In Defense Of Medjugorje & My Response
By Richard Salbato
First: A Very Well Thought Out Defense of Medjugorje
To whom it may concern,
Yesterday I came across your website while doing an Internet search on Medjugorje. First of all, I want to thank you for your zealous defense of the Church and of good Catholic values. A more thorough search of your site would probably yield a lot of things that I agree with. I hope you will permit me to send this long email and I apologize for its length in advance, but I feel it necessary to send.
My name is ................and I am a Catholic resident of California in the United States with a background in education and the social sciences. I visited Medjugorje twice, in the fall of 1989 and the spring of 1990. It is specifically the page you have on Fr. Jozo Zovko that I want to primarily address. In the article it is claimed that acts of sexual misconduct occurred in 1989, apparently some months before I first visited there (when I saw and was blessed by Fr. Zovko). Here is my account of my personal encounter.
Zovko was speaking at a church in the nearby village of Tijhalina. I was riding with a group in a tour bus, and the trip to Tijhalina from Medjugorje took about 40-45 minutes. When we arrived there we were given postcards of Our Lady that had photographs of the statue that was inside. The statue was the famous, very life-like statue that is most commonly associated with Medjugorje in various publications one may have seen over the years. The photo image on the card was at an angle in which Our Lady was looking directly at the camera, and it was so life-like that to anyone who didn’t know it might take a few moments for them to realize it was only a statue. I sat down in a pew, putting the card aside and totally forgetting about it.
The church building was packed with visitors and there was not much room among the hundreds of us there. Once everyone was seated Fr. Zovko was presented, and he gave a talk that was doubly long because it had to be interpreted (I don’t remember how long the talk was but we were there a good 2-3 hours total, and the talk took up a good amount of this time). I do not remember the specifics of the talk, but I can imagine it reflected the traditional Medjugorje message: prayer, fasting, and conversion.
After the talk we were all invited to come receive a blessing from Fr. Zovko. This was no small task because there were hundreds of us, and many were before me. When it came time for our pew to get up and get in line I noticed on the other side was a young lady with blonde hair. She was to my left. When we finally met Fr. Zovko he laid his right hand on her head and his left on mine and said a few words of prayer in Serbo-Croatian. I had my eyes closed to receive the blessing, and that is when a minor miracle happened.
In my mind’s eye suddenly there appeared the image of Our Lady that was on the postcard. It appeared small at first, but with a blindingly fast rush charged towards me. When the image "hit" my face my whole body felt the Holy Spirit and I fell back but was caught by the person behind me. I lay there for a few minutes, and then got up and for about an hour felt a tremendous sense of peace and comfort and that everything in my life with any problems I was going through was going to be all right.
This event, admittedly very minor by standards of divine intervention, has been repeatedly thought over by myself over the years. Was it my own imagination? Was it a demonic deception? I have a very definitive answer for at least the first question, and the answer is a clear no. The reason is because of the three-dimensional movement of the vision. All my life whenever I have thought of something—anything—it has always been in two-dimensional format. If I picture my family, my friends, or anybody else I see them as images like you would see on a television screen. Even if it is an image of someone walking or running towards me, there is always a clear two-dimensionality to it. Never once before or after this event has an image ever come at me with the speed of a bullet and gently "hit" me with the force that this one did. If it is to be chalked up to mere imagination or some kind of self-delusion, it would have to be an incredibly unique, virtually one-of-a-kind one. Moreover, there was a distinct spiritual feeling that the image came from outside of me, a characteristic that has actually been officially defined by the Church as a requisite for a true divine manifestation. And no matter how hard I try, a re-imagining of the image, even in contemplative or meditative prayer, fails to produce the same sense of spiritual peace that I experienced back in Tijhalina.
Could it have been a mental image produced from my memory of the postcard that was back at the pew? This may be hard to prove to skeptics, but the card had been completely forgotten. The talk had gone on long and I did not spend any time looking at it. It was as far away from my mind as something like Disneyland. But even if it had been on my mind, that would still not explain the very unique characteristics that this image had in comparison with virtually every other image I have experienced in 35 years on this planet.
Could it have been something from Satan? Empirically speaking, without absolute evidence to the contrary, I have to be open to the possibility. But I had prior experiences back at home unrelated to Medjugorje on a couple of occasions in which I encountered the demonic, experiences too long to detail here. It would be too prideful to say I cannot be fooled by demonic elements masquerading as angelic, but I am not without experience encountering both sides of the spiritual world. In the absence of judgment by both the Vatican and the local Church authorities, and with an understanding based on my own research that the judgment of Church authorities in the Bosnia-Hercegovina region is not so uniformly negative as Medjugorje critics would like people to believe, it seems people like me are left largely to make their own judgments on their own experiences. I believe that what I experienced was of the Holy Spirit, who sought at the time to give me a touch of His peace in a time of troubles in my life, and to give me a sign of His love and care for us.
Now it is possible that all of the story of Medjugorje could be false yet God could in His power work something for me personally that was genuine out of it. But I find that highly unlikely. More likely is the idea that if my experience is true, so must be the experiences of others whom God had similarly touched. Now I cannot confirm or deny anything that Fr. Jozo did or did not do the days before or after I went to see him. All I know is on that day the Holy Spirit was with him, and I felt the Spirit from the touch of his hand in a way that no other priest has ever been able to give me.
And what of Medjugorje itself? What of the messages that some claim contradict Church teaching, such as the idea that all religious faiths are equal? Is she saying that it doesn’t matter if her Son is accepted or rejected, or that all religions recognize at least to some degree some spiritual and moral truths and should therefore be respected? I remember one story of Our Lady in Medjugorje claiming that there was a Muslim woman living there who was very close to God. And why would this be impossible? Who has a greater chance of going to Heaven, the Muslim who gives his money to the poor, fasts and prays, lives honestly, and cares for others more than himself, or the Catholic who is stingy, rarely goes to Mass, lies on occasion, and often puts himself before others? Have you forgotten the parable of the Good Samaritan? Who was it that helped the man in need, the religious Jews or the Samaritan? Who was Christ in that parable telling us was closer to God? While it can be agreed that no one goes to Heaven except through Christ, I believe that those who have lived a just life are given the opportunity to receive Him in Heaven in the next. If they reject Him there they are rejected, but I doubt that ever happens if they live just lives, since the next life is merely a reflection of this one.
Critics of Medjugorje have a lot to disprove if they intend to make a good case. They have to prove that no less than six ordinary children, who have now become six ordinary adults, have been so incredibly evil as to build up a story lasting now 25 years without even one of them breaking down and confessing it a hoax (it is easy to find something like six politicians banded together in corruption, but six ordinary people for 25 years, with additional others to back them up, is a different story). They have to prove that every piece of photographic evidence that has turned up images of Mary or some other unusual thing are all hoaxes or tricks of light or the camera. They have to prove that every story like mine, including some I am sure with much more evidence, are the result of people’s imaginations. They have to find explanations for some of the truly bizarre cases of how Medjugorje ended up being protected from attack during the war years.
And here is another thing to digest. I remember reading years ago how Saint Pio, traveling in or near Medjugorje many years before the apparitions started, said that Medjugorje was soon to be blessed with a visit from Our Lady. In fact, if you want to find a true scandal don’t go to Medjugorje but go to Saint Pio’s parish. There you will find a new church recently built that is so modernistic, with one side plastered with what looks like graffiti art, that it is a virtual blasphemy.
I am not a Charismatic Catholic. I’m not even a liberal Catholic. I am not a full Traditionalist, but I do definitely lean more in the Traditionalist direction. I attend Mass at a tradition-minded church that, while it celebrates the Novus Ordo, does put in the Latin language at some points and keeps a few pre-1962 traditions in the celebration. I am an admirer of people like Fr. Gruner of the Fatima Crusaders, even though I disagree with them on Medjugorje, and am a strong supporter of Fatima and the Fatima message, which I see as different in purpose than Medjugorje, but not opposed (all approved apparitions of Our Lady have had some difference in purpose—the purpose of Lourdes largely was for cures while that of Fatima was to warn about Russia). So it is not easy to put the "Charismatic/anti-Fatima" label on me, as I am more like one of you than one of "them". Furthermore, I can hardly be called a "Medjugorje fanatic" or any kind of devotee. While devotion to Medjugorje did occupy my spiritual walk through the early 1990’s, it began to disappear over 10 years ago. My spiritual walk these days is inhabited by work in the pro-life movement and devotion to Eucharistic Adoration, a devotion no Catholic can argue with.
While acknowledging the final say on this matter rests with the Church, I attest that what I have said in the foregoing encounter with Fr. Zovko occurred exactly in the way written, with details given to show the truth of the matter. I gain no advantage in speaking this truth, and have been under no instruction from anyone or anything in spreading this information. In the absence of a final say of the Church on the matter of Medjugorje, having only my physical senses, senses of logic and reason, memory of the experience, and prior demonic and angelic spiritual experience, I have to come to the conclusion that what I experienced was of the Holy Spirit.
There is one further point I wish to make if you do not mind. It is about the fact that some people disagree with Medjugorje because they view the messages as contrary to Church teaching, and therefore in error. I believe this to be caused by misinterpretation of the messages. In fact, it is discouraging to see anti-Medjugorje sites claim that Our Lady had said that all religions are equal, and then to see on a pro-Medjugorje site an early Medjugorje message where Our Lady says that the religions are not equal but that the people of them are in God's eyes.
Is it really that the messages are in error, or are the interpretations (which could be language interpretations) wrong? What if I was to prove to you that one of the Fatima messages was in error? This is actually true, not theologically but historically with one of the prophecies. I am a social science teacher and that includes history, and history is a subject I have studied for many years. In a Fatima message Our Lady told the children that another, worse war would begin during the reign of Pope Pius XI. But Pius XI died in early 1939, and it was several months into the reign of Pius XII that World War II occurred.
When I discovered this some time ago I was greatly distressed. It came about after looking at a list of the popes and discovering two in 1939. Thinking of Fatima, I researched when the first one died. Sure enough, I found the historical error.
To back this point I offer the prophecy itself, taken from http://www.loveandmercy.org/loveandmercy/fatima.htm:
"The war ... [World War I was still raging] ... is going to end. But if people do not stop offending God, another and worse one will begin in the reign of Pius XI... [the Pope from 1922 to 1939] ... When you shall see a night illuminated by an unknown light” [on January 25-26, 1938 from 9 PM to 2 AM there appeared over the Northern Hemisphere a very unusual light that scared many people. The New York Times devoted almost an entire page to the event. Scientists attributed it to an exceptional aurora borealis], "know that this is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world for its many crimes by means of war, hunger and persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.” [Within two months of the sign, in March of 1938, Hitler invaded his first country, Austria].
This error has never to my knowledge been properly addressed by the Church. The common claim by Catholics, who don't even directly address the error in their publications, is that the political events leading up to World War II were occurring during the reign of Pius XI, and therefore the prophecy came true. Hogwash! As a historian I know that never in history has there been a war, from the ancient world to today, whose date of beginning has been ascribed to the political events that led up to it! They all have been counted as when the bloodshed began. And here the website author rewrites history by ascribing the beginning of World War II to the invasion of Austria instead of Poland. But Hitler himself was Austrian, and this "invasion" was greeted with open arms by Austrians as Hitler rode into Vienna, standing in his car before thousands of Nazi flag-waving admirers. This piece of history is being rewritten to suit a defense of Fatima, and it should not be. Truth is truth, no matter where it lies.
Another theory that could potentially solve the problem is if one takes into account Japanese aggression against China as a part of World War II. It was not considered a part of World War II until the 1940's, but Japan's war began with China in 1937, still under the reign of Piux XI. But this theory runs into the problem that it just doesn't seem likely that Our Lady was referring to anything outside of Europe when she said a war worse than World War I was coming. The focus of Fatima was primarily on Russia and related European affairs, even if those did in turn affect the whole world. The only time that Our Lady has said or done anything directly related to Asia is when she has actually appeared there. It doesn't seem likely that Our Lady would countenance history by applying a date to a future event that does not coincide with the universally recognized commencement date for that event.
A third idea is that perhaps history was somehow changed and the war was delayed, but how, why, and for what purpose?
I say all this as a strong defender of Fatima. I do not for one second doubt the authenticity of the apparitions that occurred there. The above is an unsatisfied mystery for me, and were I a disbeliever it could provide me with a strong piece of evidence to refute Fatima. So why do I still accept Fatima? Because I have to be open to the idea that a piece of the puzzle is and will forever remain missing. I was not there and I cannot say I know what was on Our Lady's mind. If I drop my belief in Fatima I am faced with a whole host of other problems, such as how to explain 70,000 people seeing an apparition. I have to deal with how three little Portuguese children could suddenly come to know about the dangers of Russia, a country that they probably could not point to on a map. Do I say because the apparition appeared to be in error, and Mary would not make such an error, that all this is of the Devil? Hardly, even though I might remind you that some Church local Fatima authorities at the time in 1917 did.
Very similar is your problem. You have perceived errors in the messages but you are faced with quite a number of logistical problems that I referenced in my previous email. Is it possible that you, like me with the Fatima error above, are presented with a problem of having a message that is contrary to what we understand and believe, and yet the message may be true anyway because of our limited understanding and experience? Can we be humble enough as human beings to understand that there may be causes and explanations we have not thought of?
Doubtless you will say to me that in regards to the Fatima error that I am being too "historically dogmatic", that it was the general period of 1939 that Our Lady was referring to. Is it not also possible then that those who oppose the Medjugorje message because of a few things they find in error might be too theologically dogmatic?
By the way, some time ago I emailed the Fatima Crusaders about the error in the Fatima prophecy. I thought surely there must be some fully satisfying, rational explanation for it. The result was silence. Either they simply were too busy to bother answering or they had no explanation. Or, reflecting the point I am trying to make, there was some other reason I do not know about as to why they did not answer.
Yours in Christ,
Second: Richard Salbato's Response To This Letter
Thank you for the very well thought out email. It gives me a great opportunity to say something for the last time, because in truth I am getting very sick of Medjugorje. Being flattering to me regarding my site does not help your cause. You say that you came across my site yesterday and see that I defend the faith, but how can you know that in a few hours. Someone who is now a good internet friend said that he decided to read all of www.unitypublishing.com and it took 8 hours a day for three months. Even if you just read the section on Medjugorje it would take more than one day. So I assume you just read the section on Father Zovko's sex problems.
When you went to Medjugorje in 1989 and 1990, you attended Mass by a priest who had already had his faculties removed by the local bishop. This means that he had no Celebrate and therefore he had no right to say a public Mass, or perform any sacraments. In fact, any confession by him would be the same as no confession. This law goes all the way back to the Council of Nicea, the first council of the Church after the Apostles. The Council of Nicea states that even a visiting priest in the geographical area of a bishop must get approval from that bishop to perform sacraments.
This situation with Father Zovko and many other Franciscan priests in the area occurred long before the apparitions of Medjugorje started. Father Zovko used to hold Charismatic sessions that he called "touch therapy" which started with the Protestant Charismatic Movement - a feeling of the holy spirit, but really a sensual feeling of touching each other. This appeals to the lower nature of man, the feelings and the emotion but bypasses the upper nature of man, the reasoning and logic of the brain. Of course, the results of these touchy feely sessions was that Father Zovko and the other priests began having affairs with some of the woman. In time two babies were born by these priests and the mother's were nuns. Father Tomislav Vlasic now has place where men and women live together in the name of God. These are the priests that the gospa calls saints. See below the bishop's letter to Father Zovko.
Excuse me for being blunt but if for no other reason but this, I would call Medjugorje false. During the time that Father Vlasic was having illicit sex with a nun, our "so-called" Gospa called him a saint and supported him against the bishop. This was not after he had stopped his affair and repented but at the time he was still having sex.
What about being "Slain in the Spirit" is there any place in the entire history of the bible or the Church or the Saints of the Church that you can point to that defends someone being "Slain in the Spirit" and falling down. Well! Yes, there is one place in the Bible, it is John 18:6. When the soldiers of the high priest came to arrest Jesus and asked if He was the person they were looking for to arrest, He said, "I am He. (and the soldiers) went backwards, and fell to the ground." I would not want God to do the same to me. I remember Catherine Koolman (the faith healer). She used to do the same to almost everyone, and it was real, but she also preached against the Catholic Church and in time was exposed as having never cured anyone.
Although you claim it to be, your argument in favor of Medjugorje is not based on your upper nature - reasoning and logic, but on feelings. Reasoning and logic looks first to the facts. You have not looked for the facts or you would have first gone to Bishop Peric's web site, which has an English section. But you have gone only to pro-Medjugorje sites to read their revisions of the messages of the gospa. In the first year of the apparitions the bishop interviewed all the seers and tape recorded their conversations. These tap recordings are still in his files. Over and over the Bishop asked them about the message that "All Religions are God's Religions, even Moslems". The Bishop asked if she had not really said that all people are God's people even Moslems instead of all Religion. The seers said over and over, "No! She said all Religions, and not all people."
Now, what are religions but a statement of faith and a commitment to cling to that statement. All Religions except the Catholic Faith are heresies. Yes! All religions have some truths in them, but all religions except the Catholic Faith were started by someone who held to some very serious heresy that split the Church, even Jews. The Jews were the chosen people until Christ died on the cross, but with their rejection of this truth, that He was the Christ, they became in heresy. Truth is that 35% of the Jews accepted Christ within the first 70 years of the Church. You bring up Samaritans but what you do you not know that Samaritans are Jews and wrongly rejected by the Pharisees. In fact the Samaritans held more to the Torah than the Pharisees did. If you want to know what other religions say read this: http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/
I contend that God does not make one single mistake, and if you can find one single mistake in the messages of Fatima, I would not believe in it. Your argument about the start of the war is a humanistic argument, like historians might write about the start of communism in Russia. From Heaven's point of view, communism started in Russia on October 13, 1917, when Leon Trotsky picked up Lennon and entered Russia with an army of communists from New York. Of course, they defeated the King of Russia years later, but this was the start. The same with World War II, it started with Hitler coming into power, and if the alleys would have stopped him then, millions of lives would have been saved. We are in war now, with Moslems, but it will take time for the West to realize it. Heaven knows we are in war now.
I am just as offended by people repeating lies about Saint Padre Pio regarding Medjugorje as I am about the lies said of him regarding Garabandal. Do not repeat what you do not know for sure. What do you know for sure? Almost nothing! I say that even of myself. If you want to know what you know for sure, read what I wrote about this in:
HOW DO WE KNOW SOMETHING? http://www.unitypublishing.com/godskingdom/DoesGodExist.htm
You dogmatically say that Padre Pio said, but based on what? He has been dead for many years and cannot defend himself against these lies. You base it on indirect knowledge that you got from someone, who got it from someone else, who got if from someone who made it up.
This reminds me of the Arians, who claimed that Saint Anthony of the Desert supported them at hearing at a Council not expecting that Saint Anthony would ever come out of his cave. But he showed up at that Council and refuted them. I wish Padre Pio would come back and refute all these lies, and I wish Pope John Paul II would come back and refute all the lies placed in his mouth. However, I will show below that these, at least, have been refuted.
As for Medjugorje lasting 25 years, the Arian Heresy lasted 250 years, and The Little Pebble of Australia lasted 30 years before he was jailed for having sex with children. Necedah, Wisconsin had more miracles, and even those who left after living with the false seer said that they experienced the miracles and felt good and holy all the time, but facts are facts and do not depend on feelings, and they now preach against it.
Now, if you want to know the truth about Fatima, you certainly do not want to go to the Fatima Crusaders and the suspended-priest, Father Gruner, for here in Fatima and at the Convent in Coimbra he is laughable and considered sick.
The truth is that the Church has taken a stand on Medjugorje, Rome is not investigating Medjugorje, nothing new needs to be said or investigated by the Church, it is over. Below is the most resent statements about Medjugorje by the only person who has the right to make this judgment and not people's feelings, yours or mine.
I would like to make one qualifying statement here, and that is that on like some people I have known and now fight against, I stay with the facts and do not condemn people for ignorance or faith in things unless the truth is pointed out to them backed by facts and they still refuse to believe.
Official Church statements 2005:
Letter To Father Zovko
Diocesan Bishop of Mostar, Msgr. Ratko Perić, to Fra Jozo Zovko OFM on 26 June 2004, Prot. N. 843/2004, containing the Bishop’s decision to prohibit Fr. Zovko from exercising all priestly functions in the Diocese. .
You go one step further by stating in your two letters that “it undoubtedly follows that by hearing the confessions of the faithful in the Diocese or throughout the world, I am not violating any law of the Church”, thereby denying everything that the previous Bishop Msgr. Žanić decreed, which I then reaffirmed and publicized on many occasions, as has been mentioned.
Besides this, you mistakenly conclude that I am not ready to offer you any pastoral duty on the territory of these dioceses and therefore you consider that it would be “ineffective” to have a “meeting and conversation”. What I sought from you was to fulfil some concrete conditions beforehand, which you did not do, as is mentioned above.
Hence, your interpretation of “Medjugorje” is not in accord with the decision and the request of the Congregation.
Furthermore, in accordance with the norms of the Code of Canon Law, particularly can. 1336 § 1 n. 2, and can. 1338 § 2, to defend this local Church from your abuse, whilst not entering into the religious discipline of your congregation, and having in mind your constant disobedience in this local Church and your lack of respect towards the decisions of the Diocesan Bishops, I hereby declare that within the territory of the Dioceses of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan, you have no faculties to exercise any priestly functions, especially no faculty to hear confessions.
As the Diocesan Bishop, I invite you once again, as I have done many times in the past, to regularize your priestly standing if you wish to live and work in this local Church.
I shall gladly show you here in Mostar, all available documentation that is found in this Chancery Office regarding your illicit pastoral activities as well as your moral life, upon receiving your written request.
You are hereby notified that this decision shall be published in the next issue of Vrhbosna, the Official Newsletter of the dioceses of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Recommending you in prayer to the Lord, I remain, respectfully yours,
Msgr. Ratko Perić
bishop of Mostar-Duvno, BiH
SECRETS, MESSAGES, VOCATIONS, PRAYERS, CONFESSIONS, COMMISSIONS
Maynooth/Dublin, 17 February 2004
Medjugorje is a parish in the diocese of Mostar-Duvno in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with a population of about 4,000 persons, which has been entrusted to the pastoral care of the Franciscan fathers OFM. From 24 June 1981 onwards, some events have been occurring which many people, some Franciscans included, have attributed to so-called apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has seemingly presented herself as the “Queen of Peace”.
I. How many so-called visionaries and visions are there?
1. Vicka Ivanković, born on 3 September 1964, in the parish of Medjugorje, has been receiving “apparitions” from 24 June 1981. Every day. There have been pauses, but there have also been days with up to ten “visions”. Vicka married Mario Mijatović in 2002 and now has one child and lives in the neighbouring parish of Gradina.
How many “visions” has she had till now? – According to a simple calculation of the days, it would be 8,270 including yesterday’s. These “apparitions” were with the other “seers” during the first years, yet for many years now she has been having them alone, separately, in the evening, regardless of her location. As if they were programmed.
2. Marija Pavlović, born on 1 April 1965 in the parish of Medjugorje, has been a “seer” from the second day of the “apparitions”, 25 June 1981, every day up till now. In 1993 she married an Italian, Paolo Lunetti. She has three children and is now living in Monza, near Milano, Italy.
How many “visions” has she had till now? Around 8,270 including yesterday’s, together with the other “privileged” few or separately. The “apparitions” are not tied so much to the locality of Medjugorje as to persons: wherever these persons travel in the world, the “apparitions” travel with them.
3. Ivan Dragićević, born in Mostar on 25 May 1965, has had daily “apparitions” from 24 June 1981 to this day. He married the former Miss Massachusetts, Loreen Murphy in 1994 and has four children. He lives with his family part of the time in Boston and the rest of the time in Medjugorje.
How many “visions” has Ivan had till now? About 8,270 with last night’s, together with the other “seers” or separately.
4. Mirjana Dragićević, born in Sarajevo on 18 March 1965, has had “visions” from 24 June 1981. Her last regular encounter was on Christmas day 1982. From that day onward, she has received an “apparition” once a year - on her birthday - 18 March. Along with this, from 2 August 1987, on each 2nd day of the month, she hears the Madonna’s voice and sometimes sees her. That would make it 17 years times 12 months, she either hears or sees the Madonna. Mirjana married Marko Soldo in 1989 and has two children. She is now living in Medjugorje.
How many “visions” has Mirjana had till now? All totalled: about 770.
5. Ivanka Ivanković was born in the parish of Medjugorje on 21 June 1966. The phenomenon appeared to her from 25 June 1981 to 7 May 1985. She now has a “vision” once a year, on 25 June 1981, on the anniversary of the “apparitions”. She married Rajko Elez and has three children. She is currently living in Medjugorje.
How many “visions” has Ivanka had till now? About 1,450 all together.
6. Jakov Čolo was born on 6 March 1971 in the parish of Medjugorje. From 25 June 1981 he received daily “apparitions” till 12 September 1998. From this date onward, he has only had one a year - on Christmas day. In 1993, he married Anna-Lisa Barozzi from Italy. They have three children and now live in Medjugorje.
How many “visions” has he had till now? Together with the others and separately, around 6,290.
The Madonna has been presumably “appearing” on a regular basis and at one and the same time, even if one of the “seers” is in America, another “visionary” in Herzegovina, a third in Italy or a fourth in Maynooth. Adding all this up together makes for 33,320 “apparitions” up till now. Please don’t ask me about the accuracy of these statistics, because a thousand “apparitions” more or less, have no role to play here! The hierarchical Church at various levels, diocesan, national and Holy See, hasn’t accepted a single apparition as authentic.
Let us now compare Medjugorje to two recognized Marian shrines:
At Lourdes in 1858, the Madonna appeared as the “Immaculate Conception”, 18 times to Bernadette. The Church accepted these apparitions and four years afterwards declared them authentic, in 1862.
At Fatima in 1917, the Madonna appeared as “Our Lady of the Rosary” 6 times to the ten year old shepherd children Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. 13 years later, in 1930, the Church accepted these apparitions as authentic.
Three of the Medjugorje “seers”, who say they have daily “apparitions”, live most of the time outside of Medjugorje, while the remaining three that live in Medjugorje supposedly have only one “apparition” a year.
II. HOW MANY SECRETS HAS THE ALLEGED MADONNA
GIVEN TO THE SO-CALLED SEERS?
Those who have daily “visions” have received nine secrets, while those who have “apparitions” once a year, have ten secrets. It is not clear if nine or ten secrets have been given and are known to each of the “seers”, or if each of the “seers” has his/her own number of secrets which differ from the rest.
If we compare this to the authentic apparitions, then one can see that at Lourdes there were no secrets for the world, while at Fatima one secret was divided into three parts. Yet at Medjugorje till now there have been 9 or 10, or even 57 possible secrets, which have been divided by three “seers” who have received 10 and another three who have received 9. To this day not a single secret has been revealed.
In the first years there was apocalyptic talk about a “great sign” to happen, yet to this day this “great sign” has not occurred, and the expectation of a sign has diminished.
III. HOW MANY PRESUMED MESSAGES HAVE THERE BEEN?
All the “messages” of Medjugorje can be summed up into five basic ones, as is usually the case, yet these “five” are actually the following “fourteen”: peace, conversion, prayer, fasting, vigilance, penance, adoration, witnessing, faith, call to holiness, Eucharist, Word of God, monthly confession, rosary…
Many authors greatly differ which five should be taken from these fourteen. Italian, French and Croat authors… all have their own interpretations. It’s important to mention here that besides the daily “messages”, there are also special monthly “messages” on the 25th of each month, which are given to Marija in Italy, which she then sends to the parish rectory of Medjugorje for verification and are then sent out into the world.
All these “messages” of the various interpreters of Medjugorje, are heard every Sunday in churches. For us, the novelty of Medjugorje would be that the “Queen of Peace” on the 25th of each month sends out a special communication with the message: “Thank you children, for responding to my invitation”. The Madonna thanks the “seers” for having the time, for wanting to, and deigning themselves to meet and talk with her. According to these words the “Madonna” is amazed and grateful to the “seers” who have responded to her invitation! This is somewhat like parents thanking their children for being born, or physicians thanking the infirm for seeking their health back! (Ogledalo Pravde=Mirror of Justice, Mostar, 2001, pp. 249-250).
IV. HOW MANY VOCATIONS HAVE RESULTED FROM THE “APPARITIONS”?
Of the six “seers” of Medjugorje, none of them have achieved a religious vocation. Three of them mentioned that they were going to enter and two even went on to follow this inexplicable voice, yet with time everything vanished.
Ivan Dragićević, became a candidate for the Franciscan Province of Herzegovina. In 1981 he went to the minor seminary of Visoko where he continued with the “apparitions”. Due to the fact that he failed to pass his repeat examination, it was decided that he could possibly do better if he went to the minor seminary of Dubrovnik. While in Dubrovnik, he managed to pass his repeat examination and enter into the second year, but he didn’t show an aptitude for school as he did for the “apparitions”, and hence he returned home in January 1983.
Having said farewell to the seminary, Ivan continued not only with daily “apparitions” to this day, but at a certain point began imposing the harsh demands of this phenomenon of his upon the local bishop Pavao Žanić, that he accept the “messages” of Medjugorje. In 1994 he married an American woman in Boston and thereby irrevocably transformed his religious vocation into a marriage (O. P., p. 34).
Vicka Ivanković from the outset demonstrated enthusiasm for the religious life. In September 1981 she confided this to an Italian weekly: I would like to enter a convent and become a nun.
Even though she was an “enrolled nun”, Vicka never entered a convent. Twenty years later, she found a young man from the neighbouring parish of Gradina and the two of them were married in Medjugorje. Over two thousand invited and curious guests attended their wedding party. During the wedding festivities, the “seer” went to her new house a few kilometres away from the noise of the wedding party with husband alongside her and had a “vision”. Everything according to routine and regular programming. Afterwards they went back to the wedding party.
The “visionary” in the beginning announced Urbi et Orbi - “to Rome and the world” - that she is an “enrolled nun”, but twenty years later she travelled to Rome to buy her wedding dress. The “visionary” explained this to a journalist: the Madonna gave each of us our freedom to choose. Everyone can respond to the vocation they desire. Regardless of the fact that I’m now married, I shall continue to spread the messages of the Madonna, because Christian faith can be witnessed in marriage as well.
Regarding her religious vocation - she’s free, yet as regards “spreading the messages of the Madonna” - she’s obligated?!
Marija Pavlović. In response to an Italian journalist’s question Why haven’t any one of you decided to become a priest or nun? Marija in 2001 gave the following explanation: For many years I thought that I would become a nun. I began visiting a convent and my desire to go there was very strong. But the sister superior once told me: “Marija, if you want to enter, you are very welcome; but if the bishop decides that you must not speak about Medjugorje, you will have to obey”. At that moment I began thinking that my vocation might possibly be to witness to that which I saw and heard, and that I will be able to find the road to holiness outside the convent (O. P., p. 28).
Marija therefore came to terms with the demands of religious life in which she couldn’t obey the bishop if he were to decide that she shouldn’t spread the “apparitions” which the Church even to this day has not declared authentic. And hence, she decided to find the road to holiness “outside the convent”.
No God’s work. Yet things weren’t exactly that way. Marija did eventually attempt entering a mixed spiritual community, where she remained for several months. She then left the community with a written explanation that provoked not little public astonishment. First of all, it was written that the Madonna, through Marija, had said on 8 March 1987 that that community was God’s plan, God’s work. Later on, when she left the community with her boyfriend Paolo Lunetti, who helped her leave and write the letter, she denied everything in her own handwriting on 11 July 1988: before God, the Madonna, and the Church of Jesus Christ, she categorically denied that there were ever any “messages” through her for this community and for this work of God, in which she had lived for several months (O. P., pp. 30-31).
At that time, in 1983, Fr. Tomislav Vlašić OFM, who was the spiritual director of the “seers” of Medjugorje, wrote to the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar: The children have decided to enter the religious life, but they are waiting for the right moment which only they know (O. P., p. 55). Today the whole world knows that these were only simple stories or children’s fairytales. Not all the “privileged” children of Medjugorje entered the religious life, while those that tried - quickly left. Only the mature won’t allow themselves to be misled by irrational “messages” and children’s stories! Is this some kind of “sign”, “secret” or “message” of Medjugorje?
Though I believe that it’s improper, I will nevertheless compare these “vocations” with the two best-known modern Marian shrines.
At Lourdes the 14 year old Bernardette once said: I must become a nun, but I don’t know in which Order. The Holy Virgin told me this and I’m waiting. She received her religious robes in July 1866. Though infirm, she held on to her death on 16 April 1879. Pope Pius XI canonized her on the Immaculate Conception in 1933.
Secondly, at Fatima, the seer Lucia became a nun in 1921 and a discalced carmelite in 1948. Little Francisco and Jacinta died as children and were both beatified by Pope John Paul II at Fatima in the year 2000.
There’s something strange in all of this: three “seers” who tried to “enrol” themselves into religious life, who later on dismissed themselves and were happily married, still have regular daily “apparitions”. The other “seers” though, who didn’t enter the religious life, receive an “apparition” only once a year. Can this be considered a reward for those who didn’t enter the religious life?
A grace of God. Keeping in mind the fact that many young boys from Herzegovina who entered the seminary and who later became priests and the numerous young girls who became nuns (from the parish of Medjugorje alone there are over 30 living priests and sisters) who from what I know, never had any apparition, message or encounter with any supernatural phenomenon; it’s indeed odd that not one of the “seers” in these 23 years, who have had between 770 and 8,270 “apparitions” realized a religious vocation. And this same phenomenon, in a threatening way, demands that bishop Žanić recognize the “messages” of Medjugorje as authentic without questioning them. Every true religious vocation is a grace of God and a serious matter. The manner in which religious vocations were handled by the “visionaries” has been shown to be irresponsible. Is this possibly a question of games without borders, regarding numbers, “visions”, “messages”, “revelations”, “secrets” and “signs”?
V. WHAT DO PRAYERS AND CONFESSIONS PROVE?
1. Prayer as a context. Prayer is an important factor in the “apparitions” of Medjugorje. It’s in the context of praying the Our Father that in most cases the “apparitions” begin for the “seers”. They even cease praying so that the “apparition” can be followed for a few minutes.
2. A Message not to pray. On 16 September 1981: “She also told them that they need not pray for themselves, because she has rewarded them in the best fashion. They should pray for others instead” (O. P., p. 111).
- The Biblical Madonna will never say that people need not pray for themselves and that the “reward of apparitions” replaces personal prayer. This is false teaching. Even Jesus prayed firstly for himself, then for his apostles and then for the entire world “that all may be one” (Jn 17).
3. A Message to pray for bishop Žanić. Concerning a prayer-group of Medjugorje “the Madonna has asked that they fast on bread and water twice a week. Three months later we are fasting on bread and water three times a week. The group is offering the majority of their prayers for him (bishop Žanić). We often offer our adoration, rosaries and visits to the place of the apparitions where we pray long into the night for him. God shall look upon our prayers and fasting” (O. P., p. 126). So wrote Fr. Tomislav Vlašić OFM on 8 January 1984.
The phenomenon established a prayer-group around Fr. Tomislav Vlašić OFM, who in a letter in 1984 presented himself to the Pope as the one “who through Divine providence guides the seers of Medjugorje” (O. P., p. 56). This group has been praying and fasting just so that the bishop would give in to their hallucinations. They also built a convent in Medjugorje with close to 100 beds and didn’t even think of asking the bishop for permission to do this. Then the “mystifier” Fr. Vlašić was recently removed from his guiding role in the prayer-group, after having mixed the spiritual with spiritism in Medjugorje during a retreat!
4. He could have but didn’t want to? In an interview in 1993, during the height of the war, the “seer” Jakov said: “The Madonna has asked me today, as every day during these last twelve years, that I pray for peace in the former Yugoslavia. The Virgin convinced me that I could stop the war with my prayers…” (O. P., p. 37).
- If this weren’t so naďve, a normal believer would ask himself: if the “seer” was capable of stopping the war in ex-Yugoslavia, then why didn’t he go pray and bring to an end? Yet during the war over 2 million people were displaced, over 200,000 were killed, thousands of religious sites and tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, and then the unjust Dayton accord was imposed upon us!
5. Can prayer be considered proof? There are people within the Church who say: If the people are praying to God, let them then go to Medjugorje, let them make their pilgrimages and pray. It’s better for them to pray than not to pray, better to venerate “the Madonna of Medjugorje” than not to venerate any Madonna at all!
For 2000 years now the Church has been teaching and suggesting to the faithful that they pray, fast, do penance, go to confession and convert. She doesn’t prohibit anyone from praying to God where they please. But she doesn’t allow “pilgrimages to the place of the apparitions” to be endorsed in churches from the altar, that have not been accepted as authentic. She does this so that the truth may be separated from falsehood, and true doctrine separated from false doctrine.
As if it were really necessary for someone to travel thousands of kilometres from Corea or Ireland to Medjugorje just to pray a rosary or to make a confession. Yet Jesus teaches us to go into your room and pray to your Father in heaven! (Mt 6:6).
Do those who say that they have travelled to Medjugorje over thirty times, really prove by saying this that they have “converted”? This could be a real sign that they haven’t converted (O. P., pp. 229-230). A truly converted person would never boast about this but would rather demonstrate it by his life!
If the faithful of the parish of St. James’s in Medjugorje sincerely confess their sins and pray, regardless of all the nursery rhyme “apparitions”, they thereby certainly receive the same Divine graces that other believers receive who pray and validly receive the sacraments in Catholic churches throughout the world. The local Church has always held this belief (O. P., pp. 268-269).
VI. HOW MANY CHURCH COMMISSIONS AND INTERVENTIONS
HAVE THERE BEEN?
Towards the end of June 1981, the sensational news of the “Madonna’s apparitions” to children in Medjugorje started to spread in the mass-media. In mid-August of the same year, after having spoken with the so-called seers in Medjugorje on 21 July, in his first Statement, the bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Msgr. Pavao Žanić, emphasized that the most difficult question is whether or not this is a “subjective experience of the children or something supernatural?” (O. P., p. 192). Even though he had informed the Pope and the Holy See on many occasions regarding the diverse opinions regarding Medjugorje, the bishop felt it was necessary to establish a diocesan commission in order to study the events.
A – The Chancery of the Diocese of Mostar
The First Church Commission (1982 - 1984)
Bishop Žanić established the first Commission on 11 January 1982, which worked until 1984 (O. P., p. 43). It was comprised of four theologians, 2 diocesan priests and 2 religious.
The bishop’s new discoveries. The Commission hadn’t even gathered yet when on 14 January 1982 something happened that marked the bishop’s position once and for all. That day, three of the “seers” came to Mostar with the “Madonna’s” message that the bishop, regarding the famous Herzegovinian Affair acted too hastily, because he sought the removal of two Franciscan associate pastors who were causing problems in Mostar. The bishop, who during his lifetime venerated the Madonna with numerous devotions and pilgrimages, upon hearing that the phenomenon in Medjugorje was accusing him of irreligious disorder in reference to the parishes; that it didn’t recognize in him a faithful son of the Church and the Madonna, the Mother of the Church, to whom a year earlier in September 1980, the Cathedral church of Mostar was consecrated; that the phenomenon was defending disobedient religious friars who were obstructing the normal functioning of the Cathedral, began to look with suspicion upon the “messages” and the “apparitions” in Medjugorje. Despite this, the Commission began its work.
Great sign. The Commission held three conversations with the “seers”. In 1982, the third meeting brought some results. On the bishop’s request, the Commission asked the “seers” to write down in double copy, what kind of “great sign” shall appear and when it would happen. They were then to put their responses into two envelopes and then seal them. One of the envelopes was to kept by them while the other at the Chancery office. When the “great sign” occurs, then the envelopes would be opened and the truth verified. However, five of the “seers” refused to answer the questions, because the Madonna did not permit them to. Yet the seminarian Ivan did respond in writing to the questions. He even said that the Madonna did not forbid him from responding to the questions. His response was more than inappropriate. A good number of lies and tricks are tied to this “great sign” which to this day hasn’t occurred (O. P., pp. 102-108).
The Response to the Holy See. In November 1983, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked the bishop if the Commission has come to some conclusions. Bishop Žanić wrote a study on Medjugorje and the Herzegovinian Affair, which he sent to Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. In the conclusion the bishop puts forth the question of the “apparitions”:
Are they from God? - The “Madonna” of Medjugorje has brought more disorder and disarray here than there was earlier! Hence he doesn’t see how he can accept this as coming from God.
Is it from the devil? - He has difficulty accepting this hypothesis as well, even though the thought has crossed his mind.
Is it all a hoax? - From the outset one can notice that the children have sometimes lied. At times it’s clear that what they say is what they have heard from the Franciscans, especially regarding the “Herzegovinian Affair”. The bishop goes on to say that he awaits the judgement of the Commission and the cessation of the “apparitions”. The bishop waited 17 years and he saw the Madonna in heaven on 11 January 2000 (the day of his death) before seeing the “visions” of Medjugorje cease.
The Second extended Commission (1984 - 1986)
In 1984 bishop Žanić decided to extend the first Commission. He wrote to all the theological faculties in Yugoslavia and sought the permission of certain religious superiors to allow their experts to join the Commission.
There were 15 members in the Second Commission: 12 priests and 3 medical experts. They held seven meetings in all. The first was in Mostar in March 1984, and the seventh in the same city in May 1986, during which the Commission completed its work. The members of the Commission voted on the following conclusion: Non constat de supernaturalitate (11 voted ‘for’, 2 ‘against’, 1 accepted ‘in nucleo’, and 1 abstained). The Commission prepared a draft “Declaration” in which were listed the “unacceptable assertions” and “bizarre declarations”, attributed to the curious phenomenon. The Commission also stated that further investigations were not necessary nor the delaying of the official judgement of the Church. The bishop duly informed the Bishops’ Conference and the Holy See, and he then informed the public during his homily in Medjugorje in 1987 (O. P., pp. 47-50).
The well-known negative position of the bishop which he summarized in 28 points in 1990, is significant since it speaks of the inauthentic nature of these supernatural apparitions (O. P., p. 196).
In August of 1993, bishop Žanić handed over the administration of the diocese to his successor who continued his work at a swift pace.
B - The Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia
The Bishops of Yugoslavia intervened twice, in 1984 and 1985, and asked both priests and faithful to await the judgement of the Church regarding the events of Medjugorje, which shall be given after intense investigations. Hence, no pilgrimages are to be organized as if “the Church has already given a positive judgement” (O. P., p. 193).
The Third Commission (1987 - 1990)
In January 1987, upon the suggestion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, president of the Bishops’ Conference, and bishop Žanić made a joint communiqué in which they announced the formation of the third Commission and in which they asked the faithful not to organize pilgrimages motivated “from above” which would ascribe to the events of Medjugorje (O. P., p. 196). The Commission was comprised of 11 priests (6 religious, 5 diocesan), 4 physicians and psychologists and one religious sister as secretary.
The Commission held 23 meetings in Zagreb at the Secretariat of the Bishops’ Conference. The first meeting was in April 1987 and the twenty-third in September 1990.
A characteristic of the third Commission was to work on the findings and results of the previous Commissions and ex novo. Everything was done under oath and no statements for the public were made. The results of their four-year long efforts were presented to the members of the Bishops’ Conference in Zagreb in 1990. Discussions at the Bishops’ Conference on the “apparitions” were held on four occasions: 25 April, 9 October and 27 November 1990, and the Declaration on Medjugorje was accepted through a vote held in Zadar on 10 April 1991: 19 bishops voted for the Declaration while 1 abstained.
The Declaration states: “During the regular session of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia, held in Zadar from April 9-11, 1991, the following was accepted:
From the very beginning, the Bishops have been following the events of Medjugorje through the local Bishop, the Bishops’ Commission and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia for Medjugorje.
On the base of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.
Yet the gathering of the faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, inspired by reasons of faith or other motives, require the pastoral attention and care, first of all, of the local Bishop and then of the other bishops with him, so that in Medjugorje and all connected with it, a healthy devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the teachings of the Church may be promoted. The Bishops will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim. At the same time, they will continue to study all the events of Medjugorje through the commissions.
Zadar, 10 April 1991
The Bishops of Yugoslavia”
The Aggression. In the years that followed, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina found themselves victims of a terrible aggression. With the formation of new states, new Bishops’ Conferences were established. Despite the Declaration of the Bishops’ Conference: Non constat de supernaturalitate, that is, that it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje, the adherents of this phenomenon consistently claim that the “Madonna is appearing”.
If our Bishops’ Conference, despite numerous curious visitors to Medjugorje, notwithstanding massive publicity accompanied by charismatic inspirations, had the courage to declare on the base of serious, solid and expert investigations, that there is no proof in Medjugorje of any supernatural apparitions, this then is a sign that the Church even in the 20th century is still “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3, 15) - (O. P., p. 151).
C - The Interventions of the Holy See
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has intervened four times through two of its Secretaries, while the Prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger, also made an important intervention.
In 1985, Msgr. Alberto Bovone notified the Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy not to organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje.
In 1995, Msgr. Tarcisio Bertone wrote to the bishop of Langres, Msgr. Leon Taverdet, and repeated the same to Msgr. Lucien Daloz of Besançon, France, who were interested in knowing the position of the Holy See on Medjugorje.
Finally, in 1998, the same Secretary wrote to Msgr. Gilbert Aubry, bishop of Reunion. All these letters emphasized that pilgrimages, whether private or public, are not allowed if they presuppose the authenticity of the apparitions, since this would be in contradiction to the declaration of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia.
Ratzinger’s frei erfunden. In 1998, when a certain German gathered various statements which were supposedly made by the Holy Father and the Cardinal Prefect, and forwarded them to the Vatican in the form of a memorandum, the Cardinal responded in writing on 22 July 1998: “The only thing I can say regarding statements on Medjugorje ascribed to the Holy Father and myself is that they are complete invention” - frei erfunden - (O. P., p. 283).
Conclusion. Not only are these statements ascribed to the Holy Father and Cardinal Ratzinger “complete invention”, but the numerous messages of Medjugorje, ascribed to the Madonna are also complete invention. If our faith is considered obsequium rationabile - rational service to God, true and healthy spiritual worship, as it rightfully is (Rm 12:1), then it cannot be any person’s private fantasy or illusion (O. P., p. 84). The Church is competent to say this. In her name, 30 chosen priests and physicians, working together in three Commissions for 10 years, in more than 30 meetings, dutifully and expertly investigated the events of Medjugorje and brought forth their results of study. And not one, but twenty bishops responsibly declared that there exists no proof that the events in Medjugorje concern supernatural apparitions or revelations. The believer who respects both principles: ratio et fides, adheres to this criterion, convinced that the Church does not deceive.
Regarding Medjugorje, there’s a real danger that the Madonna and the Church could be privatized. People could start contriving a Madonna and a Church according to their own taste, perception and deception: by not submitting their reason as believers to the official Magisterium of the Church, but rather forcing the Church to follow and recognize their fantasy.
Naďve believers could easily then leave the living fountains of grace in their own parishes to mosey on down to Medjugorje or follow the “seers” around the world, who by the way, thanks to the “apparitions” have good homes and a comfortable existence - at least that’s what the mass-media say.
There are at least 6 or 7 religious or quasi-religious communities, just initiating or already established, some of diocesan right, some not, which have arbitrarily been installed in Medjugorje without the permission of the local Diocesan authorities. These communities are more a sign of disobedience than a real charisma of obedience in this Church!
There exists a problem in this diocese of Mostar-Duvno which in recent years has practically precipitated into a schism. At least eight Franciscan priests, who have rebelled against the decision of the Holy See to transfer a certain number of parishes administered by the Franciscans to the diocesan priests, have been expelled from the Franciscan Order and suspended ‘a divinis’. In spite of this, they have occupied at least five parishes through force, and continue to exercise sacred functions. They invalidly assist at marriages, hear confessions without canonical faculties and invalidly confer the sacrament of confirmation. Three years ago they even invited a deacon of the Old-Catholic Church who falsely presented himself as a bishop, to preside at a confirmation and he “confirmed” about 800 young people in three parishes.
Two of these expelled priests sought after Episcopal consecration from Swiss bishop of the Old-Catholic Church, Hans Gerny, yet without any result.
So many invalid sacraments, so much disobedience, violence, sacrilege, disorder, irregularities, and not a single “message” from tens of thousands of “apparitions” has been directed towards eliminating these scandals. A very strange thing indeed!
The Church, from the local to supreme level, from the beginning to this very day, has clearly and constantly repeated: Non constat de supernaturalitate! No to pilgrimages that would ascribe a supernatural nature to the apparitions, no shrine of the Madonna, no authentic messages nor revelations, no true visions!
This is the state of things today. How will things be tomorrow? We’ll leave them in God’s hands and under Our Lady’s protection!
Bishop Ratko Perić
Medjugorje, 24 April 2005
Dear confirmation candidates,
After having completed your catechetical preparations, as young Catholic believers who are not yet adults, but who are fully aware of the words of Holy Scripture “Depart from evil, and do good” (Ps 34:14; 37:27), you will receive today the Sacrament of Confirmation, that is, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. All of us gathered here in the Lord for this special and holy occasion, not just your parents and sponsors who have accompanied you today, want you to be faithful sons and daughters, as well as healthy moral persons.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Four of the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding knowledge and counsel, regard our human capacity to believe and understand, our perception of life - both transitory and eternal, while the remaining three gifts: fortitude, piety and fear of God concern our moral behavior and integrity in this life which leads us to eternal life. The first four hence involve our mind, while the other three our heart!
Would you dear candidate, like to be wise and understanding? Yes I would, you respond! Then cooperate with God’s gifts of wisdom and understanding which you will receive today.
Would you like to have living knowledge which leads to eternal life? Yes I would! Then cooperate with the gift of the Spirit of knowledge through prayer and faith!
Would you like to give and receive the Spirit’s gift of good counsel? Yes I would! Cooperate through prayer and faith with this gift and you will have it!
Would you young lady like to be a weak girl, a weak woman and mother? No I would not! Well then, cooperate with the Spirit’s gift of fortitude in order to become a strong girl, woman and mother!
Would you young lady like to be an atheist? How could I ever want this? Pray then and cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that you may receive the gift of healthy piety.
Would you young lady like to lose all sense of modesty and fear of God? No I would not! Then cooperate with the gift of fear of God, which comes from God and leads you to God. All that has been said to the young ladies is valid also for all the young men present as well.
All of us are born into this world through our parents, created and equipped by God with wonderful resources of body and spirit, especially of mind and heart. These skills and possibilities develop during our earthly lives along with the love of our parents and their direction, by the care of the Church, as well as through our education and formation. They especially develop, dear young people, through your free and rational cooperation with the inner voice of your conscience and the outer voice of God’s and the Church’s commandments: which teach us out of fear of God to avoid all human passions and impulses, and to wisely and piously hold to God’s gifts of grace.
The new Pope. After the death of Pope John Paul II on 2 April, who was the 264th Vicar of Christ on earth and whose pontificate lasted 27 years, the same Holy Spirit that you will receive today in the sevenfold gift of the Sacrament of Confirmation was present and active on 19 April in the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope, who took the name Benedict XVI.
Today, at St. Peter’s Basilica, the new Pope is presiding at Holy Mass for the solemn inauguration of his pontificate. We too, in our parishes throughout Herzegovina unite ourselves today in prayer and at Holy Mass to the immense joy and praise of thanksgiving for this great gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and the world. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini – Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
The general view is that St. Peter’s Chair has been taken up by a cardinal who possesses extraordinary gifts from God, who through 24 years progressed alongside the dearly departed Pope John Paul II as his first collaborator, and humanly speaking, truly matured for this new service which God has entrusted to him in the Church.
In following the works that he has written as a prominent theologian and professor, which have been translated into Croatian as well, especially those works which he published with the authorization of the Pope while serving at one of the highest offices of responsibility at the Holy See as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we have always considered the new Pope as a responsible, serious and open herald of the eternal Truth. 28 years ago he took as his Episcopal motto the phrase: “Co-workers in the truth” ( 3 Jn 8) and has kept this same motto for his new service as the first Pastor of the Church.
Responsible. I recall that sometime between 1983 and 1984, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and successor of our Cardinal Franjo Šeper, gave an interview to an Italian daily newspaper after having held a lecture during a theological meeting in Italy. The journalist’s question was somewhat like this: ‘Your Eminence, after listening to your lecture one has the impression that you have taken a very conservative position. While you were a theologian and your works were translated into many languages, your ideas seemed more open as well as your conclusions, yet today it appears you are slowing down and not moving forward at all.’ The Cardinal responded calmly and humbly by saying that he was grateful to the Holy Father for his nomination as Bishop, because earlier being just a theologian he had more opportunities for theological study and debate, as well as for running the risk of going off course while studying. When Pope John Paul II nominated him as the Archbishop of Munich, he could no longer behave as a bold theologian and researcher, not knowing where he would end up. He expressed his humble gratitude to the Pope for giving him a position of responsibility in the Church through the episcopate. And yet we also know that he never avoided responsible theological thinking nor writings during his time as professor, neither as the Archbishop of Munich nor as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, during which time he had the opportunity to meet with many theologians of the Catholic Church who were not always in line with the Church and the Truth. This man of God has always proven to be a responsible co-worker of the Truth and hence a co-worker of the joy of the faithful and co-worker of the Kingdom of God. If the Papal nomination as Archbishop made him feel responsible in the Church earlier, how much more responsibility will he feel today after being chosen by God to be Pope - the greatest responsibility in our midst, which places him above us all! Let us praise and thank the Lord for his gift. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Serious. During these last few days, many newspapers have been writing sensational, loud and hence irresponsible articles regarding the position on the events of Medjugorje taken by the new Pope while he was still a Cardinal. Some say that it was positive, others say it was negative, while still others claim that he secretly visited Medjugorje hiding his identity from people so as not to be recognized, and so on. In a letter to a lay person on 22 July 1998, after many statements attributed to the late Pope and to the Pope’s collaborator, he responsibly and seriously replied in brief: Regarding the 8 page memorandum which supposedly contains the words of the Pope and of the Cardinal, he expressed his gratitude. And he added the following: “All I can say regarding the statements on Medjugorje attributed to the Holy Father and to myself are that they are complete fabrication”. /Ich kann dazu nur sagen, dass die dem Heiligen Vater und mir zugeschriebenenen Äusserungen über Medjugorje frei erfunden sind/ (Ogledalo Pravde, Mostar 2001, p. 283). As if the Cardinal didn’t have the opportunity to follow that which the late Bishop of Mostar Pavao Žanić along with his two Commissions as well as all the Bishops of the Bishops’ Conference with their investigative Commission had studied and proclaimed regarding these events. The Cardinal’s first collaborator at the time Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now the Cardinal of Genoa, also wrote in 1998 that the 1991 Declaration of Zadar of the Bishops’ Conference regarding Medjugorje which states: “On the basis of investigations made thus far, it cannot be affirmed that these events involve supernatural apparitions or revelations” is still valid and obligatory for all. Hence official pilgrimages are not permitted, nor “private” ones, if such pilgrims were to attribute any truthfulness or authenticity to these so-called apparitions, thereby shunning the official position of the Church (Ogledalo Pravde, pp.276-278).
Open. Any person who is a responsible and serious co-worker of the Truth is not afraid of taking a stand in the Catholic church. Pope Benedict XVI in his recent talks has clearly stated that he wishes to continue along the path set by John Paul II regarding openness and the inner renewal of the Church, along with ecumenical efforts for the promotion of Christian unity and dialogue with the world.
Both Joseph and his older brother Georg, the two brothers of the Ratzinger family became priests. Their sister Maria, followed her brother the Cardinal all her life, up to her death in the Vatican in the early 1990’s. Humanly speaking, one could say that their family line has ended. Yet can one really say this? Joseph became the Holy Father, the spiritual father of over a billion Catholics worldwide. Is there a more fertile fatherhood in this world?
We as believers pray to the Holy Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God Holy Spirit – that the Lord may always sustain our Holy Father in his responsible, serious and open Petrine service in the Church. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Lord, Shepherd and guide of all the faithful, look with mercy upon your servant Benedict XVI, whom you have chosen as Pastor of your Church. Grant him we pray, that through his words and example he may edify those who he leads, so that with the flock entrusted to him, he may obtain eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE TRUTH BOTH FREES US AND BINDS US
There are a good number of the faithful throughout the world who strive for the purity of the faith, respecting the Church's magisterium and bearing witness to the spuriousness of the "visions" at Medjugorje. One of them is Michael Davies of London. When I assumed responsibility for the diocese of Mostar, I came to know Mr Davies, who is Welsh, and his wife Maria, who is Croatian. They were friends of my predecessor, the late Bishop Pavao Zanic, who died on 11th November 2000. I must thank Michael for the efforts that he has made to follow and criticize the unbelievable claims made about the events at Medjugorje, a theme that he develops in this book, Medjugorje after 21 Years.
Why do I as the local bishop not accept the "visions" at Medjugorje as worthy of credence? I begin from the premise that I would truly like to believe that the "visions" are authentic, and that Our Lady truly appeared there. Indeed, not only there. Yet the truth both frees us and binds us! As I followed the events at Medjugorje in recent years, I was driven to the following conclusions.
Firstly, the story dating back to 1981 of the
so-called "visions" of the six "seers" of Medjugorje, half of
whom still see visions on a daily basis, while the other half only see them
once a year, has long since spread beyond the borders of the parish and the
diocese both by rumour and by reason of the travels through the world of the
"seers" and their supporters.
There can be no doubt that the "visions" have made converts in the ranks of commercial travelers, who had a "vision" of very tangible benefits for themselves, whence they spread to the ranks of religious enthusiasts, who travel thousands of miles to make their confessions and say the rosary at Medjugorje! The "visions" have not however been recognized by the Church, so no-one is any way bound to believe in them.
Secondly, some Franciscans in Herzegovina as well as
a number of priests throughout the world promote the concept of Medjugorje as
the site of "supernatural visions and messages". A number of the
faithful moreover persist in visiting Medjugorje, not only so as to bear
witness to how "Our Lady appears" despite the Church's cautious
stance, but also to bring pressure to bear on the Church authorities, not
excluding even the very highest, to recognise the events at Medjugorje as
visions worthy of credence.
I have to ask how the Christ's Church could on the basis of such pilgrimages to a single parish, motivated by a range of emotions from mere curiosity to fanatical zeal, proclaim such "visions" to be supernatural, when three ecclesiastical commissions of inquiry into the events at Medjugorje lawfully constituted on the direction of Bishop Zanic, the local bishop, and the Conference of Bishops [of the former Yugoslavia] in 1991 confirmed that they could find no proof that there had been "supernatural visions and messages"? How could the Church, which is the pillar and support of the truth, recognize such more than questionable "visions" under pressure from such petitioners?
Thirdly, it is most puzzling why such priests and
faithful as really thirst for visions and messages do not drink their fill from
the sources of visions that have been recognized as authentic, for example,
Lourdes and Fatima, though there are others besides, but instead turn to the
unrecognized "visions" at Medjugorje, where "Our Lady"
supposedly "appears" sine fine. The Church recognized some of the
seers of Lourdes and Fatima as saints or as blessed after their deaths, but the
champions of Medjugorje seem to be in competition with one another to see who
can go the most times to a place where the Church has not merely declined to
recognize the authenticity of the "visions" but has even forbidden
private or public pilgrimages if they are based on the authenticity of the
If indeed some bishops from other parts of the world come and stay at Medjugorje (some twenty kilometers from Mostar) for several days, yet do not even feel the need to make themselves known to their local counterpart, whether during or after the war [between Croatia and Serbia] then such servants of the Church show neither Episcopal collegiality nor solicitude for the universal Church (1 Cor. 11, 28) but rather a strange curiosity to see what "visions" there might be to be seen on the stony hillsides of Herzegovina. Yet we bishops and priests constantly pray to God in the Canon of the Mass to confirm his Church in faith and charity on its way through this world.
Fourthly, the mere fact that many people, though they are believers, hold something to be true does not make it true, perhaps even the contrary. Christ the Lord stood alone, but for his Mother and one disciple, at Gabbatha and on Golgotha. He was the only Truth opposed by the nameless masses, the superior and inferior clergy, and the national and international establishment in Jerusalem.
When Christ proclaimed that He was the truth, Pilate gave
their jesting answer "What is truth?" (John, 18, 38), which is to
say, that for them personal advantage, political position and a temporary
triumph were more important than any truth, human or divine!
Though the Truth died on that Good Friday, it rose again on the third day. Truth is not therefore necessarily in the greater number. So all the valid confessions, communions and rosary prayers at Medjugorje, though they confer grace as efficaciously as in other parishes, no more and no less, do not of themselves in any sense demonstrate the truth of the "supernatural apparitions" in that parish.
Fifthly, the "seers" who see visions on a daily basis and the endless apparitions themselves (33,333 to date, nor it there any risk of my being mistaken, for there is no end to the numbers or the "visions") are more in the nature of a religious show and a spectacle for the world than a true and faithful witness to the peace and unity of the Faith and love for the Church. Who can fail to see that these endlessly multiplying numbers should not be taken seriously? Shall we change our Catholic orthodoxy for fantastical superstition?
Sixthly, the many "messages" pronounced in the early years by the mouths of the so-called "seers", especially those that praised the disobedience of some Franciscan priests in Mostar, and berated the local bishop who conscientiously abided by Canon law, that belittled the highest decisions of the Church regarding the administration of the diocese, which as such were obviously inspired by worldly considerations and not by heaven, brought far greater disorder and conflict than true peace and order to the Church. This is a very particular chapter in the history of the diocese of Mostar and Duvno.
Seventhly, our Croatian Franciscans, who accept Medjugorje as a place of "supernatural apparitions" have never, alas, distanced themselves publicly from this bad and untruthful message to the Church in Herzegovina.
Some Franciscan fathers have performed many invalid confirmations. One of them, who falsely purported to confirm with a mitre on his head in the parish of Capljina in 1997, claimed to come from Medjugorje and openly supported schism in that community by his sacrilegious and invalid confirmations. Now that he has been expelled from the Franciscan order, he has forcibly occupied the parish of Grude, where, two days ago, on the feast of Whitsun, 2004, according to a photograph which appeared in the daily papers, he once again carried out invalid confirmations, but this time without a mitre.
If the "seers" with their "visions" tolerate such schismatic scandals, without in any way admonishing those involved, and likewise those who support the "seers" and act as their public relations men, without ever distancing themselves from or condemning such local schisms, then in the name of the Mother of God, the Queen of Peace, yea, in the name of the Holy Trinity, one God, might that not be a sign that those involved in propagandizing in support of the supposed credibility of such "visions" do not have the Divine will at the forefront of their thoughts?
A group of Franciscans (nine living, one deceased) who have been expelled from their Order for their notorious disobedience to the decisions both of their own superiors and of the Holy See with regard to matters of ecclesiastical administration in the diocese, have forcibly taken over a number of parishes in which for some years now they have been administering invalid confessions, and officiating at invalid marriages, some even carrying out invalid confirmations, and generally carrying on in defiance of Canon Law, all in the immediate or general neighborhood of Medjugorje, as the place where tens of thousands of "visions" have occurred.
It is indeed astonishing that the "apparition", which has passed on messages to thousands of the curious, even including American President Ronald Reagan, and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, and its supporters, have not yet expressed concern, whether about the blasphemy perpetrated against Christ's sacraments, or the damage to the unity of the Church in the diocese of Mostar-Duvno. It is certainly remarkable that people come from all over the world to make their confessions in Medjugorje, but the expelled Franciscans and a few others who are in a state of disobedience to the Holy See, their Order and the local Church authorities, give thousands of invalid absolutions in the very neighborhood of Medjugorje.
When this group of Franciscans, who even now wear Franciscan habits even though they have been canonically expelled from the Order of Friars Minor in 2001, blasphemously and sacrilegiously sinned against the sacraments of the Eucharist and of confirmation by summoning an Old Catholic deacon (!) a schismatic not in communion with the Catholic Church, to celebrate an invalid Eucharist and to "confirm" hundreds of candidates in three parishes, Grude, Capljina and Ploce-Tepcici, that deacon falsely held himself out to be a bishop, saying "both the friars and I believe in the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje".
Alas, we heard not a word and saw not a sign of disapproval of such pronouncements. On the contrary, some still defend the visitation of the uncatholic deacon who proclaimed himself to be a bishop. One of his colleagues, who lived in the same community for some time, tells how this deacon celebrated "mass" in honor of the BVM in a church in Switzerland on the feast of the Assumption, all dressed in black! A requiem for the Mother of God on the day of her Assumption into heaven! What folly! A man who cannot celebrate mass at all, since he is not a priest, so insults Our Lady, who reached a higher state of holiness than any other human being, yet he claims to "believe in the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje", and comes along to "confirm" Catholic children in Herzegovina. Yet that same colleague of his has given written testimony that this "bishop" does not recognize the sacrament of confirmation administered according to the Catholic rite, so he "confirmed" his friend a second time!
The scandal of disobedience, concerning which we have not
heard a word of criticism from the "oasis of peace" at Medjugorje,
has grown to such a level that some of the above-mentioned former Franciscans
asked an Old Catholic bishop in Switzerland to consecrate one of them as
bishop! So that the schism in the diocese should deepen?
The Holy Father John Paul II, who has never mentioned
Medjugorje in any of his allocutions, has frequently summoned the superiors of
the OFM to resolve the Herzegovinian question.
So, for example, on 16th June 2003, the Pope once again asked the members of the General Chapter of the Franciscan Order to carry into effect the decision of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, going back to 1975:
"Your missionary activity will prove fruitful in so far as it is fulfilled in harmony with the lawful pastors to whom Our Lord has entrusted responsibility for his flock. Bearing that well in mind, I once again warmly remind you of the efforts that have been made to overcome the difficulties that have long existed in certain areas. It is my heartfelt wish that, with co-operation on every side, that understanding with the diocesan authorities sought by my worthy predecessor, Pope Paul VI, should be fully attained. It has become apparent that such an understanding is a prerequisite for effective evangelization."
It would be desirable to have an unambiguous response from the Franciscan side to this exhortation by the Pope.
For my part, I have never publicized the immorality or the financial scandals associated with Medjugorje. There are other well publicized disorders and evidence that sufficiently disprove the supposedly supernatural nature of the "visions" and lead to the conclusion that it would be better to conclude "constat de non supernaturalitate" rather than "non constat de supernaturalitate".
This book seeks to describe chronologically, analyze logically, and explain faithfully the many facts connected with the more than questionable "visions" at Medjugorje. May the true Queen of Peace help the author by her intercession with the most Holy Trinity.
Mostar, on the feast of the BVM, Mother of the Church,
31st May 2004,
+ Ratko Peric, Bishop