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 naïve, 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.
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”
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.
Naïve 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!
Maynooth/Dublin, 17 February 2004
Msgr. Ratko Perić, bishop of Mostar-Duvno