Church in the World
Schönborn says Pope might visit MedjugorjeChrista Pongratz-Lippitt
- 9 January 2010
A cardinal close to Benedict XVI has signalled his support for the controversial Marian shrine of Medjugorje.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna indicated that Pope Benedict himself might one day visit the spot where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to a group of local children. Speaking on his return from a three-day visit to the shrine in Bosnia at the turn of the year, he told journalists in Vienna that the time had come to integrate the “Medjugorje phenomenon” into the Church’s ordinary pastoral work.
Asked in an interview with the Bologna-based daily Il Resto di Carlino what he would tell Pope Benedict XVI about the trip, he said: “The Pope does not need my advice. He knows very well how important the Virgin Mary is for the Catholic Church and he is a fervent devotee. He has visited many Marian shrines and I think one day he might even come here.” He added that Medjugorje could “become something very important and profound”.
The cardinal’s support comes as a surprise to many who have observed the wrangling over the shrine. The local Franciscan community believes the visions are genuine while the local bishop of Mostar, Ratko Peric, has been highly critical.
Until Cardinal Schönborn’s visit, the Vatican itself had appeared sceptical but his declaration of support could mark a turning point. Speaking in Vienna, the cardinal was cautious, saying that he does not want “to pre-empt a world church decision”. He acknowledged that the first impulse for pilgrimage had come from the apparitions but that he was more concerned with the devotion they had inspired. “Medjugorje is concerned with belief in Jesus Christ, with prayer, with the Eucharist, with practised charity, with what is essentially Christian and with strengthening Christian everyday life,” he said.
Cardinal Schönborn indicated that he stood by the guidelines issued in 1991 by the then Yugoslav bishops’ conference, which had twice been confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. These stated that it was not certain whether what was happening in Medjugorje was supernatural and that this question was being left open.
Among the “abundant fruit” from the shrine, the cardinal singled out priestly vocations, conversions and charities including Mary’s Meals, which provides daily meals for schoolchildren in a number of African countries.
Many aspects of Medjugorje conformed to the “grammar of Marian apparitions”, Cardinal Schönborn said, adding: “Perhaps we in the Church should let ourselves be more inspired by this Marian concept.”
Bishop Peric said that by going to Medjugorje, Cardinal Schönborn had only “added to the local Church’s suffering”.