Pope Francis’ decision to allow priests to lead formal parish pilgrimages to Medjugorje, where Mary has allegedly been appearing since 1981, has been enthusiastically welcomed by leading Irish promoters of the pilgrimage site.
Over two years after Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warszawa-Praga was named as the Pope’s special envoy to the Bosnia-Herzegovinan shrine, tasked with evaluating the needs of pilgrims there, the Vatican has announced that the Pope will allow organised official pilgrimages there.
The Vatican has, however, stressed the Pontiff’s decision should not be read as an authentication of the alleged apparitions.
“Of course we welcome it, because it opens up the whole place,” Paul Wallace, chairperson of the Medjugorje Council of Ireland, told The Irish Catholic regarding the May 12 announcement. “And it is a very special place in the history of the Catholic Church in the world, and for the future of the Church.”
He expressed the hope that Irish clergy and bishops will lead official pilgrimages to the shrine, and that the announcement would lead to a rise in pilgrim numbers there.
“I believe this will accelerate visits to Medjugorje from the various dioceses, because this means that bishops can now support pilgrimages to Medjugorje in the same way that they do to Lourdes,” he said. “Now there’s nothing to prevent bishops accompanying official diocesan groups to Medjugorje because it has received the imprimatur of the Pope. I think it’s of massive significance.”
The shrine has already proven especially valuable in how it has boosted sacramental devotion, he said.
“It’s a place of prayer and conversion. There have been big conversions there of people going back to two major sacraments of our Faith, Confession and the Eucharist. People go back to going to Confession and go back to receiving the Eucharist on a regular basis.”
With mercy being a central theme of Pope Francis’ papacy, Mr Wallace said Medjugorje’s role as “the Confessional of the world” is “up his alley, really”.
Mary Field, who co-ordinates pilgrimages to the shrine from Dublin-based Marian Pilgrimages, agreed that the development is enormously important.
“It’s great to hear some kind of recognition from the Pope,” she said. “I know there are certain limitations on that and groups going in keeping within the parish rules, but it’s so positive. They’ve recognised the fruits of Medjugorje and the constant flow of pilgrims there and the amount of people taking Confession while they’re there.”