Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, speaking on behalf of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith, responded to a letter from the Bishop of Langres in France asking the position of the Church on Medjugorje and whether pilgrimages were permitted by the faithful. In the Congregation’s response, Bertone first restated the 1991 Declaration of Zadar which Medjugorje was still operating under. Bertone then stated:
â€œThe result from this is what is precisely said is that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, are not permitted to be organized either on the parish or on the diocesan level, because that would be in contradiction to what the Bishops of former Yugoslavia affirmed in their fore mentioned Declaration.â€
Whether the statement was purposely made vague, or whether it was an oversight, many misconstrued what Bertone was saying. The language used by the Church is not known by many of the faithful, nor by those in the secular press (or even often in the Catholic press.) What Archbishop Bertone did not clarify in his statement was the difference between â€œofficialâ€ and â€œunofficialâ€ pilgrimages. The Zadar Declaration had stated that since it could not be established at that time that the events in Medjugorje were supernatural, â€œofficialâ€ pilgrimages organized by bishops or priests in their diocese were not permissable. But, since the apparitions were still open to investigation and had not been condemned and because there was obvious fruit associated with the events surrounding Medjugorje, the Church continued to allow private pilgrimages as well as priests and bishops to make private pilgrimages themselves. In fact, the Church desired priests and bishops to go to Medjugorje to assist the thousands of pilgrims who went to Medjugorje each month. What was reported in the media, based on Archbishop Bertone’s statement, was that Catholics were being told they should not go to Medjugojre. This was a wrong interpretion and caused so much confusion that the office of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith would issue another statement in June, to say, again, that private pilgrimages were still allowed. Pope John Paul II continued to make encouraging comments to bishops concerning Medjugorje and the Church hierarchy continued to observe wonderful fruit coming from the apparition site.