are not proof that they result from "supernatural apparitions or revelations" of the Madonna, but insomuch as they are authentically Christian, they can be understood as a product of the regular workings of the grace of God, through faith in God and the intercession of Mary the Mother of Christ, and through the Holy Sacraments present in the Catholic Church. Not to mention anything at all about the negative fruits!

3. The "messages" of Medjugorje on prayer, fasting, faith, conversion and peace, repeated daily as something new but in reality always the same, as if the Madonna conveyed them to the "seers", are already present in Holy Scripture and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Anyone wishing to obey and live according to God's commandments and the teachings of the Church can pray, fast, believe, convert and work for peace anywhere in the world. This Christian requirement and duty cannot be lessened nor enhanced or strengthened by any confirmed apparition, let alone thousands of unsubstantiated "apparitions" at Medjugorje.

4. Contradictions. In some of the statements made by the so-called seers of Medjugorje published in the last 14 years, there are such contradictions, falsehoods and banalities, which cannot be attributed at all to our heavenly Mother Sedes Sapientiae - Seat of Wisdom, since there does not exist even a minimal guarantee of credibility. On the basis of such statements and the events tied to the statements: it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern "supernatural apparitions or revelations", of the Madonna or others. The talk of a "great sign", of "ten secrets", which Our Lady supposedly conveyed to the children, resembles the scare tactics which are typical of non-Catholic communities and not the sound teachings of the Catholic Church.

5. Normal people. Of the six former children of Medjugorje who claimed that the Madonna "appeared" to them, one of them entered the seminary, another entered a type of mixed religious community, and with the passing of time both of them left their respective communities. Five of them have married, including the latter two mentioned. These faithful, even after thousands of so-called apparitions, remain so "normal" in their behaviour, that only their words attest to their "encounters" with the Madonna. They remain "normal" as do all other "normal" faithful who have never seen the Madonna, yet as Catholics still firmly believe in Her and fervently pray for her intercession. Our holy faith which is based upon listening to the Word of God and not upon seeing heavenly apparitions, is at the same time a obsequium rationabile (Rom 12:1), which contradicts the insistent propaganda on daily or very frequent "apparitions". Some are behaving in direct contradiction to the beatitude which Jesus said to the doubting apostle Thomas: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20:29).

6. Charitable activities. Despite all the charitable-humanitarian aid which has been collected and is still being collected throughout the world during this terrible war in this war-stricken area, through the help of the mass-media serving the Medjugorje propaganda machinery, (in the name of Medjugorje and also passing through Medjugorje channels to the needy), there exists no reason to profess the claim that "these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations", neither of the "Queen of Peace" nor of any other type of supernatural apparition.

7. Destroyed and undestroyed churches. Neither can it be considered proof of the supernatural nature of the "apparitions" the fact that the church of St. James the Apostle in Medjugorje was not hit by grenades during this war, while for instance, both of the churches of Mostar and many other churches in Herzegovina, Bosnia and Croatia were bombed and destroyed.

8. The unrelenting process of "apparitions". Those who for the last 14 years claim that the "Queen of Peace is appearing" in Medjugorje precisely every day (even though on June 30th 1981 it was said that there would be "apparitions for only three more days"), who not knowing how to stop the process of "apparitions" without stopping those who come there called by some so-called apparitions or with other motives, are certainly not doing any favours to the honour and truth on the Madonna, the Mother of the Church. Nor are they doing any favours to the Church itself, the spiritual Mother of all Catholics who base their Catholic faith in God and devotion to Mary not upon some childish stories and hallucinations, but upon the authentic Revelation of God and its authentic interpretation guaranteed by the Holy Spirit received through the living Magisterium of the Church.

9. Tourism. By stating the truth that it is impossible to prove and affirm that the Blessed Virgin Mary has ever appeared to anyone in Medjugorje, we do not wish to dissuade the efforts of the Republic and the media to attract the greatest possible number of tourists to our country. Yet, let these necessary and useful tourist aims be based upon our praiseworthy Christian traditions and the martyrdoms for the faith undergone in the past and present, along with the well-known values and beauty of our homeland, which the Almighty has given her, and not upon unsubstantiated and groundless supernatural "apparitions", "revelations" and "messages". The Croatian civil authorities and media should clearly differentiate these facts and keep in mind the official position of the Church, if they wish to adhere to the principle of not intervening in the affairs of the Church and want to remain objective.

10. No shrine and no pilgrimages. Neither the Diocesan Bishop as the head of the local diocese of Mostar-Duvno, nor any other competent authority has ever officially declared the parish church of St. James the Apostle in Medjugorje as a "Marian Shrine" and no "cult" of the Madonna based upon so-called apparitions has ever been proclaimed. Due to these discrepancies, the local Bishop has repeatedly forbidden anyone from preaching or speaking in churches on the supernatural nature of these so-called "apparitions and revelations", and he has asked that no official pilgrimages be organized be they at the level of parishes, dioceses or generally in the name of the Church. These and similar warnings were made by our former Bishops' Conference and the Holy See. Whoever acts to the contrary, is directly going against the official statements of the Church, which even after 14 years of so-called apparitions and widespread propaganda, still remain valid in the Church.

A healthy devotion to the Mother of God in accord with the teachings of the Church, especially with the Papal Exhortation "Marialis cultus" of 1974, must be nurtured and promoted in every person, family, church, parish and diocese of the Catholic Church.

Mostar, May 1995 - Msgr. Ratko Peric - Bishop of Mostar

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