Fr Leonard Orec
THE BEGINNINGS OF PILGRIMMAGES IN MEDJUGORJE
Instead of a classical introduction I'd prefer to mention the latest events.
The Eucharistic celebration on Krizevac (Cross Mountain) at dawn on the 6th of August marked the end of the seventh annual International Youth Festival. This year's theme was "From darkness to light". Six thousand youths participated from all continents. The larger groups were the 30 coach loads of Czechoslovakian young people, the 20 from Slovenia, and there a significant number of Ukrainians, Romanians and Bulgarians. Groups from Lebanon and the more distant Virgin Islands were also present. The opening speech was made by Sr. Elvira, the founder member of the community for the healing of drug dependency, which now has over thirty centers. There was a discourse on "the light which offers itself, followed by a Eucharistic procession. It took place at dusk and made its' way through the Parish of Medjugorje. There was also a seminar on confession entitled "Meet with the light", a discourse on listening to the Word of God entitled "Be light" and a concluding talk on "Mary, mother of the light". Some members of the "Cenacle" community (based in Medjugorje itself), themselves ex-drug addicts, testified to their own experience of finding the light, in a stage production entitled "From darkness to light". On one of the evenings the young people sang songs in honor of Our Lady each in their respective languages. Every day community prayer took place from 9a.m to 10a.m., and then from 12 to 12.30 p.m. In the evenings they would join the parish in their praying of the rosary and the Eucharistic celebration. Throughout the whole festival the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration. To finish off this week of intense sharing, of prayer and of song, the young people climbed Cross Mountain (Krizevac) by torch-light, conveying a message "The Sun is born from the light within me".
1. Prayer Zones
There are three main areas where the pilgrims gather in Medjugorje:
a. Apparition Hill This is how the area of Podbrdo, above the village of Bijakovici is now referred to. This is where the visionaries claim to have first seen Our Lady. This happened at the end of June back in 1981. Since then pilgrims gather there to pray the rosary. By day and by night, groups can be seen making their way to the place of the first apparition. Up until 1989, there was nothing to be seen there except boulders and rustic crosses which some of the many visitors had left. Today, on the ascent, images in cast bronze, (work of the well-known Florentine artist Carmelo Puzzolo) recall the joyful sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the rosary.
b. Krizevac is the hill above Medjugorje. Here, in 1934, the people of the village of Medjugorje erected an eight meter high concrete cross in commemoration of the 1900th anniversary of Jesus' death. In this place, both groups and individuals of the faithful pay homage in the way of the Cross, praying as they go from station to station. In the first years the stations were marked by wooden crosses. Since 1988, however, bronze images depicting the various stations have been placed at each cross, again the work of the Italian sculptor Carmelo Puzzolo. Cross Mountain (Krizevac) has become the "Calvary" of the shrine where pilgrims remember the passion of Christ.
c. The Parish Church and surrounding area is the area where the Mass and sacramental life in general is celebrated. The old Parish Church, built at the end of the last century, was destroyed during an earth tremor. The new Church was completed in 1969. The church as well as the Parish are consecrated to St. James, (the older) apostle and patron of pilgrims. In 1991 twenty new confessionals were added and an outdoor altar was erected for larger gatherings (when weather permits). Within the Church grounds, there is also a building which houses "the adoration chapel" and seminar rooms for church purposes. There are also two large marquees (which can be joined together to make a larger one ) at the disposal of the Parish for various purposes. Overall the need for "sacral-premises" is ever on the increase.
2. The schedule of events
Basically we can categorize the events as follows a)daily, b)weekly, and c)annual events.
a) Daily gatherings. Mass in the different language groups are as follows:
*Croatian speaking 7.30a.m. daily (Saturday also at 1p.m.) 8a.m. and 11a.m. Sundays
*East European 8a.m. daily 7a.m. Sundays
*German speaking 9a.m. daily 9a.m. Sundays
*English speaking 10a.m. daily 12 noon Sundays
*Italian speaking 11a.m. daily 10 a.m. Sundays
*French speaking 12 noon daily 1p.m. Sundays
The evening program of the Parish begins at 5 p.m. in wintertime (6p.m. summertime). It commences with the joyful and sorrowful mysteries of the rosary as a preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist which begins at 6p.m. in wintertime (7p.m. in Summertime) and continues afterwards with thanksgiving and the glorious mysteries until 8p.m. in wintertime ( 9p.m. in Summertime).
Masses in other languages can be arranged at other times in consultation with the Parish office.
b) Weekly gatherings:
community reciting of the rosary on Sundays at 2p.m. on Apparition Hill. ( 4p.m. in summertime)
community procession of prayer up Krizevac (Way of the Cross) on Fridays at 2p.m. (4p.m. in summertime)
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9p.m. (10p.m. in summertime)
Eucharistic adoration as thanksgiving after the Thursday evening mass.
Adoration of the Cross as thanksgiving after Friday evening mass.
c) Annual gatherings:
on the greater Marian feast-days such as the Annunciation, the Assumption, Immaculate Conception etc.
on the greater church holidays such as Christmas, New Years, Easter, Pentecost...etc
during the Marian months, of May and October, (pilgrim numbers increase)
the greatest number of pilgrims come for the anniversary of the apparitions (25th June) and for the Exaltation of the Cross (first Sunday after the Nativity of Our Lady(Sept)).
Besides the above, there are also some events which have become part of the customary annual gatherings. These are:
The Cultic content of Community Prayer
At a glance, there's nothing unusual about what happens at Medjugorje. Everything is much the same as in other places of pilgrimage. a) Mass is celebrated, b) pilgrims participate in the sacrament of penance c) the rosary is prayed, d) the way of the cross is prayed and e) there is prayer for the sick. However, the way of celebrating is somehow different; the emphasis and effects of which are best seen in the frame of mind of the pilgrim. At Medjugorje, it's not the exterior course of the ritual which differs, but the spirituality in which it is saturated.
a) The evening Eucharistic celebration is central to the daily gatherings of the pilgrims. Previous to this, the joyful and sorrowful mysteries of the rosary are prayed, and the glorious mysteries are prayed afterwards. Mass is celebrated in accordance with the liturgical calendar using the Roman missal. The gospel is read in the language of the groups who partake in the Mass. The sermon is usually based on the daily gospel and is conducted through the Croatian language, although sometimes a summary is given in one or two of the pre-dominant languages. Part of the Eucharistic prayer is prayed in Latin and Latin hymns are often sung. Holy communion is distributed according to the wish of the individual i.e. in the hand or on the tongue.
b) Immediately following the Mass, the Creed, seven Our Fathers, Hail Mary's and Glory Be's are prayed kneeling. This is followed by a blessing of religious objects. Afterwards there is prayer for the sick and the third part of the rosary. Apart from evening services, individual Masses for the different language groups are celebrated at the shrine with hymns and sermons in the respective languages.
As the years go by, the practice of individual, group and community worship of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, is becoming more sought after. Community adoration takes place every Thursday after the evening mass, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a holy hour at 9p.m. (10p.m. in Summertime). There is also an "adoration chapel" at the shrine, in which pilgrims can pray in silence in front of the monstrance, which is exposed for that purpose every day from 1p.m. until 5p.m. (6p.m. in Summertime).
c) With regards to the Sacrament of Penance, it seems that Medjugorje in recent times, has become well-known the whole world over. People come from all over the world to reconcile in the sacrament of penance, with themselves, with God and with those around them. Here, a generous number of confessors are always on call ready to offer the necessary attention, to listen to their needs and to open up the treasury of God's mercy to the sinner. Medjugorje is actually referred to by many as the "world's confessional". The atmosphere alone of Medjugorje is often enough to aid visitors in the sacramental encounter, and to help them experience a conversion, and a real turning point in their lives as believers. Often group preparation for confession is useful, in the form of a penitential service or in some other way. But probably the best way is, in open discussion with a confessor.
d) The rosary is one of the most popular and loved devotions of the pilgrimage to Medjugorje. At the Parish evening services, the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries are prayed with a short introductory meditation before each mystery. When possible, this is translated into other languages also. Often the prayer is interrupted by brief refrains in honor of Our Lord or The Blessed Mother. The rosary is also prayed as a form of pilgrim devotion on Apparition Hill on Sundays at 2p.m. (or 4p.m. in summertime). Besides this, the rosary is often prayed even going from station to station either in groups or singularly. At any time of the day or night, groups varying in number and race, can be seen fingering their beads around the Church or on the Hills praying either aloud or within their hearts.
e) The Way of the Cross is also one of the popular devotions of the pilgrim to Medjugorje. Anyone who is able-bodied enough, climbs up the steep and rugged path of Krizevac pausing to observe the bronze image at each station. Those who cannot climb the Hill have the opportunity to meditate on the mysteries of Christ's passion by praying the Stations of the Cross in the Church. There the work of the Italian artist Peppina Sacchi depicts the scenes. Meditating on the Passion, the pilgrim keeps Jesus company and is encouraged to unite the sufferings of his/her own life, (or the sufferings of relatives and friends) with the cross of Jesus. Sometimes they have to offer up and pray for those who represent a cross for themselves personally or indeed for those for whom they are a cross. The Way of the Cross is prayed on Fridays at 2p.m. (4p.m. in Summertime) as a form of pilgrim devotion and also in the Parish Church on the Fridays and Sundays during Lent.
f) Prayer for the sick in Medjugorje is woven into the Evening services as a form of thanksgiving for the Eucharistic celebration. It is more often referred to as prayer for the healing of body and soul. Humanity, but more particularly the pilgrim, is searching for healing in many senses of the word. The Latin root of the word "salus" has the broader implication of both bodily health and salvation for the soul.
The beginnings of Pilgrimages to Medjugorje
It all began at the end of June when six children began to insist that Our Lady was appearing to them. She introduced herself as the Queen of Peace, and was inviting the world to peace and reconciliation. "Peace, peace, peace between man and God, and among mankind." This not only succeeded in bringing Medjugorje to the attention of the whole world but it also marked the beginning of an extraordinary flow of graces, attracting millions of pilgrims from all corners of the earth, men women and children, rich and poor, the sick and the healthy, the unconverted and the purer ones, the sinners and the saints. The uninterrupted stream of pilgrims are ever increasing. Interest is ever deepening, reactions are ever intensifying, and are becoming ever more spiritual and ever more important (Rupcic: "Medjugorje in the History of Salvation" Duvno 1998 page 5).
In later apparitions of Our Lady, she repeatedly invited to conversion and to a change in our relationships, first with ourselves through fasting. This liberates us from all forms of addiction and eases a change in our relationship with others through forgiveness and reconciliation. This, ultimately leads to the fulfillment of acts of love.
Even though the question of the supernatural origins of the apparitions is officially unresolved, we have to admit that the way that the Church-life is lived in Medjugorje is directly in response to Our Ladies messages. In her messages Our Lady concretely asks us to partake in the Holy Mass, in such a way that it becomes the center of our lives as individual Christians but also as a Christian community. It is the wish of the Blessed Mother that our "mass becomes an experience of God" (16th of May 1985) "I want to call you to a "living through" of the Holy Mass" (3rd of April 1986) "May Mass be your whole life" (25th of April 1988).
She also invites us to adore Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar: "Unceasingly adore Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. I'm always present when the faithful are in adoration. It is then that special graces are given"(15th of March 1984). "Today I invite you to fall in love with Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar. Adore Him, little children, in your parishes and in that way you will be one with the whole world.......When you are in adoration you are close to me"(25th September 1995).
On the eve of the feast of the Ascension 1984 Our Lady gave this message through the visionary Ivan Dragicevic : " I would like the world to pray increasingly for me in these days. To fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. To pray every day at least the rosary, joyful sorrowful and glorious mysteries"( S Barbaric "Pray with your hearts" Medjugorje 1994 page 41) "Pray the rosary every evening" (8th of October 1994) "I invite you to exhort everyone to pray the rosary! With the rosary you will have the victory over every misfortune which Satan wants to inflict on the Catholic Church. Pray the rosary, all you priests! Give time to the rosary" (25th June 1985) "Dear children! Today I call you like never before to prayer . Let your prayer be a prayer for peace....If you want...accept the rosary! The rosary in itself is enough to work miracles in the world and in your lives" (25th January 1991)
Our Lady also recommended prayer in front of the Cross (30th August 1984). "Pray especially in front of the Cross, from which special graces are given"(12th September 1985) "Meditate on Jesus' sufferings and unite your lives with Jesus"( 25th of January 1986)
A Theological Analysis of the Cultic Gatherings
In Medjugorje the Church congregate in the Holy Spirit as the people of God from all tribes and nations. Every evening celebration is experienced as one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church "where he who is in Rome feels at one with He who is in India (see Lumen Gentium 13..........) There the pilgrim church, marches on between the persecution of the world and the consolation of God, proclaiming the cross and death of Our Lord until He comes again (Lumen Gentium 8).
The celebrating of the mysteries of salvation are at the center of the cultic gatherings. All devotion flows in the direction of Eucharistic celebration, which is continued and prolonged in Eucharistic Adoration. By the sacrament of reconciliation, the individual enters personally into the mystery of reconciliation and the Church is increasingly free for glorifying in Spirit and in truth.
Mary, in Medjugorje appeared with the child in her arms offering Him to mankind as a gift. God's son is Mary's flesh and blood, and He took His human nature in her womb. "Mary nourished His tiny body with her own blood and kept him warm with the heat of her own virginal body. She was the first ciborium and the true tabernacle of our eucharistic Jesus. She was the first altar and Jesus' first Church in the world" (T. Sagi - Bunic, Mother of the Most Holy Eucharist, "Cana" No. 6 1987 page 12) Mary is included in the eucharistic celebrations in Medjugorje as the person who prepares and takes care of it (i.e. rosary before and afterwards, from the Hill of apparitions, she leads the way to the "Via Dolorosa"(Cross mountain) and to the Church, leading the faithful to the sources and founts of Divine grace).
"The Eucharist is exactly what this new world is hinged on, and the source from which peace flows. How can we think about it without recalling her? How can we think about her without associating her with preparation for the eucharistic banquet? : In it, we who participate become her children and "joint-heirs in Christ" (Romans 8: 17). "That's why it's easy to comprehend why Our Lady constantly exhorts us to eucharistic celebration." (Rupcic "Medjugorje in the History of salvation." p. 113) Giving Mary her due respect as Mother of Our Lord, the pilgrims open themselves up to the graces of redemption, and receive them all the more, inserting themselves into the mystery of salvation. And this is how the Church grows in the Holy Spirit.
Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic encyclical "Tertio millennio adveniente", looks at the Second Vatican Council as a "providential event", centered on the mystery of Christ and His church while being open to the world (18) He emphasized in a special way that today's world is "more than ever before in need of cleansing, and in need of conversion." (18) According to the Pope the council "showed to the world of today with a new strength, Christ " the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the Redeemer of mankind, the Master of history"(19) The great wealth of it's contents and it's new way of expression was hitherto unknown. These contents, in a manner of speaking, were the herald of a new era. The members of the council spoke the language of the Gospel, the language of the Sermon on the Mount and the language of the Beatitudes" (20).
Many Bishops and theologians see the realization of the providential event of the council in Medjugorje, they see this new manner of speaking, and the heralding of this new era in its' message of evangelical simplicity.
One of the more famous contemporary pastoral theologians, Prof. Paul M. Zulehner from Vienna, came to research the phenomenon of Medjugorje in the Summer of 1988 and his conclusions were published in his discourse "Medjugorje eine mystagogische Lektio" (Hrsg. Medjugorje Zentrum, "Medjugorje eine mystagogische Herausforderung ? page 72.1) He begins with the theory that Mary's apparitions for our times are important and irrefutable (79). With regard to the messages of Medjugorje, he says that the essential catechesis is very good and that it is an excellent pathway to the message of the gospel" (82). It's precisely this which constitutes the ultimate criterion; Medjugorje doesn't lead away from the Sacred Scriptures, but rather aids the way, and the Blessed Mother is not an end in herself but a sign-post. (Nicht die Endstation sondern wie ein Wegweiser). The pastoral of Medjugorje, the preaching and the way of celebrating the Eucharist, leads those who go there on to the heart of faith. The pastoral incentive is aimed precisely at that end, i.e. that people live the Word of God, that they live the Sacred Scriptures and that they celebrate the Eucharist. It's also useful to link this pastoral with the Council (82). Pilgrims who visit Medjugorje carry a deep biblical and eucharistic devotion home with them to their own Parishes. "I am particularly impressed", he says, " that the pastoral in Medjugorje doesn't seek to take people out of normal church life, they rather seek to aid it's integration into their every day life back home, and I see this as one of it's most positive aspects. (82/83). Prof. Zulehner is also impressed that in Medjugorje, the simplest of people are drawn together. "There, anyone is accepted, there are no suggestions as to who ought to be excluded. It's a place that's open to everyone. And even those who don't consider themselves as particularly religious, just ordinary "plodders", can feel at home there...I'm so happy that the simpler people go to Medjugorje and that there they help themselves back onto their feet, that they receive new hope for their lives , and that they can return home with their heads held high....For me these are fruits of the Spirit which, without considering the apparitions, are, thank God, to be seen everywhere, because wherever the Spirit works, there the church is present, because Gods' intention is to raise mankind"(87).
In the events of Medjugorje, Zulehner discovers a "mistagogy", leading mankind into the depths of a mystery, from which God opens the heart from the inside, as in the case of Lydia in the Acts of the Apostles (see Acts 16:14). God in His mercy foreshadows the works of our Church. According to Zulehner, the true aim of pastoral work is to uncover the mystery of Gods' work in our own lives, and to submit to these mysteries in love. " I fear that, in today's church we have very much lost the mystical dimension of our faith" . We are therefore in danger of reducing the Gospel to straightforward morality. If the mystical disappears, there will be nothing else left. It would be a shame if Medjugorje were to be reduced to a moralistic message. That's not the objective intended. We must enter into the gist of the message through a mystical renewal, in the encounter of man with God. This is what's preliminary to every work and every moral. And without this, none of us can act morally.(96/97) Theologians and church-goers tend to interpret the message. However, in theology I've learnt that the mysteries of faith don't exist so that we can interpret them. Moreover we should immerse ourselves in them, and make our abode within them. The Church will be saved, if all of us individually, decidedly and courageously orient ourselves to live in these mysteries. (98/99). According to Zulehner, that's precisely what Medjugorje is: "mystagogy", assisting normal people to daily enter into the mysteries of the Gospel.
Alfons Sarrach even says: In Medjugorje there is the awareness that the Church is not an organization, or a perfect work of human hands, or an instrument of human violence. It's not a supermarket of sacraments, it's not an opiate or a drug, and neither is it something which has been fabricated. What it is, is a "mystery". When that has been verified throughout the whole Church, the lost will once again make their way to it, and within it they will feel secure, and they will freely adore their God undisturbed.( "The message of Medjugorje about the God who serves", Medjugorje 1995, page 143)
The celebrating of the Sacred mysteries is undoubtedly the most impressive of all the experiences of the pilgrims here. It is the main element in their stay at the shrine. The pilgrims who have had these deeper encounters of the mysteries of faith, are conscious to a greater or lesser extent, of the importance of living these mysteries in the dullness of their everyday life.
The messages which they heard and the devotion and spirituality which they experienced, center on the preaching of eucharistic celebration.
In Medjugorje, preaching is carried out in a completely normal way. The Gospel is always in accordance with the liturgical calendar as it continues to illuminate the path to contemporary mankind. The emphasis is on conversion as the way to peace, on prayer, fasting, forgiveness and on acts of love. These and other messages of Our Lady remind us of what is written in the Gospel of St. John: "Do whatever He says"(John 2:5)
The messages are a mothers invitation. They respect our freedom while motivating us to do good. The objective is to move the individual to personal conversion, after which he/she can continue further.
The sermons, like the messages and the ideas coming from them, all maintain that same simplicity which is characteristic of religious experience in Medjugorje.
In fact it is probably its simplicity which has contributed to it's acceptance by such a large number of people throughout the world as a religious phenomenon. It has become a religious movement of very large proportions.
Pilgrims who visit Medjugorje don't remain passive on their return to their communities. Firstly they live the messages and the Gospel with their lives, and secondly, they participate in the life of the church back home more actively. In this way prayer communities are born who live in the spirit of the messages, and with Mary's option for the poor. Mary's call is directed to all, just as Abraham was directed to the unknown, in an unknown area of faith, led by Gods' call to freedom.
Its' difficult to evaluate Our Lady's apparitions in the world today. One thing is sure : what the pastors of the Church don't dare mention, the Holy Spirit recompenses through Mary's apparitions and her messages to the world. The simpler people of the world, the uncomplicated ones, accept and understand Mary's words. Biblical faith and biblical experience once again become alive and immediate. Through Mary, God is leading the world to a renewal of the Church and a renewal of the whole world.
From day to day pilgrims are drawn to the church of Medjugorje as one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They come from all tribes and languages to celebrate the mystery of salvation in the Holy Spirit. The celebrating of the Sacred mysteries are at the center of all events. Mary, Mother of Our Lord is present in these celebrations, as the caring mother and faithful instructor. She gently invites and at the same time thanks (Dear children, little children....Thank you for having responded to my call!) , but at the same time she is exacting; "pray, fast, be carriers of peace, participate in the mass, live the Gospel... You are not alone. You can do all things in Him who is calling You from the darkness into His wonderful light." She, the mother of Light, is offering us her Son, the Sun of justice, the Light who illuminates every man and enables him to be a light to the world.
And that's why the seventh International Youth Festival was so significant. Six thousand young people, in a strengthened oneness with Christ, under the guidance of Mary, made their way up Cross mountain by torch-light, conveying a message "The Sun is born from the light within me".
THE STANCE OF THE BISHOP OF THE MOSTAR - DUVNO - TREBINJE - MRKANJ DIOCESE WITH REGARD TO MEDJUGORJE
When, on the 24th-25th of June 1981, Our Lady's apparitions began in the parish of Medjugorje, in the diocese of Mostar-Duvanj-Trebenj- Markanj, the bishop was Pavao Zanic (1971-1993). He was succeeded by dr. Ratko Peric.
Bishop Pavao Zanic
His position with regard to the apparitions moved from vehement approval to vehement opposition. And so, his positions made a big contribution to the spreading of the knowledge of Our Lady's apparitions throughout the world.
In the first two months of Our Lady's apparitions, the Bishop was in Medjugorje five times. Afterwards he came only to confer the sacrament of Confirmations to the faithful.
He clearly said: "I am deeply convinced that no child who says that they have seen Our Lady, has been talked into doing so. If we were speaking about one child only, one might say he could be stubborn and that not even the police could make the child renounce what he said. But six innocent, simple children in the space of half an hour, would, if they were pushed, admit all. None of the priests, I guarantee, had any idea of putting the children up to something.... I am also convinced that the children are not lying. The children are only speaking out what's in their hearts.....It is certain: the children are not lying".( from a sermon given on the feast of St. Jakov, the patron saint of Medjugorje, on the 25th of July 1981). In Glas Koncila, the Croatian national catholic newspaper, 16th of August 1981., he stated; "It is definite that the children were not incited by anyone, and especially not by the church, to lie."
At that time the Parish Priest of Medjugorje was Fr. Jozo Zovko. Fr. Zrinko Cuvalo worked together with him in the parish. Both of them at the beginning were strongly opposed to having anything to do with the apparitions. Bishop Zanic had called on them to be more decided and to recognise Gods' deeds around them. They answered him that there was no need to hurry, but that it would be better to wait to see how it would all develop. However, the Bishopsfavourable position inspired and gave courage even to them and to just about anyone who, for whatever reason hadn't yet taken a positve stance towards the apparitions of Medjugorje.
The then Yugoslav communist government, didn't look very benignly on all that was happening at Medjugorje. They proclaimed it to be a counter-revolution.(4th July 1981). The secret police called Bishop Pavao Zanic to their head-apartment in Sarajevo for examination. They also called Fr. Jozo Zovko. But the happenings took their own course. Bishop Zanic began to speak less and less about the apparitions and Fr. Zovko as Parish Priest began to believe more and more in the supernatural origins of the apparitions. Because of his favourable position towards the happenings Fr. Jozo was arrested and sentenced to three and a half years of harsh imprisonment.(17th August, 1981). Together with him Fr Ferdo Vlasic was imprisoned, and a little bit later Fr. Jozo Krizic. The situation had become extremely tense. It was dangerous to say anything about Medjugorje. Everybody felt this, especially as some of the people of the village, and pilgrims finished up in prison.
After a period of silence, bishop Pavao Zanic actively joined in challenging what was happening in Medjugorje. He even edited two written statements directed at the whole world.1. "The actual (unofficial) position of the episcopal curit of Mostar in reference to the happenings of Medjugorje". 30th October 1984; 2."Medjugorje,1990. In an official memorandum of the Vatican State secretary office no.:150.458 on the 1st of April 1985, Cardinal Casaroli charged Croatian Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, to convey to bishop Zanic, that he should "suspend the airing of his own personal statements and renounce making judgements, until such time as all the elements could be conclusively gathered together, and the happenings could be clarified", because bishop Zanic's statement ;" the actual position....." had had considerable reverberations in the press. Unfortunately this request didn't have very much response with the Bishop.
The commission for the examination of events at Medjugorje
For a long time, Bishop Zanic didn't think that anyone should help him in the reviewing of the events in the parish of Medjugorje. It was only when the requests were renewed on all sides that he drew up a commission of four members.(January 1982). Even though the commission said at the beginning that they would scrupolously apply themselves to the task, unfortunately, that didn't happen. Rarely or nearly never did they turn up at Medjugorje. The then Bishops commission of Yugoslavia desired that the matter be taken more seriously to hand. They advised Bishop Zanic to appoint a competent commission who might be able to throw some light on the events at Medjugorje. In February of 1984 Bishop Zanic expanded his commision to fourteen members. Many, however were dissatisfied, as the members of the commission were mainly thosewho had already declared themselves to be against the alleged events. The first sitting of the commission was held on the 23rd/24th of March 1984. In conclusion to their long awaited sitting, they issued a statement for the press in which, amongst other things they, in words, supported the suggestion of the Holy See to the Bishop, not to hurry in the bringing forth of a decision.
The second time that the commission met was in October 1984. Following this they made a similar statement to their previous one.
The year 1987 saw a big change; the President for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, entrusted the examination of the events into the hands of the Yugoslavian bishops' conference.
Bishop dr. Ratko Peric
Bishop dr. Ratko Peric who at the time of Zanic's time as bishop was a professor at the Gregorian University at Rome, became Pavao Zanics' successor. In the past he had been a great help to Pavao Zanic on the occasion of his arrival at Rome.
He became Bishop in 1993 with administration over the Mostar-Duvno-Trebinje-Mrkanj diocese. He continued in the footsteps of his predecessor with regard to the apparitions at Medjugorje. Neither did he visit the parish except when he had to officially do so, on the occasion of confirmations or for some other official reason. To demonstrate the falsity of Our Ladys' apparitions at Medjugorje he usually refers to the statement of the former bishops conference of Yugoslavia. He interprets it to mean that the bishops clearly said that Our Lady is not appearing at Medjugorje. His public position is most clearly put forward in his book,"The throne of Wisdom"(Crkva na Kamenu, Mostar 1995).
The title of the book is,"Criterion for predjudice towards apparitions", with a subtitle;"about Medjugorjes' phenomenon." on page 266-286 he tries to show that our Ladys' apparitions are not authentic. In conclusion of the chapter, he summarises his position in 10 points.
ON MEDJUGORJE - SOMETHING MORE DEFINITE
Editorial Commentary in "Glas Koncila", official national croatian catholic newspaper, Zagreb May 5, 1991, p. 2
The latest declaration on Medjugorje from the Catholic Bishops of the Socialist Federal Republics of Yugoslavia is a classic example of the centuries old practice of authentic ecclesiastical prudence. It demonstrates that the Church respects facts above all, that it carefully measures its competence and that in all matters it is mostly concerned for the spiritual welfare of the faithful.
It is a fact known to the whole world that, because of news about Our Lady's apparitions already for a full ten years, both believing and inquisitive people have been gathering in Medjugorje. Is it a fact that the Mother of God is really appearing there and giving messages? The Bishops, carefully holding to their competency, declare that "On the basis of investigations so far it can not be affirmed."
The content and the sense of that declaration has to be considered on two levels. In this case the first and the essential level is that the contents of such possible so-called private revelations cannot be added to the revealed and obligatory contents of the faith. Therefore, neither the Bishops nor the Pope himself have the authority either to conclude infallibly that Our Lady has really appeared somewhere or the authority to impose on the faithful to believe that she has appeared. The magisterium of the Church is infallible under well known conditions only when it affirms that something is contained or not contained in that Revelation which the Church received up to the end of the apostolic age and which is preserved in Scripture and Tradition. Whatever is included neither in Scripture nor in Tradition the magisterium cannot proclaim as a doctrine of the faith nor as content to be believed under obligation. Accordingly, only the uninstructed could expect the Bishops to resolve the question of the Medjugorje apparitions for us so as then to know exactly what we are allowed or not allowed to believe about them.
But on the other hand then why are they so carefully investigating that report? Because they do have the obligation to establish whether that which is taking place there and is being proclaimed from there is in accordance with the entirety of the revealed truth of the faith and of moral doctrine. If it is established that there is nothing contrary, that the revelations and messages are in accordance with Catholic faith and morals, they, as the most responsible in the Church, could proclaim that there is neither any objection to gatherings of the faithful in that place nor to the development of the spiritual life according to the sense of those messages. On the contrary, it would be their obligation to expose errors and prevent abuses. The pertinent expressions in the new Declaration show that the investigations are also continuing in that sense.
But the main force of the Declaration shows that our bishops are above all taking notice of the factual gathering of a large number of the faithful and of the inquisitive in Medjugorje and they consider it their duty to insure that such a large number of gatherings there receive a correct proclamation of the faith, an orthodox and up-to-date catechesis, so that the holy sacraments are correctly and worthily administered there and especially that the Medjugorje Marian devotion develops in accord with Christian orthodoxy. That position is the real news of this document.
Surely, as the document itself states, one should expect suitable liturgical-pastoral directives for the solemn celebrations in Medjugorje A proposal made long ago, which was also emphasized in "Glas Koncila", would also thereby be realized, namely, that the bishops' care for Medjugorje be divided between two commissions, One would continue investigating whether there are or are not supernatural apparitions or revelations, and the other would take care of the proper and healthy ecclesiastical conduct of the Medjugorje gatherings. This is because it is really possible that the first of these commissions would still be investigating for a long time and maybe even decide not to publish its final opinion, whereas care for the gatherings cannot be postponed because they are continuously taking place.
For many devout people around the whole world this Declaration will serve as a valuable relief in the area of conscience. Those, namely, who come to Medjugorje motivated by belief, will from now on know that those gatherings are covered by the ordinary and responsible care of the successors of the apostles.
MEDJUGORJE IN THE LIGHT OF THEOLOGY
1. Private Revelation and Medjugorje
The term "private" revelations has already for a long time become customary in theology. In contrast to it is public revelation. However, public revelation would be the one given in the Bible, and private the one given apart from the Bible. Accordingly, it would be more justifiable to speak of biblical and extra-biblical revelation. Assigning a greater honor and significance to the biblical than to the other has no real reason whatsoever. Because if they are both true, if they both come from God, according to their origin they are both divine and equally valuable. Both the one and the other God intends for people and wants them to accept both of them. Otherwise, there would be no reason for him to speak at all. If there may be some justifiable difference between them, it can never be in the sense that one is obligatory and the other is not. They are both obligatory. For every one that has been reached by them and for the one who has attained sufficient reasons and moral security regarding their authenticity, both of them oblige equally.
Revelation contained in the Bible is called "the canon," that is, the rule of faith. The authenticity of every other revelation is in some way measured according to it. First of all, everything that might be contrary to that revelation would be unauthentic or false. Accordingly, the biblical revelation provides the guarantee of certainty, and that in a negative way, the contrary revelation is false. Moreover, the authenticity of biblical revelation is guaranteed by the church's magisterium to which the Holy Spirit is given by Christ in order to preserve that revelation faithfully and to interpret it infallibly. For the extra-biblical revelation the magisterium does not have that authority directly, but indirectly. That means that, if it would establish that a extra-biblical revelation is contrary to the biblical, it would be certain that it is not at all authentically divine. Because, "for even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel not in accord with the one we delivered to you, let a curse be upon him!" (Gal 1:8). On the other hand, if the Church's magisterium would in any way even affirm a extra-biblical revelation, one would not be obliged just by that to accept it as authentic. If one has his own reasons, he must accept it with fide divina. But if one does not have his own reasons, he can either reject it or doubt it. In that case, a person is not obliged fide catholica. The history of the Church witnesses that it has always had extra-biblical revelations. According to their structure and form, they are equal to biblical revelation and are regularly connected with apparitions or visions. Usually it was Jesus appearing, angels and saints. But in recent times, it is most frequently the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Locutions [auditiones] are also connected to visions. The most recent apparitions of the Blessed Virgin in La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje confirm that. The visionaries, in addition to seeing Our Lady, also hear her messages which usually call to conversion, prayer, especially the rosary, and penance. Thereby they all the more direct toward the renewal and flourishing of Church life rather than giving some new truth of the faith.
No one can close God's mouth. He has not finished his conversation nor his revelation to people. It goes on continuously in the Church and the world in different ways. God's speech, in a broader sense, takes the form of vision or at least no one can dispute that. Therefore, extra-biblical revelations are not only possible but actual. The Spirit of God whom Christ has sent to the Church constantly reminds it of the words of Jesus and leads it into all truth (John 16:13). He does not accomplish this just through the hierarchy, but also through charisms and their bearers because the Church is not only hierarchical but also charismatic. That is why the Holy Spirit is not bound to the hierarchy, but vice versa. He is free and breathes wherever he wills. He gives incentives to the Church and leads the Church also through charismatics. Neither the hierarchy nor charismatics can usurp to themselves the exclusive right to speak and act in the name of the Holy Spirit. Their ministries originate from the same Spirit and must be harmonized. Therefore, neither the hierarchy nor the Church must be self-satisfied and indifferent toward visions, apparitions and revelations. The hierarchy must not only not reject them, nor merely tolerate them, but it must both accept and foster them. Otherwise, it would be rejecting the Spirit himself.
Vision and revelation belong to the prophetic charism of which the Church cannot be lacking and that, not because some new doctrine or truth would be necessary after biblical revelation, but because a new light is necessary, a better understanding of that same doctrine or truth and, especially, because a new direction and impetus for human activity is necessary.
A critical posture toward extra-biblical revelation has been expressed more or less throughout entire history. With the beginning of modern times greater and more numerous debates on them have begun. According to them, the best sign of authenticity of extra-biblical revelation and vision is their agreement with biblical revelation. If that is affirmed, the content of extra-biblical revelation, which surpasses the capabilities of the visionaries, speak much in its favor. In that, the mental and physical health of the subject plays an important role. Personal holiness and the state of grace contribute to its authenticity even though they are not indispensable. In principle, even great moral defects are not an obstacle to the authenticity of the revelation. Moral heroism of the subject of the vision contributes positively to the authenticity of the truth. In that, attending circumstances also mean something, although accompanying errors are not necessarily considered a negative criterion. These internal criteria are accompanied by the external: miracle and approval of the Church. Involvement in some controversial question and political matter speaks against the authenticity of the vision because visions serve the kingdom of God and not curiosity and some purpose entirely of this world.
Extra-biblical revelations, in general, do not bring any new truths, but perhaps just a better recognition of the biblically revealed truths and all the more certainly the demand for a better and more urgent application of biblical revelation on a particular position of the Church or individual groups within it. In general, they want to inspire people to faith and conversion and thus, to bring them to salvation. They are rather requests and incentives than assertions. Their purpose is to direct the behavior of people toward God. In that sense, St. Thomas of Aquinas says, "When there are no more revelations, people will be without guidance" (Summa II-II. q 174 a.6). This is the reason there have always been prophets in the Church who admittedly, did not proclaim some new doctrine, but gave direction to human activity. The same St. Thomas of Aquinas emphasizes, "Revelation is given for the benefit of the Church" (Summa II-II. q 172 a.4). It calls to a more authentic Christian life and points toward the necessity and the means that are of a higher priority. It is heaven's response to particular questions of the times and it thereby helps more than any intellectual and theological endeavors.
Since extra-biblical revelations are extraordinary and conspicuous, they usually produce more attention than the ordinary proclamation of biblical truths and Church directives and they act as "shock therapy." It is well known that the apparitions in Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje intensified devotion and they have awakened spiritual life throughout the world. They contributed a great deal to the renewal of confession and reverence for the Eucharist.
Too great an emphasis on extra-biblical revelation in place of the gospel would not be healthy or normal. Biblical revelation takes preference but extra-biblical must not be rejected, simply because it also comes from God and because with it God wants to say something to man. hat is why both cases God's word is obligatory.
2. The Medjugorje Apparitions and Visions
Already since June 24, 1981 until today, six visionaries in Medjugorje, Ivanka Ivankovi}-Elez, Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo, Vicka Ivankovic, Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti, Ivan Dragicevic and Jakov Colo, unanimously claim that Our Lady is appearing to them. They all still see her every day, except Ivanka and Mirjana, who still see her once a year, Ivanka on the anniversary of the apparitions and Mirjana on her birthday. Already from the very beginning of the apparitions, it was attempted in different ways to obtain approval of the authenticity of these apparitions and visions. In addition to the persistent claim of the visionaries, it was attempted, in a more or less scientific and theological way, to arrive at objective proofs of the authenticity of the apparitions. Already from the first days, the communist regime of that time, which because of ideological and atheistic motives opposed the fame about Our Lady's apparition, tried first of all through doctors in ^itluk and Mostar to prove that talk about apparitions is a common childish trick and a report of sick children. When doctors established that the children were completely healthy, the communists composed a commission of twelve doctors and psychiatrists which they simply charged to declare the children mentally ill. It is significant that, despite the pressure, member of the Commission did not do so because it was obvious that the children were healthy.
After that, numerous other unofficial and official commissions followed in succession. The tried to arrive at the truth of the apparition with a greater fairness. An exception to this were the two commissions established by the local Bishop Pavao Zanic. He did not request these commissions to study the Medjugorje phenomena, but to confirm his negative opinion which, taking into consideration the apparitions themselves, did not have any grounds whatsoever. In order to assure "the outcome" of the investigation, he appointed himself president of the commission, and charged them to think and speak what he, without any basis in the truth, thought and spoke. The others, differently from Bishop Zanic and his commissions, expertly examined the visionaries and the facts in Medjugorje. Since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, rejected the "results" of the commissions of Bishop Zanic as incompetent and unfounded, it ordered the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference to establish its own commission to care more seriously for the apparitions of Medjugorje. Although even that commission did not investigate these apparitions more seriously, nevertheless, it behaved more responsibly toward them. At least, it did not assert that the apparitions are unauthentic, but it found a Solomonic solution and declared that it had not yet arrived at real proofs of the supernaturalness of the apparitions. That position was also accepted by the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference. Because of the ever more general conviction that the apparitions are authentic and especially because of the exceptional spiritual gifts to the whole world in regard to the apparitions, it was, nevertheless, compelled to accept Medjugorje as a shrine and to take on itself greater care for a correct development of devotion and adequate provision for the spiritual needs of pilgrims in Medjugorje.
However, the apparitions of Medjugorje were examined the most competently and the most expertly by the international French-Italian scientific theological commission "on the extraordinary events that are taking place in Medjugorje." The assembly of seventeen renowned natural scientists, doctors, psychiatrists and theologians in their research came to a 12 point conclusion on January 14, 1986 in Paina near Milan.
1. On the basis of the psychological tests, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible with certainty to exclude fraud and deception.
2. On the basis of the medical examinations, tests and clinical observations etc, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude pathological hallucinations.
3. On the basis of the results of previous researches for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude a purely natural interpretation of these manifestations.
4. On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude that these manifestations are of the preternatural order i.e. under demonic influence.
5. On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, there is a correspondence between these manifestations and those that are usually described in mystical theology.
6. On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, it is possible to speak of spiritual advances and advances in the theological and moral virtues of the visionaries, from the beginning of these manifestations until today.
7. On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, it is possible to exclude teaching or behavior of the visionaries that would be in clear contradiction to Christian faith and morals.
8. On the basis of information or observations that can be documented, it is possible to speak of good spiritual fruits in people drawn into the supernatural activity of these manifestations and in people favorable to them.
9. After more than four years, the tendencies and different movements that have been generated through Medjugorje, in consequence of these manifestations, influence the people of God in the Church in complete harmony with Christian doctrine and morals.
10. After more than four years, it is possible to speak of permanent and objective spiritual fruits of movements generated through Medjugorje.
11. It is possible to affirm that all good and spiritual undertakings of the Church, which are in complete harmony with the authentic magisterium of the Church, find support in the events in Medjugorje.
12. Accordingly, one can conclude that after a deeper examination of the protagonists, facts, and their effects, not only in the local framework, but also in regard to the responsive chords of the Church in general, it is well for the Church to recognize the supernatural origin and, thereby, the purpose of the events in Medjugorje.
So far it is the most conscientious and the most complete research of the Medjugorje phenomena, and, for that very reason, it is the most positive that has yet been said about it on a scientific-theological level.
Besides that, a very serious work of examination of the visionaries was also undertaken by a French team of experts headed by Mr. Henri Joyeux. Employing the most modern equipment and expertise, it examined the internal reactions of the visionaries before, during, and after the apparitions. Likewise, the synchronization of their ocular, auditory, cardiac, and cerebral reactions. The results of that commission were very significant. They showed that the object of observation is external to the visionaries, and that any external manipulation or mutual agreement between the visionaries is excluded. The results with individual electro-encephalograms and other reactions are collected and elaborated in a special book (H. Joyeux - R. Laurentin, Etudes medicales et scientifique sur les Apparitions de Medjugorje, Paris 1986).
The results of the last mentioned commission confirmed the conclusions of the international commission and, for their part, they proved that the apparitions, to which the visionaries testify, are a phenomenon that surpasses modern science and that all points toward some other level of happening.
In regard to the scientific examination of the Medjugorje apparitions, it is important to bear in mind that in the entire history of apparitions not a single one has ever been so broadly and strictly examined scientifically as those in Medjugorje. When the examinations in Lourdes and Fatima are compared with those in Medjugorje, then there is almost no similarity whatsoever between them. Neither have other visionaries been that strictly examined nor was it possible to examine them with such certainty and success, due to the inferior level of science and the insufficiency of technical tools at that time. Besides, it is also very significant to mention that there was only one visionary in Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous; there were three visionaries in Fatima, and six in Medjugorje. Manipulation is easier with one visionary than with several. Likewise, a group confirmation is more valuable than an individual. The said about Bernadette herself that she was psychically of delicate health. For the visionaries in Medjugorje adequate health has been established. When to that are added the positive moral qualities, the uniformity of testimonies, there remains no significant doubt whatsoever that the apparitions, to which the visionaries in Medjugorje testify, are indeed supernatural and worthy of belief.
The content of the Medjugorje messages also confirms that. Beside the five main messages on which the visionaries agree, every month, primarily through Marija Pavlovic, Our Lady has been giving special messages intended for the whole world. Even though in volume they have grown into a library, still, in spite of that, nothing can be found in them that would in the least manner be contrary to Christian doctrine and faith. On the contrary, together with the principal messages, they compose a veritable treasury of handy and practical theology on a level which not even 80% of today's priests would attain. It is, thereby, more significant since the visionary Marija, as well as the other visionaries, is a completely average believer who could not even attend regular instruction in catechism, much less acquire a practical-theological education. The false charges of the Bishop and some other opponents of Medjugorje that the friars wrote them, also speaks in favor of the extraordinary content of the messages. Indirectly they thereby confirm their extraordinariness.
From the beginning, the Medjugorje apparitions were accompanied by many unusual phenomena, both in the sky and on the ground, especially by miraculous healings. I, myself with about a thousand pilgrims, experienced one unusual dance of the sun. That manifestation was so unusual and obvious, that everyone without exception classified it as a miracle. None of those present remained indifferent, which I myself was convinced of by questioning the others who were present. The joy, the tears, and the statements of those present strongly confirmed it. From their words it could be seen that they understood that manifestation as a confirmation of the authenticity of the apparitions, and as an incentive to respond to the Medjugorje messages by accepting them. And that is the real purpose of miracles: to help people believe and live by faith because they stand in the service of the faith and of the salvation of people.
Regarding the luminous phenomena in Medjugorje, a professor employed in Vienna, an expert in that field, admitted to me that he studied them in Medjugorje for a week. At the end, he told me: "Science has no answer to these manifestations." Although judgment about miracles does not belong to any natural science nor to science in general, but to theology and faith, nevertheless, the judgment of science is very important because where it leaves off, faith takes over. It is very significant that many events were understood by the faithful as a real miracle. They understood their significance and, whether they experienced them for themselves or through others, they felt themselves obliged to accept the Medjugorje messages as an obligation. It is difficult to say precisely how many of these miraculous events have taken place in regards to the Medjugorjeapparitions. However, it is well known that several hundred of them have been reported and attested to. Several of them have been thoroughly examined and scientifically-theologically elaborated, and there is no serious reason whatsoever to doubt their supernatural character. It suffices to mention just a few of them.
Mrs. Diana Basile, born October 5, 1940 in Platizza, Cosenza, Italy, suffered from multiple sclerosis, an otherwise incurable disease, from 1972 till May 23, 1984. In spite of the expert help of the professors and doctors at the clinic in Milan, she grew more and more sick. By her own desire she came to Medjugorje and was present during the apparition of Our Lady in a room connected to the Church and was suddenly healed. All of that happened in such a quick and thorough way that on the following day the same woman walked barefoot 12 kilometers from the hotel in Ljubu ki, where she spent the night, to the apparition hill in order to thank Our Lady forthe healing. Ever since then until today, she has remained well. Upon her return to Milan, the doctors were astonished by her healing and immediately established a medical commission which was again thoroughly to examine both the previous and present condition of the healed woman. They collected 143 documents and, in the end, 25 professors, head doctors, and other doctors wrote a special book about the disease and the healing in which they stated that Diana Basile indeed did suffer from multiple sclerosis, that for many years she was unsuccessfully treated, but that now she is completely well and that this did not happen by any kind of therapy, nor by any kind of medicine. They, thereby, indicated that the cause of the healing was from a different than scientific source.
Another more significant miracle happened to Rita Klaus of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA, a teacher and mother of three children, born January 25, 1940, who for 26 years suffered from multiple sclerosis. She was also one that neither doctors nor medicine were able to help. Reading the book about Medjugorje, Is the Blessed Virgin Appearing in Medjugorje? by Laurentin-Rup~i}, she decided to accept Our Lady's messages. And once while she was praying the rosary on May 23, 1984, she felt within herself some unusual warmth. After that she felt well. And from then till today the patient is completely well and capable of doing all her domestic and school work. There is a solid medical documentation about her sickness and her futile therapy and likewise a professional certification of the doctors on her extraordinary and incomprehensible healing, which is complete and permanent.
There are still other healings pertaining to Medjugorje which took place suddenly and thoroughly They are more or less expertly examined. But some of them have not at all yet been analyzed. It is not ruled out that among them there are some cases just as great as those already analyzed. With miracles it is critical that they originate from God and that they serve the faith, but it is not important for them to be "big". It is rather people of good will and open to the truth that will recognize them rather than biased scientists and versatile critics because they often shut themselves within boundaries where a miracle "must not" and "cannot" happen.
4. The Judgment of the Church on the Medjugorje Apparitions.
Since the Medjugorje apparitions, visions, and messages belong to extra-biblical revelation, the competence of the Church in judging their authenticity is somewhat different than in biblical revelation. The magisterium of the Church has a direct guarantee of infallibility only in regard to biblical revelation, and only an indirect guarantee in regard to extra-biblical. If, namely, the latter were contrary to the biblical, it would certainly be false. In other cases, other criteria remain, according to which one can arrive at trustworthiness of some revelation being supernatural. Those are primarily scientific conditions. What is false according to reason can neither be authentic in revelation. With regard to the serious and expert work of individual scientists, in the first place, of the international medical-theological commission and of other expert, scientific teams, it has been clearly established that in the Medjugorje apparitions there is nothing that is contrary to science. They are not contrary to reason, but are above reason. Likewise, not a single theological commission found anything in the Medjugorje apparitions that would be contrary to the faith. Even the latest commission, established by the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference, declared only that it has not yet arrived at the necessary proofs of the supernaturalness of the Medjugorje apparitions and that, therefore, it will continue with further investigation. It, thereby, acknowledged at the same time that it did not find in them anything whatsoever that would be contrary to biblical revelation and the faith. When God gives somerevelation, whether biblical or extra-biblical, he always enables the people to whom it concerns to be able to recognize it and at least to have the moral certitude that this revelation is authentic. It is very important that simple people have easily recognized God's revelation in the Medjugorje phenomena and that they accepted it, not just in theory, but also in practical life. The word of Christ proves true here, "Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God" (Matt 18:3). That quality proper to a child in the first place is openness to the truth. On the other hand, those also who refuse to acknowledge the trustworthiness of the proofs of Medjugorje, nevertheless unintentionally acknowledge it. Because the findings of their position and arguments show that their proofs are from some other area of interest rather than of Medjugorje. In addition to that, the opponents of Medjugorje are, in that regard, a recognizable tiny handful of people. Their arguments consist of deceptions, lies, and ignorance of what they are nevertheless judging. In contrast to them stand millions of people, who mainly carry the proofs for the authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions also in their personal experience of encounter with God, and on the other hand, in the obvious deficiency of the arguments against them. Here one can speak about the sensus fidelium which is commonly a locus theologicus of revelation and faith. The evident and abundant spiritual fruits of faith, conversion, prayer, and profound mass spiritual renewal have a special proving strength in favor of the Medjugorje apparitions. Even the opponents of Medjugorje cannot call this into question. They only attribute it to faith, and not to the Medjugorje apparitions. There is no doubt that they are fruits of faith. But why are these fruits unusual and why are they precisely connected to Medjugorje? Why are they not in other places and ordinary pilgrimage shrines or in cathedrals? In question is precisely that extraordinariness and the great multiplicity of the fruits of faith that must have their own reason. In this regard the opponents behave like the Jews who attributed Jesus' casting out of an evil spirit to Beelzebul and not to Jesus. When they could not deny the fact because it was obvious, they then denied its true cause.
In this entire matter, in addition to the evangelical criterion that a good tree is known by its good fruits, the position of the Pope is decisive. And it is completely clear. He has expressed it on several occasions when, asked by many bishops whether they may go on pilgrimage to Medjugorje, he not only encouraged them, but also recommended himself to their prayers in Medjugorje. On the occasion of his ad limina visit, the President of the Bishop's Conference of South Korea, Archbishop Kim, greeted Pope John Paul II with the words, "Holy Father, thanks to you, Poland was able to be freed from communism." The Pope corrected him and said, "No, not thanks to me, it is the work of the Virgin as she claims in Fatima and Medjugorje" (Catholic News, the Korean Catholic Weekly of November 11, 1990). Everything is contained in this that the Pope and the Church can at all say about the Medjugorje apparitions. From that comes forth that Our lady is in Medjugorje, and that there she announced the destruction of communism. Many more times lacking in seriousness are all the other stories, which, only for non-religious reasons, want to obscure the truth about Medjugorje and turn the world away from accepting Our Lady's evangelical messages.
fra Ljudevit Rupcic
(Professor of Theology, Translator of the Sacred Scriptures into the Croatian language. He lives and works in Medjugorje)