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Medjugorje bishop regrets visit by Austrian cardinal [updated]

January 04, 2010

The bishop of the local Mostar-Duvno diocese has issued a statement expressing concern about statements issued by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn during a visit to Medjugorje last week and emphasizing that the cardinal’s visit “does not imply any recognition of the authenticity of the ‘apparitions’ related to Medjugorje.”

Bishop Ratko Peric has released an English-language translation of his statement, noting that he has expressed his concerns directly to Cardinal Schönborn in a private letter. In response to the cardinal's observation that Medjugorje has a flourishing sacramental life, the local bishop notes that the same active sacramental life is visible throughout the diocese. Bishop Peric rejects the idea that the large number of confessions heard by priests at Medjugorje suggests that the apparitions are authentic. "According to this conclusion on the number of confessions, Our Lady would then be appearing in all our parishes," he says.

Bishop Peric-- who has repeatedly warned against the dangers of “the Medjugorje phenomenon” and strongly discouraged confidence in the alleged apparitions—complained that the visit by Cardinal Schönborn had caused new pastoral problems for his diocese. Citing a list of conflicts and irregularities arising from the activities of the alleged seers and their supporters, Bishop Peric voiced “regret” that the Austrian cardinal’s appearance had lent new credibility to their claims.

In an interview released by the press office of his Vienna archdiocese, Cardinal Schönborn pointed out that he had never directly addressed the authenticity of the reported apparitions, leaving that question open during his “private” visit to Medjugorje. He said that he would await the judgment of the universal Church, and meanwhile respected the prudence of the demands for caution released by the bishops of the region.

Cardinal Schönborn said that in his public remarks he had stressed the need to weave the “Medjugorje phenomenon” into the normal life of the local Church. He said that the spiritual vigor he saw in the town was not due to any single event, but rather to the regular use of the sacraments and intense prayer.

However, the Austrian cardinal did repeat his observation that “good fruits” have been produced by the Medjugorje phenomenon; he cited in particular a home for recovering drug addicts. Cardinal Schönborn also noted that the reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje conform to the pattern of other apparitions approved by the Church, such as those of Lourdes and Fatima, where the Blessed Virgin made her appearance in an impoverished country, to simple young people, and delivered a straightforward message encouraging prayer and devotion to the Gospel.


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  • Posted by: New Sister - Jan. 08, 2010 6:04 PM ET USA

    Carmelita, be careful with this "The fruit is good, the tree must be good [sic]." Using that measure, one would then be free to determine that the book of Mormon is authentic, because of the holy and good Mormon families we all know, or that Islam (a grotesque heresy) is true, because of the holy Muslim families we know, etc.. We cannot go wrong submitting to Church authority. The local Bishop has his reasons for denouncing Medjugore and just might know better than we...

  • Posted by: Carmelita - Jan. 07, 2010 9:58 PM ET USA

    The Church has not approved yet, that is true. The fruit is good, the tree must be good. The sixties "slogan" is the adjournamento expressed by John XXIII before the second Vatican Council. It is still needed. American Theologians were wrong and did a lot of damage. Let us allow the Spirit of God to change us from inside. Help us to love one another, God, as you loved us in Christ. Only You have the last word. (Thank you for posting the Cardinal's homily)

  • Posted by: New Sister - Jan. 06, 2010 1:17 PM ET USA

    We can never go wrong being obedient to Church authority. Until the Vatican declares it worthy of belief, I will defer to the local Bishop.

  • Posted by: annemarie - Jan. 05, 2010 9:24 PM ET USA

    I have been to Medjugorje 3 times. On my second trip my husband, who had been a non-practicing Catholic for more than 20 years, knelt on the hard wooden kneelers at St. James Church and prayed fifteen decades of the Rosary. I was amazed and am convinced that was the beginning of his journey back to full communion with the Church. Also, I had never seen teenagers kneel on a hard, cold marble floor for 2 to 3 hours for Eucharistic Adoration. I saw that happen at St. James. By its fruits...

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2010 8:35 PM ET USA

    I am looking for the post that speaks of "throwing open the windows so as not to stifle the Spirit." I see none but my own recommendation not to stife the Spirit without adequate reason. I had no intention of referencing a Sixties slogan. Between open windows with people falling out, and walls around a playground to keep it safe, there is still a lot of room for the Spirit's invitation to prayer and holiness of life. The messages of Medujorje seem to be one of them, similar to Fatima and Lourdes

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 05, 2010 7:42 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Schonborn's excuses reminds me a long, boring court trial where the defense brings in a witness who makes a exciting, passionate statement full of irrelevance, hearsay, and excluded evidence. The judge soberly says at the end "the jury will disregard the previous testimony". This was a great error in judgment. It will of course be interpreted as imprimatur by a Cardinal for its authenticity by the promoters of Medj. The pastoral catastrophe around Medj, does not conform to Fatima.

  • Posted by: skladach - Jan. 05, 2010 4:23 PM ET USA

    Throwing open the windows so as not to stifle the Spirit was a Sixties slogan. We all know what happened when the windows remained open, even after people perched on the windowsills started falling out and barbarians set up ladders right outside. Chesterton was quoted today on EWTN to the effect that the Church's laws and discipline are walls around a playground, making it safe.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2010 12:13 AM ET USA

    Having visited Medjgorje twice myself, I agree with Cardinal Schonborn that good fruits are very visible there. The depth of faith and faithfuness to the sacraments and deep prayer are the hallmarks of the pilgrims as well as the residents. While not putting an official stamp of approval on the apparitons yet, I believe it is wise to allow pilgrims to continue to visit there in view of all the good that the messages are producing. It is best not to stifle the spirit without adequate reason.

  • Posted by: mrschips19308196 - Jan. 04, 2010 8:44 PM ET USA

    Why on earth would the good Cardinal do such a thing? It certainly showed very poor judgment on his part. At the very least he should have refrained from any public statements,especially after some of the statements coming not only from the local Bishop, but also from the Vatican.