The apparitions in Medjugorje constitute a troubling dilemma to the Holy See. Damage will be severe no matter what the Vatican will end up deciding, says Vittorio Messori whose books about John Paul II and Benedict XVI have contributed to making him Italy’s most translated Catholic writer.
“It’s a gift and a test, a sort of mystery of the Rosary, joyful and sorrowful together”, says Italian author Vittorio Messori about Medjugorje in an interview for the 30th anniversary of the apparitions conducted by Tracce, the international magazine published by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation.
Messori first claimed international fame with his influential 1985 book “The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church”. Nine years later John Paul II’s bestseller “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” came about through the Pope’s written answers to a series of questions presented to him by Messori.
Among the first international writers to visit Medjugorje in the early 1980s, Vittorio Messori sees lots of good coming out of the village. And still then, in the interview in Tracce he talks about the apparitions as a pressing problem to the Holy See in Rome:
“Whatever will be the decision of the Holy See, the damage will be severe. If the International Commission of Inquiry, presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, will end up ruling on the non-authenticity of the apparitions, if it made a statement of deceit, misunderstanding, perhaps of cheating, for pastoral care it would be a disaster”, Vittorio Messori explains his position in Tracce.
Vittorio Messori with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the mid-1980s when Messori interviewed the Cardinal for the influential book "The Ratzinger Report". 25 years later, as Pope Benedict XVI, the German prelate ordered an inquiry on Medjugorje by means of an international commission whose final outcome leaves Messori with some anxieties
“I have met and continue to meet so many people who have changed and for whom Medjugorje is the center of their experience of faith: What would you say to them? It is an illusion, you have been the victim of a hoax? It would be a scandal because of the grandeur of the phenomenon of the last thirty years”.
“But if the ruling turns out otherwise, it would still be a serious problem. Canon Law states that the local ordinary, that the Bishop is responsible for the investigation of the truth or non-truth of these cases. And it is known that in the case of Medjugorje, the two bishops (Pavao Zanic and his successor, Ratko Peric, ed) have expressed themselves strongly and without hesitation against the authenticity of the apparitions. Zanic even called it “the greatest scam in the history of the Church”, Vittorio Messori continues.
“Clearly, if the position of the local Ordinary was overruled by the Holy See, it would open an issue of pastoral authority. Not only from a perspective of Canon Law, but also from a spiritual perspective, the Bishop has the charisma to oversee these events. How not to humiliate him?”.
“Of course if you wanted to take on Medjugorje with the judging criteria of the Gospel, it would emerge largely “promoted”. Jesus says that we must judge the quality of the tree by its fruits. Here, in human terms, the fruits are extremely positive: many conversions, many people who have found a new and more intense Christian life”, Vittorio Messori says.
"The Ratzinger Report" became Vittorio Messori's breakthrough as a writer on the affairs of The Catholic Church
“But you must take everything into account. And as there are great lights, there are huge shadows, too. For example, you can not forget that the first spiritual director of the seers, Fr Tomislav Vlasic, was expelled from the Franciscan Order in 2009 and reduced by the Church to the state of the laity, with accusations of heresy, doubtful doctrine and education, and more. And there are (at least according to some) traces of syncretism in the messages. Everything here is both simple and complicated.”
No matter what, to Vittorio Messori the events in Medjugorje rank among the four biggest in the Church in the decades after The Second Vatican Council (1961-65).
“There are three major events that have really moved Christianity after the Council: the first was the exhibition of the Shroud of Turin, now almost forgotten, in 1978. The second was Saint Padre Pio, and the third the funeral of John Paul II. To these, a fourth must certainly be added: what, exactly, happened and is happening in the diocese of Mostar?”, Vittorio Messori says.
“For me it is a gift and, at the same time, a test. If the apparitions are true, they are certainly an infinite gift, but also a worried question: I try to be a questioning and aware Catholic, and so I am very concerned about the position to be taken by the Church and its consequences.”