What is happening in Medjugorje?

In June of 1981, six children and teenagers in the town of Medjugorje, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) reported having visions of the Virgin Mary.   Over the years, they have allegedly received thousands of messages  from Mary; some of the original visionaries still report daily apparitions.  Medjugorje has grown into a large center of pilgrimage, attracting some 30 million visitors.

Church authorities have, for the most part, been cautious in their response to Medjugorje.   In 1991, the Bishops’ Conference of the former Yugoslavia declared, “On the basis of the investigations so far it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.”  In June of this year, the current bishop  reminded those in his diocese that the Church has never recognized the alleged apparitions as authentic (of course, the Church never rules on ongoing apparitions, so a definitive evaluation is unlikely to come until the visionaries stop reporting messages).

On the other hand, many pilgrims to Medjugorje find it a place of intense peace and spiritual renewal.    Recognizing this, Archbishop Bertone of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith wrote in 1998 that individual pilgrimages are permitted, “on condition that they are not regarded as an authentification of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.”

Even if the apparitions are someday judged worthy of belief, they would fall into the category of “private revelation,” meaning that they are not a necessary part of one’s Catholic faith.

In summary, according to Colin B. Donovan, STL., the position of the Catholic Church is thus:

Catholics may go to Medjugorje. Such pilgrimages may even include priests acting as chaplains, as opposed to officially sponsoring them. Also, the Church has not suppressed discussion of Medjugorje, therefore, it is allowed. Common sense, however, says that Catholics on both sides of the Medjugorje issue should exercise prudence and charity in speaking of others who believe differently. Medjugorje is not a litmus test of orthodoxy, though every Catholic will have a moral obligation to accept the judgement of Rome, in the manner Pope Benedict explained, should it ever be rendered.