Pope Francis’ envoy to Medjugorje said on April 5 that the site seems to be bearing numerous expressions of faith and vocations. However, he added, the final determination of the apparition’s authenticity remains to be seen.
Archbishop Henryk Hoser was sent by the Pope to evaluate the pastoral situation for residents and pilgrims in Medjugorje. He clarified that he was not tasked with anything beyond this scope. Archbishop Hoser, who holds the title of archbishop as a personal recognition from Pope John Paul II, heads the Polish Diocese of Warszawa-Praga.
“The same as you, I expect a final decision from the commission, and of course the Holy Father Pope Francis,” Archbishop Hoser said at an April 5 press conference in Medjugorje. “I do not know what the Holy Father thinks, he never told me,” he said. “The Holy Father also needs to see what are the conclusions of the commission.”
Archbishop Hoser said that he had contact with the reputed visionaries of Medjugorje. This contact was “completely normal,” but not in-depth.
“Let us remember they are no longer boys and girls,” he said. “Some of them are already grandmothers.”
“We should note that they are immersed in the normal regular, everyday life of the family. They need to work and support their families. They have a similar life to many of us,” he said.
He repeated that his role was not to speak about the apparitions and said the Church has not made the relevant statements yet. Nonetheless, questions at the press conference raised the issue.
When the archbishop’s appointment as papal envoy was announced in February, Holy See press officer Greg Burke stressed that his mission was pastoral, not doctrinal, and would not consider the substance of the Marian apparitions there. That topic is under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Archbishop Hoser praised various expressions of faith he found in Medjugorje: the centrality of the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, devotion to the Word of God, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to the rosary, and meditation on the mysteries of the faith and the Way of the Cross. He also praised the frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“From the religious perspective Medjugorje is very fertile grounds for religious vocations,” he said. About 610 priests have cited Medjugorje as a motivating force in their vocation, with the greatest number of these vocations coming from Italy, the U.S. and Germany.
Medjugorje is only about 36 years old, he observed, but it attracts an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims each year. By comparison, Lourdes, France attracts 6 million people per year, 150 years after the apparition.
Archbishop Hoser noted the need to consider parish life for those who live there and the effects of the many pilgrims.The number of pilgrims poses “a huge challenge” for the priests who serve in Medjugorje, with expansions to the church infrastructure needed to accommodate them. The number of pilgrims has also caused an increase in the number of hotels, restaurants and other facilities to accommodate them.
All of this activity could be applied in other parts of the world, the papal envoy said.
“People perceive these things that they don’t have at home,” Archbishop Hoser said of Medjugorje. “In many old Christian countries, individual confessions do not exist anymore. In many countries, there is no Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. In many countries, there is no Way of the Cross anymore. There’s no rosary anymore. In Britain, in France, they told me the last time they prayed the Way of the Cross was 30 years ago. And such dryness of sacred space obviously leads towards a crisis of the faith.”
He praised the emphasis in Medjugorje on the Virgin Mary’s title “Queen of Peace,” especially during the period which Pope Francis has called a “piecemeal Third World War.”
“To invoke the Queen of Peace, the Mother of God: this is the specific role of Medjugorje. It is most important.”
“My friends, you should be carriers of joyful news,” he told the press conference. “And you can say to the whole world that in Medjugorje, there is a light… we need these spots of light in today’s world that is going down into darkness.”
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