Sometimes it seems as if there are only two kinds of Catholics: those who believe in Medjugorje and those who don’t. The first rush off to Bosnia-Herzegovina at every opportunity. The second seize on all developments as proof that the alleged Marian apparitions are a profit-driven hoax. Few, apparently, are undecided and content to await the Church’s final verdict.

True, when the Church evaluates visions, people expect there to be one of two judgments: constat de supernaturalitate (“It appears to be of supernatural origin”) and non constat de supernaturalitate (“It does not appear to be …”) But last Saturday Pope Francis dropped the biggest hint yet that the Vatican will not be giving a simple yes-or-no answer.

Speaking on the flight back from Portugal, Francis recalled that his predecessor, Benedict XVI, had created a commission on Medjugorje in 2010, led by the esteemed Cardinal Camillo Ruini. The Pope received the “very, very good” report around the end of 2013. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith then expressed “some doubts” about the conclusions and planned to discuss these internally. But the Pope intervened, asking that all criticisms be sent directly to him.

For years, Catholics have speculated on the report’s findings. On Saturday, Francis revealed them: the commission distinguishes between the first apparitions, in June 1981, and later ones, which are said to be ongoing daily occurrences. According to the Pope, the report says that the early visions “must continue being studied”, while expressing “doubts” about the present ones.

Francis seemed to endorse the report’s conclusions enthusiastically, dissenting only on one point: he firmly rejected the current purported visions. “I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of a telegraphic office, who every day sends a message at such an hour,” he said, though he underlined that this was his personal opinion.

In recent years there have been frequent rumours of the Ruini report’s imminent release. But no text ever appears. Just last month doctrinal chief Cardinal Gerhard Müller said it was likely to “take a long time”. The delay suggests a fierce internal battle over the commission’s conclusions.

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