Pope Francis has voiced his skepticism regarding the Marian apparitions that were supposedly witnessed by a group of children in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje in 1981.
The apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje were first reported by six children in 1981, and it supposedly went on for more than three decades, turning the once-sleepy village into a major pilgrimage site.
Three of the original six children are claiming that they are still receiving regular messages from the Virgin Mary, while the other three are saying she appears to them once a year.
When asked about the authenticity of the apparitions on May 13, the Pope expressed his doubts about the phenomenon and pointed to the findings of a commission chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the retired papal vicar of Rome.
"The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a little worse. I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time," Francis told reporters traveling with him from Fatima in Portugal.
"This isn't Jesus's mother. And these alleged apparitions don't have much value. I say this as a personal opinion, but it is clear. Who thinks that Our Lady says, 'Come, because tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?' No!" he continued.
The pontiff, however, acknowledged that some people who go to Medjugorje experience a spiritual renewal and "find God, who change their lives."
A diocesan commission started investigating the alleged apparitions in 1982, and more members were added to the commission beginning in 1984. The phenomenon was also studied by the then-Yugoslavian bishop's conference from 1987 to 1990, according to the Catholic Herald. However, none of the three commissions were able to confirm that a supernatural event was occurring in the town.
Former Pope Benedict set up a commission of theologians and bishops to study the phenomenon. The report has not been published, but it has been submitted to Francis in 2014.
Francis said that the investigations about the first alleged apparitions when the reported visionaries were still children or teenagers are still ongoing, but he clarified that he is highly skeptical about today's claims.
In February, Francis appointed Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople as well as the pilgrims who visit the village each year.
The pope has just canonized two shepherd children who began seeing visions of Mary at Fatima in 1917. The children, who died two years after the visions during Europe's Spanish flu pandemic, have become the youngest non-martyrs to be declared saints by the Catholic church.