In a hard-hitting rebuff to devotees of the unofficial shrine, the Pope on Saturday scorned the idea of seers’ receiving daily visions of the Virgin Mary.
In his most outspoken and critical remarks on the Catholic shrine in Bosnia, Pope Francis has dismissed seers’ claims to have daily visions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje as highly improbable and as “without value”.
“I prefer the Madonna as mother, our mother, and not a Madonna who is the head of a telegraph office, who every day sends a message at such-and-such an hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus,” the Pope said on Saturday on his way back from the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, where he canonized two early-20th century child visionaries.
“Who thinks that the Madonna says: ‘Come tomorrow at this time, and at such time I will deliver a message to that visionary?’” he added, speaking to reporters on the plane.
Six children claimed to have a vision of the Virgin in the then small village of Medjugorje in southwest Bosnia in 1981. Most controversially, three of them claim they have continued to have daily visions ever since. The three others say they have continued to have visions once a year.
From the start, the visions sparked enormous interest among Catholics, resulting in the unofficial shrine becoming one of the biggest Catholic pilgrimage centres in the world.
The Church, however, has withheld official recognition of the shrine as “worthy of belief” and at least five commissions and investigations have ended inconclusively.
The local Bishop of Mostar is among those who strongly dispute the visions’ authenticity.
The Pope has sounded a sceptical note about Medjugorje before, criticising the idea that the Virgin could act as a form of heavenly “postmistress”.
In February, the Pope appointed a Polish cleric, Henryk Hoser, of Bishop of Warsaw-Prague, to conduct a new investigation.
It is estimated that at least 30 million people have descended on the village since 1981, which has since grown into a bustling town, largely dependent on the pilgrim trade. The town boasts the most overnight annual stays of any town in Bosnia.