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Vatican to U.S. Faithful: Stay Away from Pro-Medjugorje Events

By Stefano Pertusati

A letter from the Vatican effectively canceling the U.S. tour of a Medjugorje visionary doesn't seem to bode well for Medjugorje believers.

In what one commentator has called a “Medjugorje bombshell”, a letter sent by the papal nuncio to U.S. bishops on behalf of the prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) Archbishop Müller states that “clerics and faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of [Medjugorje] ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”

Dated “21 October 2013”, the letter references a short tour of U.S. parishes by “one of the so-called visionaries of Medjugorje, Ivan Dragičević” scheduled for the end of October. The events were subsequently canceled. The letter confirms that the CDF is still “in the process of investigating certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje”, but says in the mean time, “all should accept the declaration, dated 10 April 1991, from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, which asserts: ‘On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.’”

What does this mean for Medjugorje devotion?

“Leans in the Direction of Skepticism”

“It does not necessarily foreshadow the ultimate Vatican judgment, but it is not a good sign for Medjugorje devotees,” says James Hitchcock, professor emeritus of history at St. Louis University.

“Since the letter was from the papal nuncio to the U.S., it does not seem to apply to anything outside the US, e.g., Medjugorje itself. Apparently the Vatican is concerned about the scheduled visit of the ‘seer’ to the US, including appearances in parishes. Presumably appearances in ‘neutral’ places might not be under the same ban.”

Richard H. Bulzacchelli, Assistant Professor of Theology in the School of Arts & Sciences at Aquinas College, agrees that though the letter is not definitive against Medjugorje, the letter doesn’t bode well for Medjugorje believers. “The wording of the letter is cautious, but does lean in the direction of skepticism rather than deference.”

“Even here, the Church does not outright condemn the phenomenon, but emphasizes that at present, the Church has no way to affirm it as authentic, and that any activity associated with the Medjugorje phenomenon should start from that premise, which has been the official policy of the Church for over twenty-two years now.”

On whether the letter is a sign of a negative judgement of Medjugorje by the Church, vice president of the Mariological Society of America Robert Fastiggi is tentatively negative as well. “Perhaps it does, but it's difficult to say.” He also points out the limited nature of the letter’s restrictions. “I don't believe this means that people can't visit Medjugorje. It simply means they cannot visit there and engage in public celebrations that take for granted the authenticity of the apparitions.”

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