Bishop of Medjugorje . . . Declares Apparitions Are Not Real
Over the past 25 years, millions of Catholics have flocked to the Bosnian town of Medjugorje where, it was commonly asserted, the Blessed Virgin Mary was appearing regularly for a religious experience.
Despite appeals from the local bishops, public confrontations between the Franciscans who staffed the parish church and Church authorities, the flood of pilgrims has barely stopped, forcing the local bishop to once again proclaim that apparitions of the Virgin Mary are not occurring there, and pleading with the "seers" to stop the hoax they are perpetrating on gullible Catholics.
In addition, the bishop firmly warned any Catholic priests who come to Medjugorje that they are not to preach, teach, or write about the so-called apparitions, and he reminded pilgrims that pilgrimages are not allowed by Church authorities.
During a Confirmation on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno devoted the second part of his homily to the alleged apparitions, saying flatly that "I would be an irresponsible minister of the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, if today I were not to publicly advise, from this place and on this occasion as well, to all those interested throughout the world, that in this local Church of Mostar-Duvno, there exists something similar to a schism.
"A number of priests that have been expelled from the Franciscan OFM Order by the Generalate of the Order, due to their disobedience to the Holy Father," the bishop continued, "for years now have been forcefully keeping a few parish churches and rectories along with church inventory.
"They have not only been illegally active in these parishes, but they have also administered the sacraments profanely, while others invalidly, such as Confession and Confirmation, or they have assisted at invalid marriages. This type of anti-ecclesial behavior is shocking to all of us. At the same time, this scandal of sacrilegiously administering the sacraments, especially of the Most Holy Body of Christ, must shock all the faithful as well who invalidly confess their sins to these priests and participate in sacrilegious liturgies. We pray to the Lord that this scandal and schism be uprooted as soon as possible from our midst.
"Thirdly," Bishop Peric continued, "I am truly grateful to the Holy Father the Pope, to John Paul II of blessed memory and to the reigning Benedict XVI, who have always respected the judgments of the bishops of Mostar-Duvno, of the previous as well as the current bishop, regarding the so-called 'apparitions' and 'messages' of Medjugorje, all the while recognizing the Holy Father's right to give a final decision on these events. The judgments of the bishops, after all the canonical investigations made thus far, can be summarized in these following points:
"1) Medjugorje is a Catholic parish in which liturgical and pastoral activities are carried out, just as in all the other parishes of this diocese of Mostar-Duvno. No one except the official Church authorities is then authorized to attribute the formal title of 'shrine' to this place.
"2) On the basis of Church investigations of the events of Medjugorje, it cannot be determined that these events involve supernatural apparitions or revelations. This means that till now the Church has not accepted, neither as supernatural nor as Marian, any of the apparitions.
"3) Priests who canonically administer this parish of Medjugorje or those who come as visitors, are not authorized to express their private views contrary to the official position of the Church on the so-called 'apparitions' and 'messages,' during celebrations of the sacraments, neither during other common acts of piety, nor in the Catholic media.
"4) The Catholic faithful are not only free from any obligation to believe in the authenticity of the 'apparitions' but they must also know that Church pilgrimages are not allowed, whether official or private, individual or group, or from other parishes, if they presuppose the authenticity of the 'apparitions' or if by undertaking them attempt to certify these 'apparitions.'
"5) As the local bishop, I maintain that regarding the events of Medjugorje, on the basis of the investigations and experience gained thus far, throughout these last 25 years, the Church has not confirmed a single 'apparition' as authentically being the Madonna. The fact that during these 25 years there has been talk of tens of thousands of 'apparitions' does not contribute any authenticity to these events, which according to the words of our current Pope, whom I encountered during an audience on February 24 this year, commented that at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith they always questioned how all these 'apparitions' could be considered authentic for the Catholic faithful.
"They particularly do not seem to be authentic when it is known beforehand that these so-called 'apparitions' will occur:
"To one of the 'seers' on the 18th of March every year, but, along with this she will also receive an, 'apparition' on the 2nd of each month, with 'messages' which you can expect, according to the established procedures;
"The second will receive an apparition on every day of the year, and if this were not enough, an added special 'apparition' on the 25th of each month along with a type of press release, which once again you can foresee and expect;
"The third will receive an 'apparition' on the 25th of December, on Christmas day, along with a message similar to the ones already mentioned;
"The fourth with receive an 'apparition' on the 8th of September every year along with a specific message;
"The remaining two will receive the same, every day along with 'messages' that can be anticipated since they are variations on the same theme. This fact and the flood of so-called apparitions, messages, secrets, and signs, do not strengthen the faith, but rather further convince us that in all of this there is nothing either authentic or established as truthful.
"Therefore I responsibly call upon those who claim themselves to be 'seers,' as well as those persons behind the 'messages,' to demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish. In this fashion they shall show their necessary adherence to the Church, by neither placing private 'apparitions' nor private sayings before the official position of the Church.
"Our faith is a serious and responsible matter. The Church is also a serious and responsible institution!"
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