Vatican will reject Medjugorje, says bishop
By Simon Caldwell
6 June 2008
An Italian bishop has predicted that the Vatican will soon declare as false the claims that the Virgin Mary has been appearing to a group of visionaries in Medjugorje, Bosnia, for nearly 30 years.
Emeritus Bishop Andrea Gemma of Isernia-Venafro said that he believed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has been studying the claims since 2006, would not rule in favour of the six seers at the end of a review of the alleged apparitions.
"You'll see that soon the Vatican will intervene with something explosive to unmask once and for all who is behind this deceit," the 77-year-old bishop told Petrus, an online Italian Catholic journal.
Bishop Gemma, the most senior exorcist in the Catholic Church until his retirement two years ago, said he personally believed the phenomenon to be a "scandal" and a "diabolical deceit".
He said: "It is a phenomenon which is absolutely diabolical, around which revolve many underground interests. Holy Mother Church, the only one able to pronounce, through the mouth of the Bishop of Mostar, has already said publicly, and officially, that the Madonna has never appeared at Medjugorje and that this whole sham is the work of the demon."
He said: "In Medjugorje everything happens in function of money: pilgrimages, lodging houses, sale of trinkets.
"So much so that abusing the good faith of those poor souls who go there thinking to encounter the Madonna, the false seers have organised themselves financially, have enriched themselves and live a rather comfortable life.
"Just think, one of them organises directly from America, with a direct economic interest, tens of thousands of pilgrimages every year. These don't seem to me to be disinterested persons.
"Thus, together with those who shore up this noisy deception, they patently have every interest in convincing people that they see and speak with the Virgin Mary."
Since the first alleged apparition on 25 June 1981, the seers say they have seen Mary on about 40,000 occasions during which time she has supposedly imparted tens of thousands of messages and dozens of secrets.
Medjugorje has since become a popular destination for pilgrims, attracting more than five million visitors, including hundreds of thousands each year from the UK and the Irish Republic.
Pilgrims have included Spanish tenor José Carreras, who performed a concert there, and the American actor Jim Cavaziel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's blockbuster The Passion of the Christ.
The Medjugorje phenomenon began when a group of children told a priest they had seen the Virgin on a hillside near their town.
An investigation by Bishop Pavao Zanic of Mostar-Duvno found the claims inconsistent with the faith and they were dismissed as false. But the seers responded by claiming that the Virgin had told them that the bishop was a "wolf" who would perish unless he accepted the apparitions as true.
Three Church commissions failed to find evidence to support of their claims and in 1991 the bishops of the former Yugoslavia declared that "it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations".
Their judgments have sharply divided Catholics and the Vatican, which banned pilgrimages to the site in 1985 and began a review of the claims two years ago.
According to the Sunday Times newspaper some of the seers have grown wealthy as a result of their claims - and so has their town. Some seers today own smart executive houses with immaculate gardens, double garages and security gates, and one has a tennis court. They also own expensive cars and have married - one of them, Ivan Dragicevic, to an American former beauty queen.
The new Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Ratko Peric, is as opposed to the claims as his predecessor and in 2004 he upheld the suspension of Fr Jozo Zovko, the "spiritual adviser" to the visionaries.