The Italian Catholic website Petrus has published an interview with the former prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, José Cardinal Saraiva Martins. Cardinal Saraiva has joined in the public debate about the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje in Herzegovina by expressing his own skeptical take on the phenomenon. Here’s a translation of the interview. Corrections to the translation are welcome.
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Cardinal Saraiva, also, is a skeptic about the apparitions at Medjugorje: “The last word is up to the Holy See, but this has nothing to do with Fatima: it could be a trick of the devil”
by Gianluca Barile
VATICAN CITY – The alleged apparitions of Medjugorje continue to inspire debate and sustain polemics, within and without the Church. Thus the presence at New Year’s of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, in the little Bosnia-Herzegovina locality, was only the most recent occasion to confirm the tension existing in the place where, since the 1980s, the Madonna is said to have appeared to six “seers”. The Austrian cardinal, in fact, celebrated Mass for the faithful coming from around the world, but did not inform the diocesan bishop, Monsignor Ratko Peric, of his presence. Bishop Peric, is still, like his predecessor, unconvinced of the validity of the phenomena, and has publicly objected in the face of what he, evidently, considers an offense. All that has happened, while Pope Benedict XVI, who has had the opportunity to deal with Medjugorje since he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is said to have decided (but there has been no official confirmation of the matter yet) to entrust to Cardinal Camillo Ruini the coordination of a Commission to definitively ascertain the truth on the authenticity, or lack thereof, of the apparitions in this small country of the former Yugoslavia. But what, then, are the fruits of Medjugorje? Those who believe in the seers speak of miraculous cures, deliverances from evil, conversions; it is beyond doubt that many people pray, receive Holy Communion, and make confessions in the town. But the “skeptics”, those who do not believe in the authenticity of the apparitions, underscore the division among the people of God, between supporters and opponents, to show that this is a case of deception. “Devil”, after all, means: “he who divides”. We spoke about this complicated event with the Portuguese Cardinal José Saraiva Martins (see photo), a close and trusted collaborator first of the Venerable John Paul II and later of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI; rector of the ‘Urbaniana’ University much praised by Paul VI; a theologian, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and a great expert on the Marian apparition, officially recognized by the Church, of Fatima.
Eminence, in your opinion, are the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje to be considered true or false?
“There is no doubt: the apparitions will not be considered authentic, as long as they have not been officially approved by the Church in the person of the Holy Father.”
It is said that the Holy See wants to wait as long as possible before expressing itself.
“To me, this seems the best way of proceeding. The Church does very well to be prudent in the face of events so delicate, which inevitably involve the feelings of millions of the faithful.”
How should a faithful Catholic who wants to go on pilgrimage to Medjugorje proceed?
“He must not take for granted and must not become convinced that the apparitions are authentic; therefore, he must go to the place to pray, but not through his presence to acknowledge the authenticity of phenomena whose approval depends solely and exclusively on the Church, and which in any case neither subtracts nor adds anything to Revelation, which is already complete in Christ.”
And are the conversions a sufficient reason to believe in Medjugorje?
“Absolutely not; whether about conversions, or also about healings, it is not a sufficient argument to evaluate the thesis of the authenticity of the apparitions. Just because people convert in this place, it is not given that the Madonna is appearing. Conversion is also possible in a little country parish.”
Let’s turn to the “seers”. Some people accuse them of having invented everything, and of having economic interests, and some think that in reality, the demon is appearing to them in the guise of the Madonna in order to bring divisions into the Church, even at the price of some conversions, Do you not think so?
“I don’t know if these apparitions were invented or if they have economic interests; for sure, in cases of this sort, the devil’s paw may be here. But God is so great that he knows how to make even the evil one serve for the good of humanity: in this way, it is possible to explain the benefits which many people maintain they received at Medjugorje.”
Again in reference to the “seers”, none of them, in contrast to the overwhelming majority of other seers recognized officially by the Church, has chosen consecrated life. One of them has even married an American model and lives in the USA in a mega-villa with a swimming pool.
“Consecrated life would have been a beautiful testimony on the part of these people, but I see that there is a great difference from Fatima, where the three little shepherds chose to be even more little and humble than even they already were, in order to live in fullness the great gift of the apparitions.”
On this subject: the “seers” assert that the apparitions of Medjugorje are the natural successors of the apparitions of Fatima.
“I don’t believe that they are. I see too many differences. As I said before, the little shepherds of Fatima made themselves humble and chose silence; at Medjugorje, I don’t know if that is going to happen; Sister Lucia entered the cloister, at Medjugorje, no one has chosen consecrated life; the same Sister Lucia put into writing the secrets entrusted to her by the Madonna, while at Medjugorje they continue to keep them for themselves. No, I see nothing in common between Fatima and Medjugorje.”
Eminence, in some of the apparitions, the Virgin is said to have asked the six “seers” of Medjugorje not to obey the prohibitions of their diocesan Bishop, such as, for example, to not speak publicly any more of the alleged “visions”.
“The Madonna could not, in any case at all, be anti-hierarchical and incite disobedience, even if the Bishop of Mostar were wrong. This is another element on which to reflect.”
The Bishop of Mostar recently made known his own displeasure at not being informed of the presence of Cardinal Schönborn at Medjugorje. A “weighty” presence, that some could interpret erroneously as a recognition of the apparitions on the part of the Holy See.
“Far be it from me to think of judging the conduct of Cardinal Schönborn, but I, considering the morbid attention which is concentrated on Medjugorje, and as I always do every time I go out from Rome, would have spoken beforehand with Monsignor Peric: when we Cardinals enter into a Diocese, we are entering into the “house” of the Bishop of the place and we must have the good manners and good sense to announce ourselves.”