HOW THE VATICAN SEES MARIAN APPARITIONS
Father Jesus Castellano Cervera, a Discalced Carmelite from Spain,
is a specialist in Mariology who works as a consultant at the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome.
It is this Vatican agency that investigates reports of the alleged
supernatural apparitions of Mary.
Father Castellano, who is also president of the Pontifical Theological
Faculty Teresianum, the Discalced Carmelites' school in Rome, spoke
to Our Sunday Visitor recently.
Visitor: The Vatican recently said that official
pilgrimages to Medjugorje could not be authorized. How should Catholics
Father Castellano: This came as a response to a question
from a French bishop. While waiting for other official studies in
the case, the CDF simply repeated that which had already been said
in a communique. Nothing more.
It discourages official pilgrimages, which might beheaded by bishops,
until we have a greater clarification about the situation of Medjugorje
and the alleged extraordinary phenomena there.
This response was also due to the local episcopal conference [in
Bosnia-Herzegovina], which has still not pronounced definitively
on these events. One can never encourage people to lay the foundations
of their faith, of their own Christian life, on the events or messages
on which the Church has not pronounced.... The number of alleged
messages and their content are such that these events cannot receive
an immediate approval.
It seems clear to me that one can go to Medjugorje, just as one
goes to any sanctuary, to deepen one's Christian life by reading
the Word of God, by prayer, the sacraments, the Eucharist and also
with a specific intention of Marian devotion, in search of conversion
and personal sanctity.
The Church, however, would like that this search be based on the
true elements of the faith, and not on doubts or on interpretations
that might later be discovered to be false. The Church tries in
this way to put the faith of the people on sure footing. They have
in the Word of God, the magisterium of the Church and the spirituality
of the saints the sure criteria for an authentic Marian devotion,
without having to go to some precise place on which the Church has
still not made an official pronouncement.
Visitor: How do you account for the abundance of these extraordinary
Father Castellano: Some believe that in this era, in which thinking
about God is problematic, there is a kind of "Marian offensive"
taking place to remind everyone of the presence of the mystery of
God, the revelation of Christ and there fore the call for personal
and social conversion.
Others, however, think that the large number of diverse phenomena,
the messages and appearances of Mary should be dealt with prudently,
since this could be a collective phenomenon.
They note that this increase is not something exclusive to the Catholic
faith. It is found, they say, under other aspects, in non-Christian
religions or, for example, in the search for the sacred connected
to spiritism, Satanism and communication with the other world. It
seems that there are more of these kinds of phenomena today than
As for the "Marian offensive," we can't forget that Mary,
on account of her singular presence in heaven, can still accompany
the life of the Church. She can make herself present on earth. But
this is a theological statement. It is not a reason for all the
apparitions. As for those who doubt, they maintain that the Virgin
of the Gospels has another way of being, of speaking, of acting.
They strongly encourage people to return to the simplicity of the
Visitor: What are the criteria for discerning alleged
Father Castellano: The first criterion is cordial
communion with the Church and her magisterium. So, where the Church
has not pronounced on the events, the messages, it is necessary
for the faithful to keep their distance, so as not to be shocked
in any way by those who want, in using these phenomena, to influence
their religious sensibility.
The faithful should remain always in the freedom of the faith, linked
to the word of God and the magisterium of the Church.
In the second place, through these events, messages can arise. Even
if they are simply human in nature, they can coincide with truths
of the faith, of Scripture, of the magisterium.
In this case, it's clear that the faithful can receive these messages-not
on account of their source, because that's doubtful—but by
reason of the truth contained in them. Such is the case of so many
calls to prayer, to conversion, to penance, etc.
It is still necessary, obviously, to reject those messages that
are contrary to the faith. But when they are in accord with the
faith, it's very dangerous to use these messages pretending to add,
clarify or deepen something that is already contained in the deposit
of the faith.
It is equally necessary to refuse all the propositions that have
a Messianic character, according to which the Church would be renewed
or saved only by these messages, which are held exclusively by certain
people or in certain places. And, unfortunately, this kind of situation
is quite frequent.
Visitor: Does the year 2000 not risk bringing with
it some tendency toward millenarianism?
Father Castellano: Yes, but I fear something else: that
all these phenomena be due to economic reasons or other reasons
of a social or pseudo-religious nature, as a way of exercising a
certain influence on people. The end would be to make use of the
masses as a way to make money or bring them under political submission.
Visitor: There has been some talk about a new dogma declaring Mary
Father Castellano: In the United States, there's a movement
called <Vox Populi> that wants to propose the dogma of Mary
as "co-redemptrix, mediatrix and advocate." I have several
things to say about that.
First of all, it's not easy to be precise about what could be the
content of such a new dogma, associating three titles, which in
reality say different things.
Lastly, it seems hardly likely that the Pope will define a new Marian
dogma now that he himself has formally asked in the encyclical <Ut
Unum Sint> ["That All May Be One"] for a way of theological
research with other Christian brethren, and specifically in that
which concerns the role of the Virgin Mary and her place in the
Visitor: Is Mary an obstacle for ecumenical efforts?
Father Castellano: Absolutely not. An honest examination
of the Word of God helps us to understand that which God has revealed
about Mary, for the economy of salvation.
Moreover, all the Christian churches and ecclesial communities—Anglicans,
Reformed, Lutherans—have in their cult remarkable expressions
concerning the Virgin Mary. So, through the Bible and through the
liturgy, one can reach a great ecumenical consensus about the Virgin
Guenois writes from Rome
This article was taken from the September 8, 1996 issue of Our Sunday
Visitor. To subscribe write Our Sunday Visitor, Inc, 200 Noll Plaza,
Huntington, In 46750. Our Sunday Visitor is published weekly at
a subscription rate of $36.00 per year. Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN
Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210