A lay priest who had been the spiritual director of six people who said they had visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje has been excommunicated.
Tomislav Vlasic, who had been a Franciscan priest until his secularization in 2009, was excommunicated on July 15 by a decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. The excommunication was pronounced this week by the diocese of Brescia, Italy, where the laicized priest lives.
The Diocese of Brescia said that since his secularization, Vlasic “has continued to carry out apostolic activities with individuals and groups, through conferences and online; he continued to present himself as a religious and a priest of the Catholic Church, simulating the celebration of the sacraments.
The diocese said Vlasic had been the source of a “serious scandal for Catholics” by disobeying directives from church authorities.
When he was secularized, Vlasic was prohibited from teaching or engaging in apostolic work, and especially from teaching about Medjugorje.
He was in 2009 accused of teaching false doctrines, manipulating consciences, disobeying ecclesiastical authority and committing acts of sexual misconduct.
An excommunicated person is prohibited from receiving the sacramentals until the penalty has been lifted.
The alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje have long been a matter of controversy in the Church, which have been investigated by the Church but not yet authenticated or rejected.
The alleged apparitions began on June 24, 1981, when six children from Medjugorje, a town in present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, began experiencing phenomena which they claimed were apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
According to these six “seers”, the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be accomplished in the future.
From their start, the alleged apparitions have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while many others claim that the visions are not believable.
In January 2014, a Vatican commission concluded a nearly four-year investigation into the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the Medjugorje apparitions and submitted a document to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
When the congregation has analyzed the findings of the commission, it will finalize a document on the alleged apparitions, which will be submitted to the pope, who will make a final decision.
Pope Francis approved Catholic pilgrimages to Medjugorje in May 2019, but he did not deliberate on the authenticity of the apparitions.
These alleged apparitions “still require a review by the Church,” papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement May 12, 2019.
The pope has authorized pilgrimages “in recognition of the ‘abundant fruits of grace’ that have come from Medjugorje and to promote these ‘good fruits.’ This is also part of Pope Francis’ ‘special pastoral attention’ to the place , said Gisotti.
Pope Francis visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2015 but refused to stop in Medjugorje during his trip. On his flight back to Rome, he reported that the process of investigating the apparitions was nearly complete.
On the flight home from a visit to the Marian Shrine of Fatima in May 2017, the pope spoke about the final document of the Medjugorje commission, sometimes called the “Ruini report”, after the head of the commission, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, calling it “very, very good”, and noting a distinction between the first Marian apparitions in Medjugorje and the later ones.
“The first apparitions, which were of children, the report more or less says should continue to be investigated,” he said, but as to “the alleged current apparitions, the report has its doubts.” , said the pope.