A Pope’s envoy to Medjugorje compared the controversial pilgrimage site in Herzegovina to Lourdes in France, a widely celebrated and officially approved Marian sanctuary, at the end of his first visit there, according to a Catholic website. The comparison will likely be taken by Medjugorje supporters as a positive indication about the envoy’s attitude.
Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser was appointed by Pope Francis in February to review the pastoral situation for the residents and the 2.5 million faithful who arrive on pilgrimage at Medjugorje each year. It’s not the scope of Hoser’s mission to determine the veracity of the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje. The Vatican’s doctrinal office set up a commission in 2011 for that purpose, which allegedly finalized its work in 2014, but to this point, nothing has been announced.
“The same as you, I expect a final decision from the commission, and of course the Holy Father Pope Francis,” Hoser said at an April 5 press conference in Medjugorje, reported Crux.
Speaking in French, he also said that he has no knowledge of where Francis stands regarding the apparitions. Although he refused to even give his personal opinion regarding the phenomenon, Hoser did have considerable praise to bestow at the end of his seven-day visit. He praised the many expressions of faith he found in Medjugorje, saying that from a religious perspective, the place is “very fertile grounds for religious vocations.”
He said that 610 priests have cited Medjugerje as a moving force in their vocation, with most of these vocations coming from the United States, Italy and Germany. This, Hoser noted, is a significant contribution, given the crisis of vocations to the priesthood in some countries.
Other statistics Hoser supplied include the fact that pilgrims flock to Medjugorje from 80 countries, and he said that after only 36 years, 2.5 million people travel there yearly. Hoser acknowledged that number is significantly lower than Lourdes, where six million people visit every year, but have been doing so for 150 years.
The number of pilgrims who visit represents a “huge challenge” for the priests who serve in Medjugorje, Hoser said, requiring expansions to the infrastructure of the church, which is run by the Franciscans.
Yet despite the parallel Hoser drew between Lourdes and Medjugorje, he also said there were differences between what is allegedly going on in Herzegovina and other major Marian sites. One of them is the location. For instance, at Lourdes the Virgin Mary is said to always appear in the cave that later became the famous grotto, while in Fatima she allegedly always appeared above the oak tree.
“Here, according to what visionaries are saying, the apparitions follow the person, where the person goes,” Hoser said.
“This could be at home, when they are traveling, in the church. These are all specifics that make the work of a final decision more difficult,” he explained.