An official decision from the Holy See declaring if events in Medjugorje are supernatural in nature “could take a long time,” warned Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The cardinal offered that assessment in an interview with the Polish news agency KAI, which was reported by the Tablet on Monday.
According to Cardinal Müller, the messages said to be from Our Lady in Medjugorje are of a general nature and there is no “specific deadline for completing research on the supernaturality of events,” he said. The Congregation he leads “will not submit to pressure” and a statement “may take time,” he affirmed.
The cardinal contrasted the message of the apparitions of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, with the more general messages said to be delivered in Medjugorje. In Fatima, he recalled, there was “a clear and categorical invocation against the spread of Communism and a prophetic call to oppose it by prayer and witness.” The Fatima apparitions were officially recognized in 1930, 13 years after they had taken place.
A pastoral phenomenon cannot be based on “false foundations”
If the apparitions of Medjugorje were to be eventually recognized by the Church, it will be necessary to “nuance the position,” Cardinal Müller continued.
“A pastoral phenomenon cannot be based on false foundations,” the cardinal went on to say. Thus, “pastoral concerns cannot be separated from questions of the authenticity of these visions.”
This statement comes as Archbishop Henry Hoser, Pope Francis’ special envoy to Medjugorje, is studying the pastoral situation at the shrine. His visit there began March 29, but his mission is purely pastoral and therefore he will not take a position on whether the apparitions that have been said to be going on there for 36 years are real.
On April 5, Archbishop Hoser said at a press conference that the Marian shrine could help quench the “holy thirst” of the 2.5 million pilgrims who go there every year. He said that pilgrims have “discovered or rediscovered” in Medjugorje “the meaning of the sacred in their life,” through “the celebration of the Eucharist, the transmission of the Word of God, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.”
In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed a commission to study the case of the reported Marian apparitions of Medjugorje. In 2014, this commission presented the conclusions of its work to Pope Francis.
Contrary to what has been sometimes reported, these conclusions were not presented to the public. The position of the Church, therefore, remains for the moment the one enacted by the Yugoslav Episcopal Conference in 1991 in its Zadar Declaration: “The supernatural character of these apparitions or revelations cannot be affirmed.”
Cardinal Müller also revealed during this interview with the KAI agency that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is studying more than 42,000 reports of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin since 1981.
There may be “private apparitions,” he explained, which do not bring new or necessary elements.
[Adapted from KAI report]