Archbishop Henryk Hoser was appointed by the pope in February to study the pastoral care given to the town’s residents and visiting pilgrims.
The city is a pilgrimage hub because of the reported apparitions, with millions arriving each year to climb the Mount Podbrdro, a steep and rock-strewn path that ascends to the actual location where the Virgin allegedly first appeared, and at times is believed to continue to do so.
In 1981, Medjugorje was an unexceptional farming community of some 400 Croatian families in the former Yugoslavia, and most believe it would still be one had it not been for the regular Marian messages
The local bishops of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno have been skeptical about the phenomenon since it allegedly began, back in 1981, when Our Lady Queen of Peace first allegedly appeared to a group of seers, and continues to do so.
The current bishop, Ratko Peri, reiterated his belief the apparitions were not genuine in February, after Hoser’s appointment was announced.
The mission entrusted to Hoser was not to determine the veracity of the alleged apparitions, and he has said it has a “supplementary character” to the study made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was led by Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
Ruini’s commission, set up by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 to study the Medjugorje question, concluded its works in 2014. On June 6, 2015, Pope Francis told reporters that “we’ve reached the point of making a decision and then they will say.”
Hoser told the KAI Catholic news agency that “from a pastoral point of view, there is a very positive result.”
“My mission was not to make a judgement on Medjugorje, but to evaluate whether the pastoral ministry was proper and consistent with the doctrine and teaching of the Church; and effective and well organized. I concluded that this is the case,” the archbishop said.
He said the site had the same character as Fatima, Lourdes, Lisieux and Czestochowa.
“The biggest phenomenon is confession,” Hoser told KAI. He mentioned there are over 50 confessionals, and the lines continue, even if it’s raining.
Koser said there were still “canonical-administrative” problems at the site – especially with relations with the local bishop – “but in my opinion, they are solvable.”
The archbishop said the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has provided all the documentation surrounding the alleged apparitions to the Secretariat of State, who are now working on it.
He said “every indication” is that the apparitions will be approved, even as early as this year.
“Specifically, I think it’s possible to recognize the authenticity of the first [seven] apparitions as proposed by the Ruini commission,” Hoser said. “Besides, it is difficult to get another verdict, because it’s difficult to believe that six seers will lie for 36 years. What they say has been consistent. They are not mentally incompetent. A strong argument for the authenticity of the apparitions is their faithfulness to the doctrine of the Church.”
He said if the apparitions are recognized, it will be a “huge stimulus” for Medjugorje.
“In any event, this movement will not stop and should not be stopped, because of the good fruit that grows out of it,” Hoser said. “It is one of the most alive places of prayer and conversion in Europe – and has a healthy spirituality.”