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VATICAN-MEDJUGORJE Mar-17-2010 (400 words) With photos. xxxi

Vatican sets up commission to study alleged apparitions at Medjugorje

Ivan Dragicevic, one of the six young people who reported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in June 1981, tells his story at a packed Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago March 8. The Vatican has established an international commission to investigate the alleged apparitions. (CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the request of the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Vatican has established an international commission to study the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, a small Bosnian town.

The commission will be led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, retired archbishop of Rome, and will operate under the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican announced March 17.

Commission members will include cardinals, bishops, theologians and other experts, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

He said the commission would have about 20 members, but he did not say if or when their names would be published.

However, Father Lombardi said the commission is unlikely to make any statements. Their work and recommendations, if any, will be turned over to the doctrinal congregation.

Father Lombardi said that in the 1980s the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, 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 bishops' conference to investigate. At the time, Bosnia-Herzegovina was part of Yugoslavia.

With the breakup of Yugoslavia, "the question did not arrive at a conclusion on whether or not the phenomena were of a supernatural nature," Father 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 organize official pilgrimages to the town.

Responding to a question from a French bishop in 1996, the Vatican confirmed the position that official pilgrimages should not be organized, but also said individual Catholics who travel to Medjugorje should be given pastoral care and access to the sacraments.

Father Lombardi said the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina asked the doctrinal congregation to study the alleged apparitions.

He said the commission's work is expected "to take some time."

The commission was announced just three months after Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna made a very public visit to Medjugorje and said the church must recognize that private pilgrimages to the village result in prayer and reconciliation.

But Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, who repeatedly has questioned the authenticity of the apparitions, said the cardinal's pilgrimage "added new sufferings" to the problems of his diocese and did "not contribute to its much-needed peace and unity."


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