Pope Francis’ decision to send a ‘pastoral delegate’ to the controversial Marian shrine at Medjugorje has been welcomed by a leading Irish promoter of the pilgrimage site.
Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warszawa-Praga has been tapped as the Pope’s special envoy to the Bosnia-Herzegovina shrine, tasked with acquiring “a profound understanding of the pastoral situation” in Medjugorje, focusing especially on pilgrims’ needs with the aim of suggesting future pastoral initiatives.
Donal Lowry, acting chairperson of the Medjugorje Council of Ireland, told The Irish Catholic that he hoped Dr Hoser would be successful in his mission to the controversial shrine, where Our Lady was first reported to have appeared in 1981, and where she has allegedly appeared twice a month since then.
“His job is going to examine the current pastoral care, and he will be consulting widely with pilgrims from different nationalities, not least the Italians and Polish, and the Franciscans who are currently running the parish and the Diocese of Mostar,” Mr Lowry said, adding, “my hopes would be that the pastoral requirements or needs of the pilgrims would be taken care of, and that the envoy would be able to report back to the Pope about how the pastoral needs of pilgrims are being attended to.”
Mr Lowry said the envoy’s visit should enable the Vatican to realise how effective pastoral care is already central to Medjugorje, saying “the pastoral care of the pilgrims is already well catered for – that’s part of the attraction”.
Although the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in 2013 that the credibility of the alleged apparitions “should not be taken for granted”, with Pope Francis saying in June 2015 that a decision was imminent following a Vatican investigation of the shrine, no ruling has been forthcoming, so Mr Lowry believes the new appointment represents a vote of confidence in the shrine.
“In 2015 they said they would report back quickly, considering the entire phenomenon of Medjugorje including its authenticity, but this has still has not happened,” said Mr Lowry. “The fact that it has taken several years more than we thought would give one grounds for hope, and the fact that Pope Francis has appointed an envoy is a positive sign too.”