Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ecclesial Disciplinary Actions against Fra Jozo Zovko, OFM

This is a list of disciplinary actions taken against Fra Jozo Zovko, OFM through early 2009.  It was compiled by Mark Waterinckx of Belgium.  Mark had gone to Medjugorje at least 24 times and had raised many thousands of dollars.  He knew Fr. Jozo Zovko personally through his promotional activities in Medjugorje before discovering sobering realities about the phenomena and the players.  He has since worked actively to expose these things.

For serious researchers and academics, I would encourage you to contact the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno using the reference numbers below for documents and further clarification on any particular event listed.  Conclusions made in this document belong to Mark Waterinckx.  The work is placed here for the sake of the chronology and document numbers.

Below Mark's document, are other items related to Fr. Jozo's faculties.

The Papal War against Medjugorje: Jozo Zovko exiled

1° Suspension: On 23-8-1989 (letter nr. 622/89) Jozo has been suspended by Mostar-bishop Zanic, because of serious accusations.

Jozo refuses to obey and appeals to the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples in Rome.

This Congregation confirms on 15-2-1990 (letter nr. 5673/89) the suspension of Jozo by Mgr. Zanic, and asks that Jozo should be exiled to a convent, far from Medjugorje.

Jozo refuses.

On 25-7-1991 (letter nr. 377/91) the Franciscan provincial of Hercegovina proposes to the bishop of Mostar to transfer Jozo to the convent of Siroki Brijeg, only 30 km from Medjugorje.

The bishops responds on 30-7-1991 (letter nr. 557/91), refusing this proposal.

On 2-9-1991 (letter nr. 649/91) bishop Zanic complains that Jozo, notwithstanding his suspension, continues to administer the Sacraments in Siroki Brijeg.

When Mgr. Peric is installed as the new bishop of Mostar in August 1993, Jozo is still committing insubordination.

On 11-11-1993 the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples writes to the Minister-General of the Franciscan order that Jozo and 3 other Franciscans are suspended, but that they continue practicing their priestly functions in the vicinity of Medjugorje.

On 29-12-1993 the Franciscan Province informs bishop Peric by letter nr. 380/93 that Jozo is appointed as the parish administrator in Siroki Brijeg.

On 4-2-1994 the bishop by letter nr.69/94 expresses his consternation about this.

On 12-6-1994 the bishop makes a canonical visit to Siroki Brijeg. Jozo confirms him that, notwithstanding his suspension, he still hears confessions.

2° Suspension: On 14-6-1994 the bishop notifies by letter nr. 423/1994, that Jozo is automatically suspended according to canon 1378 par. 2.

On 15-6-1994 the bishop also notifies Jozo’s superior of this by letter nr. 423/1994-ad.

Jozo did not pay any attention to this letter and continues to be disobedient.

During his ad limina-visit to Rome, the bishop by letter nr. 1203/98 of 6-11-1998, informs the Holy See of this situation.

Without mentioning the irregular status of Jozo, in 2002 the Provincial writes that ’those who accept Medjugorje, consider Jozo as a devote priest, and that he, on invitation, gives spiritual retreats on the island of Jakljan and in Medjugorje.’

3° Suspension: On 26-6-2004 in a long letter nr. 843/2004, bishop Peric suspends Jozo for the third time because of his persistent disobedience. He invites him to the bishop’s office in Mostar in order to regularize his priestly status. In the diocesan Curia the bishop wants to show him all documents related to his illegal pastoral activities as well as to his ‘moral’ life. This decree has been officially published in the diocesan bulletin Vrhbosna, 3/2004 p. 293-298.

Jozo again refuses to obey.

And what happens now? On 9-2-2009, the personal assistant of Jozo in Siroki Brijeg, Vesna Cuzic, informs all Medjugorje-groups, that Jozo, for reasons of ‘health, rest and convalescence, and for renovation of buildings on the island of Badija-Croatia (how ‘logical’: renovating buildings while he is supposed to take a rest…), Jozo will not be available for pilgrims for the rest of the year 2009.

During the annual meeting of the Medjugorje-Guides in March 2009, the provincial, Fr. Ivan Sesar, made known that Jozo had ‘requested for a sabbatical year…’

But rumors say that recently Jozo has been seen for several days in Rome, and that after the severe punishment and exile of Fr. Tomislav Vlasic by the Vatican in 2008, a new commission is now occupying themselves with the ‘Jozo case’.

Jozo’s superiors, who until now, had always supported Jozo’s disobedience, now seem to feel uneasy and therefore exiled Jozo to the small island of Badija, near the island Korcula, thus obeying the demand of 1990 of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples.

And indeed, in the Croatian Magazine “Nacional” of 24-2-2009 (p. 68-72) appeared a long article, titled: ”Papal War against Medjugorje” [Google Translated link - DK]. Subtitle: ”The exile of Jozo”.

Furthermore: “Jozo was moved from Siroki Brijeg and left behind on the island Badija for as long as the Papal Commission concerning Medjugorje is pursuing her investigation".

At last Jozo has been banned to a convent, far from Medjugorje, “ordered by Rome and against his own will".

But, as is always the case, the Medjugorje-media are manipulating the naïve Medjugorje-fans and falsify the real motive for his exile.

“Nacional” continues : “Jozo was moved to Badija not because of health reasons, as was officially stated, but exiled by the Franciscan Province.”

“After 18 years of resistance and disobedience, Jozo was compelled to obey a decision of the Holy See since February 1990, whereby Rome confirmed the suspension by Mgr. Zanic in 1989."

At the end of 2008, the administration of the Franciscan Province of Hercegovina decided that Jozo at last should accept the punishment by Rome.

To some close friends Jozo said that he was ‘sent to the desert’.

Many ask themselves why, after 18 years, Jozo has finally obeyed to the decision of the Church Administration. The answer is that very soon the Vatican will start a new commission about Jozo and Medjugorje.

And it is well known that the former Card. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was rather negative about Medjugorje... (see his letter of 22-7-1998).

"Jozo has now decided not to be an obstacle in that process.”

Feast of St Joseph, 19-3-2009
mark waterinckx Belgium

Here is the letter of July 22, 1998 by Card. Ratzinger, mentioned above (source):

for I.E. (concerning a particular photo supposedly showing Our Holy Father with Fr. Slavko Barbaric ):
On April 19, 1998, the publisher of the Schwarzer Brief sent documentation on Medjugorje to Cardinal Ratzinger, including 14 quotes from various Medjugorje books by people like Ren Laurentin and Bishop Paulo Hnilica, in which the impression was given that the pope and Cardinal Ratzinger had repeatedly recognized the authenticity of the apparitions. In response Cardinal Ratzinger wrote on July 22, 1998:
Thank you for sending the Claus Peter Clausen's memo. He is well known to me as the publisher of the Schwatzer Brief. I can only say in response that the quotes endorsing Medjugorje which have been attributed to me and the Holy Father have been made up out of thin air.

UPDATE:  On January 2, 2010, Bishop Ratko Peric mentions Fr. Jozo Zovko in his statement on the Cardinal Schonborn visit (in point 7).  He explains:

- We had two separate charismatic promoters and “architects” of the “Medjugorje phenomenon”: The prominent and disobedient Tomislav Vlašić, who last year was expelled by the Superior General of the Order of Friars and who at his request, was dispensed of his priestly faculties and obligations by the Holy See, and Fr. Jozo Zovko, who has been denied priestly faculties in this diocese since 2004, who according to newspaper reports, has been withdrawn by his religious superiors from the territory of Herzegovina and is prohibited from any contact with Medjugorje.

Fr. Jozo Toured US without faculties:

Note in this first link, that it appears the Archdiocese of Los Angeles contacted the Franciscan province to check on Zokvo's priestly faculties, but did not contact the local bishop.  This is odd because the religious order does not give and take faculties, the bishop does. 

Let's look closer at the incident at the National Shrine in Washington DC.

On November 14, 2002, Provincial Fr. Slavko Soldo wrote that he was in good standing with the religious order, but says nothing about his faculties:

Fr. Jozo Zovko is a member of our community in good standing. He was the pastor at Medjugorje when the apparition of the Blessed Mother started in 1981. It was time of the communist regime in our country. As pastor of Medjugorje Fr. Jozo was put in prison by the communist court. After he was released from the prison, he continued to spread the message of the blessed Mother Queen of peace.

In our community Fr. Jozo Zovko is known as a charismatic priest who suffered for his faith and continues suffering. He spends long hours in prayer, counseling and preaching. Most of the time he is in the church, often for 10 hours a day.

Those who oppose the apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje are constantly after Fr. Jozo, trying to stop his mission, but those who accept the Medjugorje consider him a dedicated priest and are inviting him to lead retreats for them and pray for them in their needs. Among those who are inviting him, are many priests and bishops. Fr. Jozo is tireless in that service. He did ask permission to travel to the United States and it was granted to him. I hope that this will be of help to you.

Peace and all things good!"

Mostar, November 14, 2002, Fr. Slavko Soldo, provincijal

On November 19th, the following statement was issued by the Basicilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.  Note that the event was cancelled just two days prior:
Basilica of the National Shrine
Important notice about Father Jozo Zovko, O.F.M.

November 19, 2002

The November 21 Marian Mass and prayer vigil at the Basilica of the National Shrine will continue as scheduled without the participation of Father Jozo Zovko, O.F.M. Father Zovko’s faculties have been revoked and he is under censure from the Bosnian Diocese of Mostar-Duvno. In accord with Canon Law, he may not exercise his priestly ministry here.

The National Shrine and the Archdiocese of Washington, though unaware of the basis for Father Zovko’s censure, or any credible allegations against him, are obliged to adhere to its canonical stipulations.

On November 21st, the Vicar General of the Order discusses Zovko's standing with the religious order, and says nothing about his faculties.
"I Fr. Stefano Ottenbreit, the undersigned, Vicar General of the Order of Friars Minor, testify that Fr. Jozo Zovko is a Member in good standing of the Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Herzegovina of our Order. I, also, declare to whom it may concern that he has never been suspended from our Order."
Signed and sealed with the seal of the Order at our General Curia in Rome on this 21st day of November in the year of the Lord 2002.
In fide, Fr. Stefano Ottenbreit, OFM, Vicar General

Now, there is something interesting missing at pro-Medjugorje sites.  That is, the standing of Fr. Jozo Zovko with the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno.  I copied this from a now defunct website, "Send Your Spirit Medjugorje" some time ago before it went offline.  Whomever wrote this letter, raised the appropriate questions reqarding the two replies from the Franciscn order.  The site indicated, it never got a response to the questions raised.
November 25, 2002

Fr. Slavko Soldo, OFM,
Provincial of the Herzegovinian
Franciscan Province of the Assumption
Mostar - Fax: 333-526

Although Fr. Jozo is in good standing with you, he is, however, in disobedience to the local bishop, and therefore, the church, as indicated in the letter (Dated November 18, 2002, Prot. 1942/2002) from Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar to Msgr. Michael J. Bransfield, Rector Basilica National Shrine Of Immaculate Conception, Washington, D,C. Fax 001 202 526 8313.

Why did your Franciscan province permit him to be in such disobedience and without priestly faculties for 13 years?

Please reply. Thank you

Further information about Fr. Zovko is learned from Bishop Ratko Peric on his communication regarding the withdrawal of Papal Household Preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa's appearance at a retreat for priests in 2007.

Bishop Peric writes:

Despite the above mentioned decision, the news of a spiritual retreat for priests directed by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap., Preacher of the Papal Household, to be held in Medjugorje at the beginning of July 2007 appeared on the internet many months ago, yet the organizers of this retreat did not inform the Diocesan Chancery in Mostar according to the norm, prior to the event. In this regard, celebrations of the sacrament of reconciliation are being publicized billing, alongside Fr Cantalamessa, Fr. Jozo Zovko; yet the latter since 2004 has been relieved of all priestly faculties in the territory of the dioceses of Herzegovina (Vrhbosna, 3/2004, pp.293-298).

The Pastoral decision of 23 August 2001 regarding leaders of spiritual retreats and conferences was reaffirmed and expressly emphasized by the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Msgr. Ratko Perić in his discourse and invitation given during the Chapter elections on 16 April this year at Humac, where he was officially invited to preside at Holy Mass. On that occasion the Diocesan bishop mentioned the following regarding Medjugorje:

“1 – The pastoral obstinacy of the pastors and other associates of Medjugorje is quite evident on the ‘Medjugorje’ internet site which bears the title ‘Marian Shrine’. ‘Medjugorje’ is neither a diocesan nor national or international shrine. This status must be acknowledged while the events remain as they stand.

2 - The obstinacy of the pastors and other associates of Medjugorje is also evident in the their disregard for the circular letter of the Chancery of 2001, which states that priests coming from beyond the areas where the Croatian language is spoken are not to be invited without the express and written permission of the Diocesan Chancery.

3 - The obstinacy of the pastors and other associates of Medjugorje is evident in that a member of your Province, Fr. Jozo Zovko, who has no priestly faculties and who is forbidden from celebrating any priestly functions in this diocese, has been invited this year to preside at the Way of the Cross in Medjugorje and has been in this regard presented as available for confessions”.

The discourse was published in its entirety at the beginning of May this year in the diocesan pastoral monthly (Crkva na kamenu, 5/2007, pp. 33-35).

Fr. Cantalamessa may have thought that necessary permissions were obtained, but took correct actions upon learning he did not have the local Bishop's permission to preach in Medjugorje. Pro-Medjugorje sites often paint the bishop as being mean-spirited for this actions. However, since he has pastoral jurisdiction to ensure that what takes place in Medjugorje is in accordance with Church norms on Marian devotion (which does not include unapproved phenomena), he acted appropriately. Fr. Cantalamessa's appearance would have lent credibility to something not yet deemed worthy of belief by the Church. Further, his appearance with the suspended priest, Fr. Jozo Zovko, OFM would have been scandalous for the Church.

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