Reading between the lines...
May 15, 2017
Pope Francis’ comments about Medjugorje, given in response to a question put to him on the return flight to Rome from Fatima on Saturday, are very revealing; not just because the Holy Father has expressed his personal doubt about the ongoing claims of apparitions, but for the divided opinion it presents between the recommendation of the (Cardinal) Ruini report and that of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) represented by its Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller.
Mentioning the Ruini report, the Pope said it concluded “the first apparitions, when the seers were young, must be distinguished from the others, and that investigation should be done on those first ones.”
This suggests that the Commission is favourable towards the early apparitions and so may provide a basis for some form of acceptance by the Church, which would also be able to take into account and acknowledge the apparent ‘good fruits’ produced at Medjugorje.
It also explains the reason why, in February, Pope Francis nominated a special envoy, Archbishop Henryk Hoser, “to acquire a profound understanding of the pastoral situation” in Medjugorje, with special concern for the “needs of the faithful who come on pilgrimage;” and on the basis of that understanding “to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future.”
The Church will always protect the tree that produces good fruit.
Not unexpectedly, the local ordinary Ratko Perić, published an extraordinary statement a week before the arrival of the Pope’s envoy in March. It was a vigorous attempt to undermine any claims that the early apparitions were genuine, quoting from taped interviews that have long been proved to have been tampered with. (Copies of the original tapes exist and are published in book form).
Bishop Perić obviously had deep concerns that the Holy See was about to legitimise Medjugorje on the basis of the early apparitions.
He was not alone in his concern. The Prefect of the CDF, cardinal Müller, told Poland’s Catholic Information Agency last month, “A pastoral phenomenon cannot be built on false foundations, and we can’t separate pastoral concerns from questions around the authenticity of the visions.”
It is this comment which provides an insight into just why the Prefect made a move to ‘auction’ the Ruini report as mentioned by Pope Francis on Saturday.
The report, commissioned by Pope Benedict XVI, was presided over by Cardinal Ruini, “composed of good theologians, bishops and cardinals.” It seems that Cardinal Müller was not prepared to approve the work and authority given to the Commission and so attempted to garner opposing views – ‘bidding’ against the Ruini report – by soliciting opinions from some members of his own Congregation. It must be remembered that the Ruini report was presented directly to Pope Francis.
Pope Francis wasted no time informing Cardinal Müller to redirect any opposing views and opinions to himself and not to the Feria IV.
Before his appointment as Archbishop of Warsaw Praga in 2008, the Pope’s special envoy at Medjugorje, served as Secretary Adjunct of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and was President of the Pontifical Missions Societies. His experience in these roles provides an insight to plans the Holy See may be considering in regard to Medjugorje’s status as a shrine or at least legitimising the parish as a place of prayer and reconciliation. Archbishop Hoser also served in Rwanda for 20 years and his experience and knowledge of the Kibeho apparitions and outcome may also be the reason why Pope Francis has placed him at Medjugorje. The events at Kibeho may prove to be a model for Medjugorje.
Pope Francis expresses personal doubts about current Medjugorje apparitions
On his flight back from Fatima to Rome this evening (May 13), Pope Francis spoke with representatives of the media assigned to cover his visit. He had this to say about the Medjugorje situation.
• Report by Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Insider
Question: In Fatima we have seen a great testimony of popular faith, the same one that is also found in Medjugorje. What do you think of those apparitions and the religious fervor that they have generated, in the light of having decided to appoint a bishop delegated for the pastoral aspects?
“All apparitions or alleged apparitions belong to the private sphere; they are not part of the ordinary public magisterium. For Medjugorje, Benedict XVI set up a commission presided over by Cardinal Ruini. I received the results; the commission was composed of good theologians, bishops and cardinals. The committee report is very, very good. There were some doubts in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Doctrine thought appropriate to send each of the members of the Feria IV – the monthly meeting of the Congregation – all the documentation, including the opinions contrary to the Ruini report. I received the notification on a late Saturday night. It did not seem right to me; it was like putting the Ruini report, which is very well done, at auction. On Sunday morning, the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith received a letter in which I asked that instead of sending those opposing views to Feria IV, they should be sent to me personally. These opinions have all been studied - I would like to stress, all of them. The Ruini report states that the first apparitions when the seers were young must be distinguished from the others, and says that investigation should be done on those first ones. The report presents its doubts on the current alleged visions. Personally, I’m meaner: I prefer the Lady Mother, to the boss of telegraphic office, who sends a message every day. And these supposed apparitions do not have much value: I say this as a personal opinion. There are those who think that Our Lady is saying: Come, on that day I will give a message to that seer. Thirdly, there is the spiritual and pastoral fact, the core of the relationship: people who convert, who meet God, who change life. And this is not thanks to a magic wand. This fact cannot be denied. Now to see this, I have appointed a good bishop (Monsignor Hoser) who has experience in dealing with the pastoral side. In the end, you will hear some words.”