Pope Francis has authorised pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which means such trips can now be officially organised by Catholic dioceses and parishes worldwide.
Since claims of apparitions there began in 1981, the Vatican has withheld official recognition of Medjugorje as a pilgrimage destination while its investigations of the apparitions continue.
It has meant that pilgrimages there to date were organised on an individual basis or in a private capacity.
Medjugorje is near Mostar in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, close to the border with Croatia . Since 1981 it has been a destination annually for millions of pilgrims, including tens of thousands from Ireland , due to claims of apparitions of the Virgin Mary there by six local people since they were children.
The announcement of the authorisation by the pope was made in Medjugorje itself by the papal nuncio to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto , and the Vatican’s archbishop, Henryk Hoser . In February 2017, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Hoser as the Vatican’s special envoy to Medjugorje.
Niall Glynn of Marian Pilgrimages in Dublin said about 14,000 people from Ireland visited Medjugorje annually, with about 10,000 of those travelling with his agency.
It has been bringing pilgrims to Medjugorje for over 30 years, on trips usually organised by individuals on a parish basis, with priests accompanying by invitation.
At a Vatican press conference, director of the Holy See press office Alessandro Gisotti emphasised that authorisation by Pope Francis should not be interpreted as “an authentication of known events, which still require examination by the church”.
Care should be taken “to avoid creating confusion or ambiguity from the doctrinal point of view regarding such pilgrimages. This also concerns pastors of every order and level who intend to go to Medjugorje and celebrate or concelebrate there even in a solemn way,” he said.
But, he added, “considering the considerable flow of people who go to Medjugorje and the abundant fruits of grace that have sprung from it, this authorisation is part of the particular pastoral attention that the Holy Father intended to give to that reality, aimed at encouraging and promoting the fruits of good”.
The authorisation by Pope Francis did not “enter into doctrinal questions relating to the authenticity of the account of the six visionaries of what has happened in Medjugorje since June 1981, a phenomenon that has not yet been concluded,” he said.
Of the six visionaries, “three assure us that they still have a daily apparition of the Queen of Peace, always at the same time in the afternoon and wherever they are”, while a fourth visionary “says that she receives an apparition every month, on the 2nd, while for the last two this happens once a year,” he said.