June 9, 2015 / 10:53 PM / 5 years ago

Pope hints at position on Medjugorje 'apparitions'

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis offered a hint on Tuesday about his position on the alleged apparitions of the Madonna in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje, ahead of a formal Vatican decision expected soon.

Pope Francis is seen before a private audience with Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner at the Vatican June 7, 2015. REUTERS/Angelo Carconi/Pool

In the homily of his daily Mass at the Vatican, the pope appeared to refer to the reported apparitions that have divided the Catholic Church when he criticized members of the faithful who “are always seeking novelty in their Christian identities”.

He criticized those who say: “Where are those visionaries who tell us today about the letter the Madonna will send at 4 p.m.?”

“This is not Christian identity,” Francis said.

Six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary in the once obscure town in 1981. It has since become a major pilgrimage site, giving many a new sense of spirituality and locals a steady source of much-needed revenue.

Some of the alleged visionaries, now adults, say they still experience apparitions every day and that the Madonna has told them secrets.

Many people believe the visions are a hoax.

The pope told reporters returning from a trip to Bosnia last Saturday that the Vatican was close to announcing its formal ruling on the alleged apparitions..

He said he had received a long study by a Vatican commission.

In recent years, the town has experienced a building boom of hotels and shops catering to pilgrims.

The Church has so far been cautious, saying dioceses should not organize official pilgrimages to the town. But many parish groups are among the more than a million visitors a year to the site.

Reporting By Philip Pullella

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