By Chiara Santomiero
ROME, NOV. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Bosnian episcopal conference has been in Rome, but not to discuss the controversy surrounding Medjugorje, as some reports have contended.
Instead, Cardinal Vinko Puljic participated last week in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which focused on St. Paul and the “new areopagi.”
The cardinal did talk to ZENIT about Medjugorje, affirming that the reports of apparitions there and the consequent popularity of the site for pilgrimages is a matter dealt with by the bishop of Mostar, Ratko Peric, and the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“As an episcopal conference, we await suggestions and proposals on how to proceed, and I believe the Holy See wants to carry on in this way,” he added.
The 64-year-old cardinal referred back to a 1991 statement from what was then the Yugoslavian bishops’ conference. That declaration notes that “nothing supernatural could be confirmed in what was happening, [and] affirmed the responsibility of parish priests and local bishops to pastorally assist all those who go there to pray,” he recalled.
“I hope that the Holy See will give indications on confessions and Eucharistic celebrations,” Cardinal Puljic added. “And perhaps also on the establishment of a commission that will follow the phenomenon, recording the contents of the apparitions and of the messages, keeping in mind that up to today there are more than 30,000.”
Mary reportedly began appearing in Medjugorje almost 30 years ago. In June of 1984, six children of the little town of Medjugorje, 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 millions of people. Prayer meetings and associations of all kinds have started worldwide.
When Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he wrote a letter backing the 1991 Yugoslavian episcopal conference letter. That was more than a decade ago.
Then, in his book on the apparitions in Fatima, published in 2007, Cardinal Bertone reiterated that the Church has not made an official decision on the site, and that while official pilgrimages are not to be organized, private pilgrimages to Medjugorje are acceptable.
Certainly Medjugorje continues to attract thousands of pilgrims, acknowledged Cardinal Puljic.
“It’s not a sin to pray,” said the cardinal with a smile. “There are many beautiful presences that have generated conversions and priestly or religious vocations. They are the fruits of prayer: Wherever man prays with faith, God gives the fruits of his grace.”
“To pray in Marian shrines is part of the identity of our Catholic faithful,” the Bosnian cardinal affirmed. “In the course of the problematic events of our history, our people have met repeatedly in the different shrines of the region to ask for consolation, light and hope, and the Virgin is a sign for our faith.”