Medjugorje, a Gift From God
Soon after the apparitions of the Queen of Peace began at Medjugorje, it came to the attention of the public that the Diocesan and Franciscan priests of the Mostar diocese did not agree on all issues. This quarrel had in fact broken out over one hundred years beforehand, and sadly, still continues today. At a local level, this discrepancy would not have been intensified had Mostar not been an area of intersecting cultures, faiths and civilizations. At a world-wide level, it wouldn't have been so controversial had Our Lady not appeared in one of it's parishes! Undoubtedly this argument affects the stance of the local Church and the Church in the whole of Croatia as regards Our Lady's apparitions. It is important to mention here that in the initial months of the apparitions the local Bishop, Pavao Zanic believed in the authenticity of Our Lady's apparitions and due to reasons, known only to himself, he altered his stance. Wishing to protect Episcopal comradeship, the bishops of the Church of Croatia have refrained from making public statements. Many other Church dignitaries have followed their example. However there have also been some significant exceptions.
In the Croatian weekly newspaper "Globus" from the 5th of Sept. 1997 (pages 14-16) many questions were addressed to Prof. Albert Rebic, priest and lecturer in Sacred Scripture in the Catholic Theological University in Zagreb up to 1996. By Church permission he became head administrator of the Office for the exiled and the ostracized, (i.e. part of the Croatian Government). He is the author of many books and leaflets. He is presently compiling a most significant issue on the public face of the Church in Croatia. Here we have not printed the article from "Globus", in it's entirety, but rather singled out the questions which have to do with Medjugorje.
What can Kaptol do to finally resolve the case of the Hercegovinian Franciscans? Do you think that it's possible to change the relationship of the official structure of the church towards Medjugorje?
"I will tell you what I think personally: In Herzegovina, both parties ought to have more of the Spirit of God. The Franciscans have to realize that through history they have done an infinite work for that people. The Franciscans preserved the Catholic faith, and even preserved Croatia in Herzegovina.. They were with the people for centuries. The people called them "uncles" and indeed they still do. They make up part of the Herzegovinian family. Why dismantle that? Especially dismantle it with force, with decrees, punishments and threats? This, believe me, is not the Spirit of Jesus Christ, nor in the Spirit of His Gospel.
And if you are asking me about Medjugorje, my answer is that Medjugorje is a gift from God. It's a gift of God to our people living in Herzegovina. I don't want to get into the truth or the falsehood of the apparitions. On that regard I have my own theological conclusions, just as I have about Fatima, Lourdes, and all such shrines. But Medjugorje is God's realization. I was there on a few occasions, especially as a Government official during the tough times of the war in Mostar. Medjugorje is a spiritual oasis. There, one experiences the closeness of God as on Sinai. That's something special. It's something which you cannot feel for example neither in Lourdes nor in Fatima. That's why so many come here from all over the world. And why do some of our priests and bishops look on that with a critical eye? Because it's in the sphere of the Franciscan Fathers? That's very sad! I saw the Spirit of God at work there: Masses, confessions prayer, penance every day, all day, from early morning to late at night. To whom can this be wrong that people pray in this way, they confess, they sing and are happy, their souls are healed.
I think that some bishops do not understand that "rank" by the church's understanding does not mean we should rule over and command, but moreover, it emphasizes how important it is to serve, to love and to help. That's the true understanding of rank or status within the Church and it's also the true understanding of the Episcopal position. A bishop must co-ordinate, love serve, respect the dignity of every man, whether Diocesan or Franciscan."
I don't think that we can remain deaf to these prophetic words. They are the fruit of meditating upon and experiencing that which the Queen of Peace said and continues to say in Medjugorje. Lets decide therefore to pray for unity in the Church where Medjugorje is situated, so that united with the whole Church in Croatia they are even more capable to respond to Our Lady's call. In that way one of the main obstacles to Our Lady's work would be removed.