Returning from Fatima, pope says he has doubts about Medjugorje

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

investigations into the very first alleged apparitions at Medjugorje in must
continue, Pope Francis said he has doubts about claims that Mary continues to
appear in the village of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Asked May 13 about the authenticity of the Marian
apparitions, which reportedly began in 1981, the pope referred to the findings
of a commission chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the retired papal vicar of

“The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a
little worse,” the pope told reporters traveling with him from Fatima,
Portugal. “I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as
head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time.”

“This isn’t Jesus’ mother,” he said. “And
these alleged apparitions don’t have much value. I say this as a personal
opinion, but it is clear. Who thinks that Our Lady says, ‘Come, because
tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?’ No!”

Three of the six young people who originally claimed to have
seen Mary in Medjugorje in June 1981 say she continues to appear to them each
day; the other three say Mary appears to them once a year now.

A diocesan commission studied the alleged apparitions in
1982-1984 and again in 1984-1986 with more members; and the then-Yugoslavian
bishops’ conference studied them from 1987 to 1990. All three commissions
concluded that they could not affirm that a supernatural event was occurring in
the town.

Despite his personal doubts, the pope said that the
“spiritual and pastoral facts cannot be denied: People go there and
convert, people who find God, who change their lives. There isn’t magic there,”
he said.

In February, Pope Francis appointed Polish Archbishop Henryk
Hoser of Warsaw-Praga to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the
thousands of pilgrims who flock to Medjugorje each year. He told reporters
those people deserve spiritual care and support.

Also during the in-flight news conference, the pope was
asked about his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, who will visit the
Vatican May 24 as part of his first foreign trip as president.

Specifically asked how he would speak to a head of state
with clearly opposing views on issues such as immigration, the pope said he
would never “make a judgment about a person without listening to him

“There are always doors that aren’t closed. Look for
the doors that at least are a little bit open, enter and speak about things held
in common and go forward, step by step,” the pope said. “Peace is
artisanal; it is made every day. Even friendship among people, mutual knowledge
and esteem are made every day,” he said.

Pope Francis also was asked about the resignation of Marie
Collins, one of the founding members and the last remaining abuse survivor on
the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

She left the commission March 1, citing the reluctance of members
of the Roman Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the
commission’s work.

The pope praised Collins’ work on the commission and her
continuing role in training bishops to deal with abuse allegations.

As for her reasons for leaving the commission, Pope Francis
said, “she is a little bit right because there are so many cases that are

However, the pope said the delays in handling cases are due
to the need to draft new legislation and to the fact that there are few people
capable of handling cases of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and
Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
faith, he added, are looking “for new people.”

“We are going forward, but Marie Collins was right
about some things,” he said. “We also are moving forward, but there
are least 2,000 cases piled up.”

Asked about continuing discussions to fully reconcile the
traditionalist Society of St. Pius X with the Catholic Church, Pope Francis
said he is patient. “I don’t like to rush things.”

He has made overtures to the faithful attached to the
society by recognizing the validity of absolution granted by SSPX priests and
the validity of marriages they celebrate, but the Vatican still is waiting for
the society’s leadership to sign a document affirming certain teachings of the

“This isn’t a problem of winners and losers,” the
pope said; it is about “brothers who should walk together, looking for
ways to take steps forward.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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