Vatican Spokesman Speaks about Pilgrimages to Medjugorje

Vatican Spokesman Speaks about Pilgrimages to Medjugorje

In early June, a French newspaper published excerpts from a letter about Medjugorje pilgrimages written by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in response to a question from a French priest. From these excerpts, it was construed that the Vatican had forbidden pilgrimages to Medjugorje by the faithful. This was not true and it caused a great deal of confusion as other news outlets picked up the story. Because of this, Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls issued a statement on behalf of the Vatican to clarify the official standing of the Church in regards to Medjugorje. He stated:

“You cannot say people cannot go there (Medjugorje) until it has been proven false. This has not been said, so anyone can go if they want.”

“Nothing has changed,” he said regarding the Vatican’s position on Medjugorje, which goes back to the April 1991 Declaration by the Episcopal Conference who stated that while they could not say Medjugorje was supernatural at this time, they did recognize the need to care for the spiritual needs of the many pilgrims traveling to Medjugorje. Navarro-Valls said in his August 21, 1996, statement:

“The bishops said, and Archbishop Bertone confirmed that given the numerous gatherings by the faithful in Medjugorje it is necessary for the Church to offer spiritual direction, therefore, priests may follow the pilgrims.”

But confusion arose from how Archbishop Bertone worded his letter to the French priest. Navarro-Valls said:

“When one reads what Archbishop Bertone wrote, one could get the impression that from now on everything is forbidden, no possibility for Catholics to visit Medjugorje.”

Yet, he insisted:

“Nothing has changed, nothing new has been said…The problem is if you systematically organize pilgrimages, organize them with the bishop and the church, you are giving a canonical sanction to the facts of Medjugorje. This is different from people going in a group who bring a priest with them in order to go to confession…The difference, in the terms of canon law, is that an official pilgrimage, organized by the diocese with the bishop, is a way of giving a juridical sanction to the facts; you are saying it is true.”

Official pilgrimages organized by a bishop or diocese cannot take place until the Church grants permission to do so. And currently, Medjugorje is still being studied. Navarro-Valls made this statement of August 21, because:

“I was worried that what Archbishop Bertone said could be interpreted in too restricted a way. Has the Church or the Vatican said no (to pilgrimages to Medjugorje by Catholics)? NO.”

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