Medjugorje has been the longest apparition claim to date, spanning 3 decades and going into its fourth starting from 1981 up to the present, thus giving skeptics the reason that in Church History, the Mother of God does not appear to children that long, and that there is a possibility of prolonging the apparition for economic purposes and vested interests. Medjugorje has also been the most bitterest battle between the faithful and Vatican Officials, citing 10 expulsion of Franciscan Friars from the order due to defiance and subordination, and a number of excommunication handed down by the current archbishop of Bosnia. There is a talk that the Vatican will soon hand down its decision against the alleged apparition. Reuters tackled the issue recently:
Has the Virgin Mary been appearing daily for many years in the once obscure Bosnian village of Medjugorje to share religious messages with a few local believers? Is the site visited by over 30 million pilgrims a hoax? The question has long divided Catholics who have debated whether the visions are a modern-day miracle, wishful thinking or the result of an elaborate fraud.
After observing events sceptically for many years, the Vatican may soon issue firmer guidance for Catholics on the claim that the mother of Jesus has been visiting the Balkans, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, head of the bishops’ conference in Bosnia, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. That guidance, if it clearly expresses the scepticism the official Church has long shown towards the Medjugorje phenomenon, could deal a serious blow to a site some Catholics see as a “new Lourdes.”
“We are now awaiting a new directive on this issue,” said Puljic, the Sarajevo archbishop who survived the city’s long wartime siege in the 1990s. “I don’t think we must wait for a long time, I think it will be this year, but that is not clear… I am going to Rome in November and we must discuss this.”
Official Church scepticsm about Medjugorje has become more public in recent months. In June, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar, the nearest city in Bosnia, warned Catholics against uncritical belief in Medjugorje and issued a series of restrictions on the parish. “Brothers and sisters, let us not act as if these ‘apparitions’ were recognised and worthy of faith,” he said in a sermon (full text here in Italian translation).
Then in July, Pope Benedict defrocked Rev. Tomislav Vlasic, the 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.
The investigation, according to a Catholic News Service report, focused on alleged “dubious doctrine, the manipulation of consciences, suspect mysticism and disobedience towards legitimately issued orders.” One account of his story called him “a modern-day Rasputin with a taste for sex and séances” and another placed the Medjugorje story in the context of anti-communism and Croatian nationalism.
Six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary in 1981 in a scenario reminiscent of famous apparitions in the French town of Lourdes and Fatima in Portugal. In the following years, the Bosnian village became a major pilgrimage site, giving many visitors a renewed sense of spirituality and locals a steady source of much-needed revenue. It also became the focus of controversy as local Franciscan priests running the site promoted their claims in such open defiance of warnings from the Vatican that 10 of them were expelled from the order and the local bishop called them schismatic.
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 Bosnian town every year. One of the visionaries, Ivan Dragicevic, says on the Medjugorje website that he has received nine out of ten secrets from the Virgin Mary, another element reminiscent of Fatima. He now spends half the year in Medjugorje and the other half in the United States, stopping off in places such as Canada and Peru as well to give lectures on his experiences.
Puljic declined to give his own views on the events of Medjugorje. “People have the right to pray everywhere, including in Medjugorje,” he said.
“It is not a sin to pray, it’s not a sin to hear confessions, it is not a sin to give penance, this is a good climate. But this phenomena, apparitions or visions, falls to the (Vatican) commission,” said the cardinal. “It is a very delicate question.” Source.
Do you think Medjugorje represents a miracle or a fraud? What should the Vatican say about it?
Romuald Matthieson: a.k.a. "bluepanjeet" has been writing in cyber space since 2005. In 2006, he jump-started his Catholic blogging a few years before the Catholic Church utilized social networks and blogs in spreading the Gospel. In 2007, in response to a realization of the growing need for Catholic Bloggers online, he officially launched his own self-hosted Catholic blog and called it "On The Wings Of My Dream" or simply OTWOMD which is a metaphor of his favorite psalm in the Bible, Psalm 63. Since then he has been blogging, (and sometimes podcasting) for the Catholic Church using his enthusiasm in the New Media, his inclination on visual and digital arts, his passion for the written word and his love for the Catholic Church. You can follow Rom's tweets on Twitter @rommatthieson