VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican announced today that it has formed a commission to look into the phenomenon of Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where six young people have said they have had visions of Mary since the early 80s.A short communique issued by the Vatican press office indicated that, "An international investigative commission on Medjugorje has been constituted, under the presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini and dependent upon the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
"Said commission -- made up of cardinals, bishops, specialists and experts -- will work privately, submitting the results of its work to the authority of the dicastery," added the text.
Beginning 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.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, noted today that initially a diocesan commission existed to investigate the apparitions.
However, given that the phenomenon went beyond the competence of the Diocese of Mostar, the bishop referred it to the episcopal conference of Yugoslavia, which no longer exists. The bishops' conference came to no conclusion with regard to the question of the supernatural nature of the phenomena.
In its statement on Medjugorje of April 10, 1991, the episcopate explained that nothing of the supernatural could be confirmed in what was happening.
It also pointed out the need to assist at the pastoral level, under the responsibility of the parish priest and the local bishop, all those who come to pray in this place.
"The bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina therefore requested that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome to take the situation into its hands," added Father Lombardi.
The answer comes with the establishment of this Commission, presided over by Cardinal Ruini, the retired Vicar for Rome and former president of the Italian episcopal conference, and made up of some 20 members.
As Father Lombardi explained today, "it is not the Commission itself that makes the decisions, the definitive pronouncements, but it offers the result of its study, its 'vote' as is referred to in technical terms, to the congregation, which will then decide on the case."
In November of last year, the archbishop of Sarajevo and president of the Bosnian episcopal conference, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, expressed the desire that the Holy See give indications "on the constitution of a commission that will follow the phenomenon, registering the contents of the apparitions and of the messages, taking into account that up to today there are more than 30,000."