The news that Pope Francis is making Archbishop Henryk Hoser, now retired as the Archbishop of Warsaw in Poland, an Apostolic Visitor or envoy “for an undetermined time” at the apparition site of Medjugorje says a number of things, foremost of which is that Medjugorje is certainly not en route, at the current time, to any sort of Church rejection, but very possibly the opposite. It is a significant step toward acceptance, at the very least as a major international Marian shrine. No doctrinal decision on the supernaturality has been rendered, but the fact is that Archbishop Hoser has loudly voiced his support for the miraculous nature of the site, particularly impressed by its phenomenal charism of Confessions. And despite confusing remarks about it (at least in reference to two visionaries, who seemed to have irked the Holy Father, with their announcements of daily apparitions), the Pope would not name Hoser as overseer of the place if he completely disagreed with Hoser’s very positive viewpoint. As one of the few objective Catholic sources, Vatican Insider, put it, “It is well known that Monsignor Hoser, who was not in charge of overseeing the apparitions as such, but of the pastoral care of the faithful, was personally very much in favor of the recognition of the apparitions.”
By their fruits: Hoser saw immediately, in his initial visitations, that Medjugorje has a profound — and profoundly Catholic — effect on those who visit. Those who have actually visited (the vast majority of critics have not) voice the same. The conversions, as well as the vocations it has spawned, are perhaps without precedent, at least since Fatima (and perhaps since before then). The Pope’s attitude has also been informed by the official commission instituted by Pope Benedict XVI to thoroughly and once and for all study the situation — which it did for several years, concluding that at the very least, Mary authentically appeared at Medjugorje seven times in 1981 — one more appearance than was formally accepted for the seers of Fatima (who, like Medjugorje, had private apparitions afterwards, though not nearly as many as Medjugorje).
While the Vatican has not formally moved on the commission’s report, the Pope has publicly and repeatedly applauded its diligence and perspicacity. The commission, which did not involve Hoser, was composed of theologians, bishops, and psychologists, and headed by the highly respected Cardinal Camillo Ruini of Italy. Is it a slow-motion approval?
Unfortunately, many in the Catholic “media” decline to accent the actual conclusions of the commission, perhaps because they invested heavily in a negative predetermination. Probably it would be best for them to suspend efforts at discrediting it, since this can and has no doubt already discouraged many from going there and partaking of the graces widely experienced, as attested by thousands of priests, hundreds of bishops, and dozens of cardinals who have been there (at a typical Mass, more than fifteen priests, often many more, concelebrate, and there are a number of such liturgies, in the church of St. James, every day). No parish in the world is as active. No place has produced more vocations. The devil? Famed Rome exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth visited and discerned not only that Satan was in no way behind it, but that Medjugorje was one of the best weapons in the world with which to counter the devil.
A final nugget that can be mined from Hoser’s appointment: it effectively, at least for the foreseeable future, takes the authority for Medjugorje out of the hands of the highly antagonistic Mostar diocese, which has fought tooth and nail against Medjugorje since a dispute in the 1980s that pitted the secular priests against the Franciscans who operate in St. James parish and surrounding areas, and have for centuries.
[resources: Medjugorje books and videos]