ROME— On the heels of the arrival of a papal delegate in the alleged Marian apparition site of Medjugorje, the local bishop has reiterated what he’s always affirmed: there is no truth to the claims from a group of purported visionaries that Our Lady of Peace appears today, or that she’s ever done so, in this otherwise unknown town of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Considering everything that this chancery has so far researched and studied, including the first seven days of the alleged apparitions, it can peacefully be affirmed: The Madonna has not appeared in Medjugorje!” Bishop Ratko Peri of Mostar-Duvno wrote on his diocesan website.

“This is the truth that we support, and we believe in the words of Jesus: The truth will set us free,” he said in a message published Feb. 26 in Croatian and Italian.

According to the bishop, the alleged apparitions, which began in the early 1980s, are nothing more than a manipulation by the visionaries and priests who work in the Saint James church that doubles as a pilgrimage welcoming center.

The post from Peric comes two weeks after the Vatican revealed that Pope Francis has sent Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Prague on a mission for “acquiring a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation there, and, above all, of the needs of the faithful who go there on pilgrimage, and on the basis of this, to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future.”

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The city is a pilgrimage hub because of the reported apparitions, with millions arriving each year to climb the Mount Podbrdro, a steep and rock-strewn path that ascends to the actual location where the Virgin allegedly first appeared, and at times is believed to continue to do so.

In 1981, Medjugorje was an unexceptional farming community of some 400 Croatian families in the former Yugoslavia, and most believe it would still be one had it not been for the regular Marian messages.

As the bishop notes in his statement, the “apparitions” have been studied by several commissions: in 1982-1984 and 1984-1986 at a diocesan level, and in 1987-1990 by the Croatian bishops’ conference. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith studied the phenomena from 2010-2014 and again from 2014-2016.

The local and national commissions arrived to the conclusion that there’s nothing supernatural to the apparitions.

Many devotees believe that the original apparitions were authentic, but that the purported visionaries made up the thousands that followed “for other reasons, most of which are not religious.”

Yet according to Peric, the transcript of the cassettes of the first week of the apparitions, including conversations held between the visionaries and church personnel, allows him to “with full conviction and responsibility, expose the reasons why the non-authenticity of the alleged phenomena is evident.”

He also notes that to this point 47,000 “apparitions” have been registered, with three of the visionaries still receiving messages daily.

As proof of the non-veracity of the messages, many of which have an apocalyptic undertone, Peric noted that the woman who “appears” in Medjugore is very different from that of the Gospel and the apparitions from the Virgin Mary that the Church believes to be true.

Peric writes: “[She] laughs in a strange way, when asked certain questions she disappears and then returns, and she obeyed the ‘seers’ and the pastor who made her come down from the hill into the church even against her will. She does not know with certainty how long she will appear, she allows some of those present to step on her veil which is on the ground, to touch her clothes and her body. This is not the Madonna of the Gospels.”

The fact that she allows herself to be touched, Peric writes, gives him “the feeling and conviction that this is something unworthy, inauthentic and outrageous.”

Then there’s the fact that the woman who appears takes different forms, changing the color of her tunic, sometimes holding a child and sometimes not. Another example he gives which he says proves there’s no supernatural event in Medjugorje is the fact that during the first days of the apparitions they asked the woman for a sign to prove she was who she claimed, to which she allegedly turned the hands of the clock of one of the visionaries, Mirjana Dragićević.

This, Peric writes, “is ridiculous.”

Of the six visionaries who still see her, three claim to see her daily, even after 37 years. Two of them receive messages “addressed to the world” once a month. The other three claim to see her once a year.

Never mind the fact that according to the recordings of the first seven days, in June 30, 1981, Mary had allegedly told them that she was going to appear only three more times.

“Then she changed her mind and still ‘appears’,” the bishop wrote.

Peric concludes his post saying that taking into account what the diocesan curia has examined, they can’t but calmly affirm that “the Virgin Mary has not appeared in Medjugorje.”

Many believe that Francis tapped the Polish bishop to evaluate the pastoral situation of Medjugorje to perhaps help the Vatican take a formal position regarding the alleged apparitions, something which hasn’t yet happened, despite the two commissions sent to investigate.

Generally speaking, for the Vatican even to consider issuing a finding on a reported apparition, the revelations have to be over, and in Medjugorje they’re not. However, until the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says something, the Vatican’s preferred course is to defer to the local bishop.

Pope Francis has said little to nothing regarding the alleged apparitions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, he’s warned against taking the Virgin Mary as “a postmistress,” delivering letters daily, often considered as a reference to Medjugorje.

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However, there are other alleged “apparitions,” less well publicized but which Francis might know about, such as those being claimed in Jacarei, Brazil, where a man alleges to see the Virgin, St. Joseph and the Holy Spirit every day at 6:30 in the afternoon.