Canon Laurentin, in his latest book Last News from Medjugorje, comments "The abstract principal that is always given in such situations as Medjugorje is 'wait for the judgment of the Church before you get interested in these apparitions and go on pilgrimages.' This is in error because if nobody went to these places where the heavenly manifests itself, then the Church would have no reason to investigate or pronounce a judgment. Judgments made at Guadalupe, La Salette, Portmain, Fatima, Beauring and Banneux came about because crowds gathered and the good fruits of these events showed themselves. The Sensus Fidelium recognises an authentic message and sticks to it. The Authority of the Church intervenes to verify this discernment and eliminate human errors often associated with the gifts of God."
ON JANUARY 31 1987 the Italian press, followed by the French announced: "Pilgrimages to Medjugorje are forbidden from now on."
This was the third occasion that such a situation had arisen — requiring, each time, an outright denial. The false report stems invariably from the selfsame source: the bishop of Mostar. In his anxiety to suppress Medjugorje pilgrimages (to date a total of ten million pilgrims have gone there) he puts dissuasive views into circulation with the assistance of well-placed friends in Rome able to effect this.
The false report exploited unduly a communique of 29 January that bore the signatures of Cardinal Kuharic, President of the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference, and Monsignor Zanic, bishop of Mostar.
Why these two signatures? The cardinal's was there because judgment on the Medjugorje apparitions has been transferred to the Episcopal Conference, of which he is president. As for the bishop of Mostar, from whom Rome removed responsibility for judging the case because of his enduring negative bias, his signature was there in virtue of his being a member of the Episcopal Conference and ordinary of the diocese wherein the apparitions are occurring.
The joint communiqué's object was to announce the transfer of competence and the constitution of a new commission of inquiry. The bishop had requested that the communiqué should include a reminder of the ban on official pilgrimages. He put forward a number of somewhat radical formulas; but the Episcopal Conference toned these down. Obscurity followed as a result of
After reminding us of "the attitude of prudence customary in such situations," the communiqué continues: "Therefore it is not permissible to organise pilgrimages and other manifestations motivated by the supernatural character attributed to the facts of Medjugorje."
The text is ambiguous. Some people understand it to mean: "If you go to Medjugorje for purposes of tourism on the Dalmatian coast, of alpinism on Krizevac hill, or of gastronomy in the region's restaurants, you are on the side of the law. But if you go there with 'supernatural' motives in mind, — to pray, to fast or undergo a process of conversion — you are at odds with the Church."
This interpretation is obviously absurd. The press disentangled itself from the incomprehensible clause in question by giving such renderings of it as "Pilgrimages are not authorised" or "Pilgrimages have been forbidden." And certain highlyplaced people aided and abetted this process of radicalising the clause's meaning.
Monsignor Franic, archbishop of Split and president of the Yugoslav Episcopal Conference's doctrinal commission (which gives him due competence in the matter of apparitions), rectified these mutilated interpretations by issuing the following declaration: "The Yugoslav bishops did not intend to ban all pilgrimages . . . The only ones they disapprove of are those led by pastors or faithful who wish thereby to infringe on competent authority and/or anticipate its categorical and juridical judgment.
"The pilgrims who go to Medjugorje in order to pray, make their Confession and fast — and do so in a spirit of submission to the definitive judgment of the competent ecclesiastical authority — may proceed with completely secure consciences according to the norms of Urban VIII confirmed by Paul VI (Code of Canon Law 822-823)" This communiqué was issued by ARPA — a high-level scientific, cultural and religious association — on the occasion of a journey by Monsignor Franic to Rome where I also saw him as well as the Holy Father.
This article first appeared in Ch ret iens.