Medjugorje: 20 Years Later, the Questions Linger

Church Has Not Ruled on Reported Apparitions

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ROME, JULY 3, 2001 ( June 24 marked the 20th anniversary of the first reports of Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, the little village in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On that day in 1981, six children of Medjugorje, a hamlet of a few houses located 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Mostar, said they had seen the Blessed Virgin on a nearby hill.

Since then, the hamlet has become part of the world circuit of pilgrimages, drawing at least 15 million people. Prayer meetings and associations of all kinds have started worldwide.

Still, the Holy See and the bishop of Mostar have questions about Medjugorje.

Two elements in particular have made ecclesial approval of the apparitions difficult: the conduct of the Franciscans who directed the visionaries´ parish in Medjugorje, and the quantity and character of the messages attributed to Mary.

For now, neither the diocese nor the Holy See have approved or disqualified the apparitions.

In September 1998, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a letter in response to a question from a French bishop.

«We specify that, in regard to the credibility of the alleged apparitions, this dicastery adheres to what was already established by the bishops of former Yugoslavia in the Zara Declaration of April 10, 1991,» the letter stated.

On that occasion, the Yugoslavian bishops said: «In virtue of the investigations conducted to date, it is not possible to affirm that these are supernatural apparitions or revelations.»

The Vatican aide´s letter acknowledged that the investigations do not rule out the apparition reports. So, for now, the apparitions are a matter of personal opinion.

Archbishop Bertone confirmed the prohibition to organize official pilgrimages, but explained that «private» pilgrimages are allowed, with the stipulation that they not be regarded as authentication of the events, «which still require an examination by the Church.» He suggested that Bosnian bishops study the matter further.

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