By Sergio Centofanti
Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Aldo Cavalli as a new special Apostolic Visitor for the Parish of Medjugorje, for an indefinite period and ad nutum Sanctae Sedis. Until now, Archbisop Cavalli has been Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands and permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He succeeds Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser, who died on 13 August in Warsaw at the age of 78, and who had held this post since 2018.
Nuncio in three continents
Archbishop Cavalli was born in Muggianico di Lecco, Lombardy, in October 1946, to a family of bakers. He was ordained a priest in Bergamo in 1971 and went on to complete his studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, entering the Holy See's diplomatic service in 1979. Appointed apostolic nuncio, he was consecrated bishop in 1996, as titular archbishop of Vibo Valentia. He led the nunciatures of São Tomé and Príncipe (1996), Angola (1997), Chile (2001), Colombia (2007), Libya and Malta (2013) Netherlands (2015) and was also permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2015). On 15 May, he was received in audience by Pope Francis.
The Press Office specified at the time of Hoser's nomination that his role as apostolic visitor is "exclusively pastoral", that of "stable and continuous" accompaniment of the parish community of this small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and of the many faithful who go there on pilgrimage, "whose needs require special attention". It is a pastoral role, therefore, that does not enter into the question of Marian apparitions that some people claim to have had since 24 June 1981.
Official authorisation of pilgrimages
In May 2019, Pope Francis authorised pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which since that time may be officially organised by dioceses and parishes; that is, they need not be undertaken strictly in private form.
Pope to young people of Medjugorje: have the courage to follow Jesus
Last August, Pope Francis sent a message to the young people gathered for the traditional Mladifest, the annual prayer meeting in Medjugorje, urging them to have the courage to follow Jesus: "Have the courage to live your youth by entrusting yourselves to the Lord and setting out with Him. Let yourselves be conquered by his gaze of love that frees us from the seduction of idols, from the false riches that promise life but bring death. Do not be afraid to welcome the Word of Christ and accept his call. Do not be discouraged like the rich young man in the Gospel; instead, fix your gaze on Mary, the great model of the imitation of Christ, and entrust yourselves to Her who, with her 'here I am', responded unreservedly to the Lord's call".
At Medjugorje to meet Christ through Mary
The late Abp Hoser told Vatican News that pilgrims come to Medjugorje from all over the world "to encounter Christ and His Mother". "The Marian way", he said, "is the most certain and the safest" path because it leads to Jesus. In Medjugorje, he noted, the faithful have "adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at their centre; the Holy Mass; a massive frequency of the Sacrament of Penance". It is a true "Christocentric" devotion lived with closeness to the Virgin Mary, venerated with the appellative of "Queen of Peace", he said.