About Apparition Commissions & the Medjugorje Commissions

By Michael K. Jones

The process of determining the authenticity of miraculous events is usually a long and tedious process. When alleged apparitions gain notoriety the Church would seem to stay aloof. When the happenings remain insistent, the Bishop of the province will form a panel of apparition experts to investigate.  From 1974-1978 "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" reevaluation criteria for discerning apparitions & revelations. Upon completion of reevaluation they issued updated guidelines.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" Reevaluation Criteria for Discerning Apparitions & Revelations

During a formal investigation of any claimed apparition there are many elements to consider. Visionaries must undergo constant intrusion. Physical, psychological and scientific studies are frequent. Endless interviews become an every day occurrence, and the visionaries remain under close scrutiny for many years. Beyond the evaluation of the visionaries, the commission will also analyze stories of miraculous phenomena and review accounts of supernatural healing. After years of investigation the facts are compiled and viewed by the members of the appointed commission. The final decision rests in the hands of the local Bishop where a claimed apparition is taking place. In the investigation of apparitions such as Lourdes and Fatima, the process took many years before a final decision was publicly announced.

The task of examining the occurrences in Medjugorje fell upon the Bishop of Mostar, Bishop Pavlo Zanic. The Bishop at first was positive about the miraculous events but later recanted. When his investigation was completed, the Bishop’s Commission ruled against the Medjugorje apparitions.

For some reason (unknown at the time) the usual time period did not apply to the investigation of Medjugorje, . U.S. State Department documents declassified for Medjugorje USA shows the Bishop of Mostar did not do a proper investigation of the apparitions. As example, Bishop Zanic refused all evidence provided by the local parish of St. James in Medjugorje. This is a violation of protocol. Another example is, only one member of the first Medjugorje commission went to Medjugorje to investigate and he left believing. Bishop Zanic removed that priest from the investigating commission. U.S. State Department documents prove every member of the first Medjugorje commission publicly stated prior to their election to the commission that they do not believe in the Medjugorje apparitions.  The shortest investigation in the history of apparitions declared Medjugorje "not supernatural." The Vatican who never involves itself in matters of apparitions for the first time in history refused the finding of the first Medjugorje commission. The Vatican thought a closer examination was necessary. The second commission was assembled in 1982.

Through out Church history, the Papal Policy is such that Vatican opinion is often withheld when it comes to heavenly events sent to earth. The report of a commission may very well suggest a genuine apparition but the Papal Policy requires continued silence. The soundless voice of the Vatican may go on for many years even after a commission which investigated an apparition has disbanded. This process happens because the Vatican waits to see if the apparition stands the test of time. If an apparition is considered "supernatural" by a local bishop and the Vatican gave instant consent and the apparition was later proven false, this would deeply impact the faithful of the Church. The faithful would most certainly question the Church's ability to discern.

The Second Medjugorje commission was unrevealing as it was disbanded without finding. Medjugorje USA was in touch with one member of the commission. We can not reveal that person's name but this person did believe in the apparitions. Today there are many reasons why the second commission may not have finished the job, none of which has surfaced in the media. Medjugorje USA upon investigation knows that civil war in Yugoslavia gave independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990's. It is the policy of the Church to have a written agreement with a State for Catholic Rights. No longer a part of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina were now newly formed governments which had no formal agreement for Catholic rights. This is in part why the second Medjugorje commission was unable to complete its work. NEW NOTE: It is clear many years later that the second commission which was under the authority of the Conference of Bishop means at least part of the second commission was tainted with unbelievers, prior to appointment.  Members of a commission should accept appointment only if they can do so without bias one way or another.

Dear brothers and sister, Below is a letter published in the February 11, 1998, Medjugorje Press Bulletin. This letter tells me that after many years of Our Lady's visitations in Medjugorje, the Franciscan Friars still "strongly" believe in the apparitions taking place. This letter written to the Holy Father on behalf of the Friars and the pilgrims confirms their strong convictions for Our Lady, the Queen of Peace.

LETTER TO THE HOLY FATHER (information source, Press Bulletin #84 January, 98.)

In January the following letter was delivered to the Holy Father:

Medjugorje, January 1, 1998 Feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary


Holy Father,

From the heart of Bosnia-Hercegovina, from the Parish of Medjugorje, here where not one bomb fell during the dramatic years of the war, we Franciscans send You this message of peace and joy for Your Apostolic Ministry. We do not wish to sadden You with bad news but to give You joy with the promise that we have made to the Queen of Peace, who for more than sixteen years is appearing in this place that has become an international center of prayer and conversion, visited by millions of pilgrims, hundreds of bishops and tens of thousands of priests.

Your Holiness, this is our promise to You: With the approach of the Great Jubilee the Parish of Medjugorje wishes to support the Holy Father by a special daily prayer for Your universal ministry with this intention: that John Paul II may open the Holy Doors at Christmas 1999.

Our Lady in her messages from the very beginning called us to pray in a special way for the Holy Father, because She has a special plan for You, Holy Father. Today we are more conscious than ever of that great spiritual battle that we in Bosnia-Hercegovina have lived through in the war, which can be won only with the weapons of the gospel to which Our Lady calls us: prayer, fasting, conversion of heart, sacramental life, the rosary, consecration to Her Immaculate Heart. . .

Conscious of our pastoral responsibility, which is increased by the apparitions that have attracted millions of pilgrims, we feel the responsibility to petition the pilgrims who come here to pray in a special way for You, Holy Father. We truly think that this inspiration comes from the Queen of Peace who requests that we put Medjugorje at the spiritual service of Your Holiness through prayer until the grace of prayer of the many hearts that have obtained it here shall be poured out on the whole world as a contribution of Medjugorje in support of John Paul II, the Marian Pope, so You may finish the task that God has entrusted to You.

Your Holiness requested the faithful in Poland, on Your last pastoral visit, to implore God on bended knee for the grace to finish that which Cardinal Wyszynski, of blessed memory, prophesied to You: "You must lead the Church into the third millennium". The parish of Medjugorje has accepted Your invitation addressed to Poland and desires to spread it to all pilgrims that Providence has not ceased to lead to the Queen of Peace. We wish that, in the Franciscans who work in this blessed parish, they recognize the desire to support Your Holiness in these years of preparation for the Great Jubilee. We wish to make a contribution with the prayer of the Most Holy Virgin for the intention that She has for Her Pope "Totus Tuus".

May Your Holiness accept our humble gift.

The Friars and pilgrims of Medjugorje


This written testimony was sent to us October 9, 1997 by Mr. Marcello Pierucci, Via Castiglione 154, Bologna, Italy.

"During the Eucharistic Congress that was held recently in Bologna, I hosted Archbishop Msgr. Maria Rizzi, former apostolic nuncio in Bulgaria, and now stationed in Rome where he works on the cause for beatification of servants of God. During a supper in the presence of my wife Anna and Msgr. Novello Pedezzini, Archbishop Rizzi narrated the following:

'I found myself in the private chapel of the Holy Father at morning mass. At the end of Holy Mass the Holy Father approached us and personally greeted all those present. Near me was Msgr. Robert Cavallero from the Shrine of Our Lady of Chiavari. When the Pope got close to us with the intention of greeting us, Msgr Cavallero said: Holy Father I am just now coming from Medjugorje.

The Pope said; Monsignor, do you believe?

The Monsignor answered: Yes, Holy Father!

After that Bishop Cavallero asked the Pope: And You, Holy Father, do You believe?

Then after that question the Pope stopped for a moment in silence and then said at intervals: I believe. . .I believe. . .I believe. . .'

The next evening at my request Archbishop Rizzi repeated this testimony in the presence of Msgr Novello Pedezzini and the bishop of Prato, Msgr. Gastone Simoni."

I confirm the authenticity of this testimony with my own signature.

Medjugorje, October 9, 1997 Marcello Pierucci [signature]


The Medjugorje Commission has been dissolved.

For the 17th Anniversary of the apparitions, the Church just gave a beautiful gift to Our Lady! The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent the following letter to Bishop Gilbert Aubry of Saint Denis clarifying its position on Medjugorje. He received it on June 24th. On the 25th, he spread it to the priests and communities of his diocese (circular # C003) so that they can have the latest statement from Rome and, if necessary, inform the faithful with full knowledge of the facts.

Pr. No 154/81-06419

Citta del Vaticano, Palazzo del S. Uffizio
May 26, 1998
To His Excellency Mons. Gilbert Aubry,
Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Reunion


In your letter of January 1, 1998, you submitted to this Dicastery several questions about the position of the Holy See and of the Bishop of Mostar in regard to the so called apparitions of Medjugorje, private pilgrimages and the pastoral care of the faithful who go there.

In regard to this matter, I think it is impossible to reply to each of the questions posed by Your Excellency. The main thing I would like to point out is that the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance. As for the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: "On the basis of the investigations so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations." Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina to eventually reopen the examination of this case, and to make any new pronouncements that might be called for.

What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of "Famille Chretienne", declaring: "My conviction and my position is not only 'non constat de supernaturalitate,' but likewise, 'constat de non supernaturalitate' of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje", should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.

Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentification of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.

I hope that I have replied satisfactorily at least to the principal questions that you have presented to this Dicastery and I beg Your Excellency to accept the expression of my devoted sentiments.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone
(Secretary to the "Congregatio", presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger)

Fr. Daniel-Ange (France) summarizes this way:

1 -The declarations of the Bishop of Mostar only reflect his personal opinion. Consequently, they are not an official and definitive judgment from the Church.

2 - One is directed to the declaration of Zadar, which leaves the door open to future investigations. In the meanwhile private pilgrimages with pastoral accompaniment for the faithful are permitted.

3 - A new commission could eventually be named.

4 - In the meanwhile, all Catholics may go as pilgrims to Medjugorje.

View all our organized articles on the Medjugorje Commissions on this page> http://www.medjugorjeusa.org/commissionsorganized.htm

If you would like to write Medjugorje USA