If the Holy See is to grant International Shrine status to Medjugorje, then careful scrutiny of liturgical practices is part of the process, and where any practices and customs are deemed not to be in harmony with criteria laid down for Shrine status, then changes are necessary in order to match the standards required.
In reaching its decision on Shrine status, the Holy See will not be focusing on personalities, priests, bishops and visionaries. It will not be deciding on the question of the apparitions. It will be guided by the Canon and Liturgical Law of the Church appertaining to Shrines and their status.
The Code of Canon Law (1983) includes the following Canons relating to Shrines:
Canon 1230 The term shrine means a church or other sacred place which, with the approval of the local Ordinary, is by reason of special devotion frequented by the faithful as pilgrims.
Canon 1231 For shrine to be described as national, the approval of the Episcopal Conference is necessary. For it to be described as international, the approval of the Holy See is required.
Canon 1232 (i) The local Ordinary is competent to approve the statutes of a diocese and shrine; the Episcopal Conference, those of a national shrine, the Holy See alone, those of an international shrine.
Canon 1232 (ii) The statutes of a shrine are to determine principally, the authority of the rector, and the ownership and administration of its property.
Canon 1233 Certain privileges may be granted to shrines when the local circumstances, the number of pilgrims, and especially the good of the faithful would seem to make this advisable.
Canon 124 (i) At shrines the means of salvation are to be more abundantly made available to the faithful: by sedulous proclamation of the word of God, by suitable encouragement of liturgical life, especially by the celebration of the Eucharist and penance, and by the fostering of approved forms of popular devotion.
Canon 124 (ii) In shrines or in places adjacent to them, votive offerings of popular art are to be displayed and carefully safeguarded.
It is interesting to note the reference made to shrine ownership in Canon 1232 (ii). Will we possibly see Medjugorje coming under the ownership of the Holy See if granted International Shrine status?
And should International Shrine status be granted to Medjugorje, perhaps a visit by Pope Benedict XVI will be on the cards?
We know his pontifical mission is one of reconciliation, especially within the family of the Catholic Church. We know that he has twice been invited by the Bosnia & Herzegovina government to visit the country, still suffering from the scars and wounds inflicted during the recent Balkan war. We do not know if he has refused this invitation or is waiting for an opportunity to accept only when harmony within the Catholic Church of B&H is first restored.
I sense that Benedict will not be slow in pursuing his mission of reconciliation on all fronts.