Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pope Francis, Medjugorje and the New York Times

An article on Medjugorje published by a major news portal this week claims that pilgrims numbers visiting the ‘shrine’ are down since comments made by Pope Francis in June.

Writing in the New York Times Elisabetta Povoledo says:

“Already, since the pope announced in June that a decision was imminent, the numbers of Italians — once the bulk of the pilgrims here — have fallen by half.”

But the stats published by the Medjugorje parish website tell a different story.

Every month, since 1985, the parish has made available statistics about the number of holy communions distributed to pilgrims and Medjugorje residents.

This is the only available and consistent guide to the number of pilgrims visiting Medjugorje.

So, for the record, here are stats published before and since Pope Francis made his comments in June:


HOLY COMMUNIONS DISTRUBUTED AT MEDJUGORJE

2015 2014 2013
JUNE213,000211,000211,900
JULY195,500188,700143,400


This reveals the number of communions distributed for the months of June and July in 2015 is up on the two previous years, a positive indication that pilgrims numbers are also up.

As for any dip for the months of July, this is not unusual. The weather is extremely hot during this month and less pilgrims go there because of this. What also has to be taken into account is that the June figures are boosted by the anniversary celebrations that take place on the 25th of that month.

Poveledo quotes only one source for her claim about the Pope’s statement reducing the number of pilgrims travelling to Medjugorje. Had she checked with the parish ofice, she may have wanted to present a different story, but then it should be asked if the visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. in September was the motive for producing the negative story on pilgrim numbers rather than Medjugorje itself.

The Pope is news. So is Medjugorje. Combine the two and it’s an easy story to sell, factual or not.

The headline to the NYT article reads: “Church Inquiry May Pit Pope Against a Popular Bosnian Shrine”.

The truth is it is not the Church that attempts to pit the Pope against Medjugorje but those responsible for misleading headlines and reports short on facts wanting readers to believe that Medjugorje, a place of prayer and reconciliation, is out of step with the Church and even Pope Francis.