Confirming young people from the parish in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno asked them not to behave as if the alleged Marian apparitions reported in the parish were real.
In late September, the bishop posted on his diocesan Web site an Italian translation of his homily from the June confirmation Mass, as well as letters to the Franciscan pastor of the Medjugorje parish and to another priest serving there.
Bishop Peric had told the young people that, during a visit to the Vatican early in the year, the top officials at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican Secretariat of State confirmed they were telling anyone who asked that the Catholic Church has never recognized the alleged apparitions as authentic.
"Brothers and sisters, let us not act as if these 'apparitions' were recognized and worthy of faith," the bishop said in the homily he gave June 6.
"If, as Catholics, devoted sons and daughters of the church, we want to live according to the norms and the teaching of the church, glorifying the Holy Trinity, venerating Blessed Mary ... and professing all the church has established in the creed, we do not turn to certain alternative 'apparitions' or 'messages' to which the church has not attributed any supernatural character," Bishop Peric said.
After the confirmation Mass in Medjugorje, the bishop also made a pastoral visit to the parish and published the follow-up letters he had written to Franciscan Father Petar Vlasic, the pastor, and to Franciscan Father Danko Perutina, one of the parochial vicars.
The bishop praised Father Vlasic for the way he was handling what he called "the Medjugorje phenomenon," which began in 1981 when six young people -- Mirjana Dragicevic, Marija Pavlovic, Vicka Ivankovic, Ivan Dragicevic, Ivanka Ivankovic and Jakov Colo -- said they had seen Mary on a hillside near their town. Several of them say they continue to see Mary and receive messages from her.
In his letter, the bishop reaffirmed that priests from outside the parish cannot give conferences or lead retreats at the parish without written permission from his office and that no one can use parish facilities to promote the alleged apparitions or messages. The bishop specified that the pastor should ensure that Father Perutina stop offering comments on the messages Pavlovic claims to receive on the 25th of each month.
He also asked Father Vlasic to remove from the parish Web site all references to the parish and its church buildings as a shrine or sanctuary and to ban prayers allegedly dictated by Mary or suggested by her alleged messages from liturgies and prayer services inside the church, including public recitations of the rosary.
"We have enough official ecclesiastical intentions (pontifical, episcopal, missionary, etc.) and there is no need to turn arbitrarily to the presumed apparitions and messages and mix them with the public prayers of the church," he said.
In his letter to Father Perutina, who was assigned to the Medjugorje parish after completing a degree in Mariology at a pontifical university in Rome, Bishop Peric said he did not understand why the priest was publishing a commentary on the monthly message Pavlovic claims to receive.
"Gradually we have been able to distance the 'apparitions' and 'messages' from the parish church and church environs," the bishop said, but the fact that a Franciscan from the parish is commenting on the messages creates confusion.
"These are private messages to private people for private use," he said, ordering the Franciscan to cease commenting on or publicizing them in any way.
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