The Holy Roman Catholic Church must wait for the apparitions to end before She can make a judgment on the apparitions in Medjugorje. When an allegedly supernatural event has occurred, it is the responsibility of the local bishop to conduct an investigation.  Canonically, the bishop is entrusted with the role of “oversight” of the diocese. This role of “oversight” is based on the bishop’s responsibility both for public worship and for the religious teaching which occurs in the diocese. The Church did not decide on Lourdes or Fatima until long after the apparitions ended.

The Bishop of Lourdes made the decision to recognize Lourdes.

The Bishop of Ourém, Fatima made the decision to recognize the apparitions of Fatima.

In the case of Medjugorje, when the local Bishop no longer supported the apparitions, the case was referred to the Conference of Yugoslav Bishops.  The Conference of Yugoslav Bishops stated that they did not have sufficient proof to make a decision but that they would wait to make a pronouncement.    The Vatican then decided to reserve the decision for themselves.  It is the first time in history that the Vatican has reserved the decision about an apparition of Our Lady, to itself.  This past year, 2007, the Vatican requested that the Bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina constitute a new commission to investigate what has been happening in Medjugorje.  All of the documents are being collected again by the Franciscans here in Medjugorje.

The Vatican has still said, however, that they will maintain a direct interest in what the decision is.  The Church therefore, is protecting Medjugorje before She comes out with a final decision.  Again, She cannot make a statement until the apparitions have ended; and there is some proof that the secrets have been revealed, which will be, as we know from the messages, during the life time of the visionaries.

In 1981: the Bishop of Mostar, Monsignor Zanic, at first believed; but later he was convinced that the Franciscan priests in Medjugorje invented the apparitions.  This doubt resulted in a deep rift that continues to exist.

1986:  Monsignor Zanic provided Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) with a negative report on the apparitions.  After launching his own investigation, Cardinal Ratzinger removed the dossier from the hands of Msgr. Zanic and handed over the investigation to a new Commission formed of Yugoslavian bishops.  Monsignor Komarica, from Banja Luka, was the leader of this investigation

April 1991: the Commission officially accepted Medjugorje as a place of prayer, which gave it the status as a place of worship and private pilgrimage.

The work of the Commission was interrupted by the Bosnian-Serbian war and Bishop Ratko Peric took over as Bishop of Mostar, following in the foot steps of his predecessor, Bishop Zanic.

May 1998:  Bishop Gilbert Aubry asked the Vatican what pastoral care could be given to the faithful regarding Medjugorje.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a letter stating again that private pilgrimages were permitted, whereas official ones were not.


In his letter to Cardinal Ratzinger, Bishop Gilbert Aubry (La Réunion) expressed crucial questions about Medjugorje after reading a declaration from Bishop Peric in a French Magazine (Famille Chrétienne, 1997), stating that there was nothing supernatural in Medjugorje, adding his own stamp to give this statement full authority. This statement, widely spread, has been codified as an official Vatican document.  Here is in its fullness the response of the Vatican sent to Bishop Aubry:


(Pr. No 154/81-06419)
May 26, 1998
To His Excellency Mons. Gilbert Aubry,
Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Reunion

In your letter of January 1, 1998, you submitted to this Dicastery several questions about the position of the Holy See and of the Bishop of Mostar in regard to the so called apparitions of Medjugorje, private pilgrimages and the pastoral care of the faithful who go there.  In regard to this matter, I think it is impossible to reply to each of the questions posed by Your Excellency. The main thing I would like to point out is that the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance. As for the credibility of the “apparitions” in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the Bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: “On the basis of the investigation so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.” Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina to eventually reopen the examination of this case, and to make any new pronouncements that might be called for.  What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of “Famille Chretienne”, declaring: “My conviction and my position is not only ‘non constat de supernaturalitate,’ but likewise, ‘’constat de non supernaturalitate’ of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje”, should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.

Finally, as regards to pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authenitcation of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.  I hope that I have replied satisfactorily at least to the principal questions that you have presented to this Dicastery and I beg Your Excellency to accept the expression of my devoted sentiments.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone
(Secretary to the “Congregation” presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger)

To summarize:

1 -The declarations of the Bishop of Mostar only reflect his personal opinion. Consequently, they are not an official and definitive judgment requiring assent and obedience.
2 – One is directed to the declaration of Zadar, which leaves the door open to future investigations. In the meanwhile private pilgrimages with pastoral accompaniment for the faithful are permitted.
3 – All pilgrims may go to Medjugorje in complete obedience to the Church.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn comments:

“The letter of Archbishop Bertone to the Bishop of Le Reunion sufficiently makes clear what has always been the official position of the hierarchy during recent years concerning Medjugorje: namely, that it knowingly leaves the matter undecided. The supernatural character is not established; such were the words used by the former conference of bishops of Yugoslavia in Zadar in 1991. It really is a matter of wording, which knowingly leaves the matter pending. It has not been said that the supernatural character is substantially established. Furthermore, it has not been denied or discounted that the phenomena may be of a supernatural nature. There is no doubt that the Magisterium of the Church does not make a definite declaration while the extraordinary phenomena are going on in the form of apparitions or other means.   Indeed, it is the mission of the shepherds to promote what is growing, to encourage the fruits which are appearing, to protect them -if need be- from the dangers which are obviously everywhere.  As with Lourdes and other  apparition sites, it is also necessary to see to it that the original gift is  not stifled by unfortunate developments. Medjugorje is not invulnerable. That is why it is and will be so important that Bishops also publicly take under their protection the pastoral pronouncement of Medjugorje so that the obvious fruits that are in that place might be protected from any possible unfortunate developments.  I believe that the words of Mary at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you,” make up the substance of what She says throughout the centuries. Mary helps us to hear Jesus.  She desires with her whole heart and with all her strength that we do what He tells us.  This is what I wish for all the communities of prayer which were formed from Medjugorje; this is what I wish for our diocese and for the entire Church.Perhaps personally, I have not yet gone to Medjugorje; but in a way I have gone there through the people I know or those I have met who, themselves, have gone to Medjugorje. And I see good fruits in their lives. I should be lying if I denied that these fruits exist.  These fruits are tangible, evident. And in our diocese and in many other places, I observe graces of conversion, graces of a life of supernatural faith, of vocations, of healings, of a rediscovering of the Sacraments, of Confession. These are all things which do not mislead.  This is the reason why I can only say that it is these fruits which enable me, as bishop, to pass a moral judgment. And if as Jesus said, we must judge the tree by its fruits, I am obliged to say that the tree is good.”

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, who gave the Holy Father and his Papal Household their 1998 Lenten Retreat, and who was the main author of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, gave the preceding testimony in Lourdes on July 18, 1998. The Cardinal’s testimony was published in “Mejdugorje Gebetsakion”, #50, and “Stella Maris”, #343, pp. 19, 20. (This English translation is published with the Cardinal’s permission.)

1998:  Returning from a mission in Romania, Sister Emmanuel had the opportunity to attend a breakfast with Cardinal Shonborn in Vienna.  There Cardinal Schonborn recounted an interesting meeting he had with Cardinal Ratzinger.  Sister reports:  “During the late 90s, as Cardinal Schonborn was visiting Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome, he told Cardinal Ratzinger: “If one day you close down Medjugorje, I’ll have to close down my Seminary in Vienna because the great majority of my seminarians received their calling through Medjugorje.”  Cardinal Ratzinger replied immediately: “We have no plan to close down Medjugorje!”January 12, 1999:  Archbishop Bertone instructed the leaders of the Beatitudes Community that the Church needs their community present in Medjugorje in order to help serve the needs of pilgrims.  On that occasion the Secretary for the Congregation of the faith stated: “For the moment one should consider Medjugorje as a Sanctuary, a Marian Shrine, in the same way as Czestochowa.”

December 1, 2002: in a catechesis given in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Cardinal Schönborn said the following about Medjugorje:

“I do not wish to express an opinion on Medjugorje from the point of view of a judgment of the Church. There is, however, one thing I can observe, over and over again, namely, that this is a place where an intensive mission-station of heaven obviously exists, where thousands upon thousands of people find prayer, confession, conversion, reconciliation, healing and deeper faith.”

October 2005:  Letters between Marek and Zofia Skwarnicki and the late Holy Father John Paul II  were published in Marek’s recent book: John Paul II : Greetings and Blessings – Private Letters from the Pope, published in October 2005 by Bertelsman Media, Poland. July 12-14, 2006:  New Commission to be formed on Medjugorje.
An article was published in Vecernji List, a Croatian Newspaper stating that a new commisision headed by the Vatican’s Doctrine for the Congregation of the Faith will be formed on Medjugorje.  The new commission will consist of international members without a bias for or against Medjugorje.

John Paul the Great and Medjugorje
By Father Tim Deeter

During the War I went to Medjugorje five times and several time I stopped in Rome.  One time I was able to go to a private Mass with the Holy Father and I told his secretary, at that time His Eminence Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz, who is now the Archbishop Cardinal of Krakow; I said, “I would like to show the Holy Father some photographs of the destruction in Herzegovina, Croatia and what the people are

doing.”  So I had photographs of the stacks, the high piles of food and medicines and supplies being brought by people all over the world and I thought the Holy Father would be very interested.

So after the Mass, there were about 35 of us, we all made a circle in the library of the Holy Father.

And he came around and greeted each one of us and gave us a little rosary.  And so he came around and the secretary, Msgr. Dziwisz, said, “when I nod to you, just step forward show the Holy Father the photographs.”  So the Holy Father is going along and he comes to me and Msgr. Dziwisz nodded very solemnly.  So I stepped forward and I said, “Holy Father, I want to show you some pictures of what is happening to the Catholic Church in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina and he was very interested and I turned page by page through this album of photographs.  It was a small one like the kind you get at the pharmacy when they develop your photos.  But I forgot to take out a picture of St. James Church.  I didn’t want to show anything of Medjugorje because I knew it was a little political time bomb.  So I flipped to the next picture and there was St. James Church!  And before I could turn the page quickly, Holy Father went, “Ah, Medjugorje!” Then he said to me, “Have you been there?”  I said, “Yes Holy Father, several times.”  And he said, “And what do you think?”  And so I gave the usual, “Well, there is a lot of good that is being accomplished, a lot of conversions, a lot of confessions, a lot of vocations…”  And he said, “No.  No, no, no.  What do you think about Our Lady appearing there?  Do you think Our Lady is appearing in Medjugorje?”  There were several people there.  The whole room was full of

people.  It was a public thing.  And I didn’t know what to say.  I thought, ‘if I say ‘yes’ maybe he’ll excommunicate me!  If I say ‘no Our Lady’s not appearing’ maybe he’ll excommunicate me!’  So I looked at Msgr. Dziwisz and he nodded to me and I said, “Yes.  I think Our Lady is appearing there.”  And the Holy Father said, “SO DO I!”  Just like that, “SO DO I!”  And then he said, “Are you going there?”  And I said, “Yes Holy Father, I’m going to Medjugorje after I leave Rome.”  He said, “Good.  Go there and pray to the Madonna of Medjugorje for me, for my intentions.”  I said, “I will on one condition.”  And he looked as if to say, ‘conditions for the Supreme Pontiff?’  I said, “That you give me and my parish a special blessing for the sacrifices they are making for Medjugorje.”  He said, “I do so with all of my heart.”  Then he gave me his blessing.

After the audience, then Msgr. Dziwisz grabbed me and he took me to the sacristy and he said, “I want to show you something.”  And there on the dressing table of the Holy Father was a copy of the little newsletter ‘Echo of Medjugorje’ in Italian.  He said, “The Holy Father reads a paragraph from this every day before he starts his prayers before Mass.”  So anyone who says the Pope didn’t believe in Medjugorje…and when they say, “This is all hearsay.”  I say, “He said it to me.”  So, it’s just a matter of time.