Pope Authorizes Pilgrimages to Medjugorje—but doesn’t Authenticate Site

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On May 12, Pope Francis gave the green light for Catholics to pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which the sight of alleged Marian apparitions. Papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement the same day that this authorization of pilgrimage should not be taken as “authentication” of the alleged apparitions, “which still require an examination by the Church.”

Catholic News Agency reports on the beginnings of the alleged apparitions:

The alleged apparitions began June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to these six “seers,” the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children—who are now young adults—continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

In January 2014, a Vatican commission concluded a more-than-three-year investigation into the alleged apparition and submitted its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Once the Congregation finishes its analysis, it will pass these findings on to the pope, who will then make the final decision on the veracity of the apparitions.

Speaking in-flight in May 2017, Pope Francis commented on the “Ruini Report,” the commission on Medjugorje, noting a distinction between the beginnings of the apparitions and the later ones. He said, “The first apparitions, which were to children, the report more or less says that these need to continue being studied,” he said, but as for “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts.”

Pope Francis has expressed wariness towards the alleged apparitions on several occasions, saying that he prefers “the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of an office, who every day sends a message at a certain hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus.” However, he recognizes that good fruits have come from this site. Authorization of pilgrimages to Medjugorje are intended to be an acknowledgment of the good fruits and not as an authorization of the apparitions themselves.

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