BY STAFF REPORTER
THE VATICAN has established an international commission to study the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje.
The commission will be led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, retired vicar general of Rome, and will operate under the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said it had been established at the request of the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Commission members will include cardinals, bishops, theologians and other experts, Fr Lombardi said.
He said the commission would have about 20 members, but he did not say if or when their names would be published.
But Fr Lombardi said the commission was unlikely to make any statements. Its work and recommendations, if any, will be turned over to the doctrinal congregation. Fr Lombardi said that in the 1980s the Diocese of MostarDuvno, where Medjugorje is located, established a commission to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary appeared to them daily beginning in 1981.
Because the alleged apparitions were having an impact beyond the diocese, the local bishop asked the national bish ops’ conference to investigate. At the time, Bosnia-Herzegovina was part of Yugoslavia.
With the break-up of Yugoslavia, “the question did not arrive at a conclusion on whether or not the phenomena were of a supernatural nature”, Fr Lombardi said, although in 1991 the bishops’ conference issued a statement saying “it cannot be confirmed that supernatural apparitions or revelations are occurring here”, and asking priests and bishops not to organise pilgrimages to the town.
Responding to a question from a French bishop in 1996, the Vatican confirmed the position that pilgrimages should not be organised, but also said individual Catholics who travel to Medjugorje should be given pastoral care and access to the sacraments.
Fr Lombardi said the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina asked the doctrinal congregation to study the alleged apparitions. He said the commission’s work was expected “to take some time”.
Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno has repeatedly and publicly rejected the apparitions and last month posted on his website a list of alleged heresies in statements made by the visionaries. It was suggested in the Italian media that the commission would consider a separate diocese for Medjugorje.