Medjugorje: Facts, Judgments and Problems
Summary of Facts
On June 24, 1981, six children in the town of Medjugorje, Yugoslavia (today, Bosnia-Herzegovina), allegedly experienced apparitions from the Blessed Virgin Mary. The apparition conveyed a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting. It also entrusted the children with secret messages about future events. The apparitions themselves have continued almost daily since 1981, with three of the now adult visionaries continuing to experience them regularly. Originally occurring on a hilltop near the town, they have since occurred wherever the visionaries happen to be.
The news that Our Lady might be appearing immediately began to attract pilgrims to Medjugorje, first from the surrounding countryside, and then, despite the communist government of that day, from Europe and the whole world. These included clergy and theologians, as well as experts from the physical and medical sciences. The private judgment of these early visitors did much to bolster people’s belief in the events at Medjugorje. In addition, some pilgrims reported seeing the sun spin and being able to look at it without pain or eye damage, others that their rosaries turned gold colored. Others claimed that remarkable physical or moral healings had taken place.
Per the 1978 “Norms of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Manner of Proceeding in Judging Presumed Apparitions and Revelations,” the competent authority to judge of the authenticity of apparitions is the diocesan bishop. However, he might decide that the matter needs more study and would then refer it to the national bishops’ conference. The possible judgments are: constat or non constat de supernaturalitate: it is evident, or it is not evident, to be of supernatural origin.
Diocesan Bishop vs. Rome
After an initial favorable response (hoping that Our Lady was to put an end to the Herzegovina case, 10-year resistance of the Franciscans to the Holy See’s decree concerning the turning over of the Medjugorje parish to the Diocese), Bishop Pavao Zanic of Mostar, in whose diocese Medjugorje is found, concluded as soon as 1982, that the apparitions could not be authentic. He denounced to Rome what he was thinking to be a diabolical manifestation. Advised to go slowly, he established a commission of theologians, scientific experts and religious superiors to investigate the events in 1982-1984 and again in 1984-1986 with additional members.
In October 1983, Hans Urs von Balthasar, declared: “What is happening at Medjugorje is truly of God […]. It is certain that the pope is interested in Medjugorje.” With these words began the Roman support of the apparitions in opposition to the Ordinary’s judgment.
In January 1984, Bishop Zanic published a second warning, denouncing to the Italian Bishops’ Conference then to the Yugoslav Conference what was happening at Medjugorje. In October he published, in Croatian and Italian, his Posizione, denouncing the lies and exposing the “charismatic magician” responsible for manipulating the seers: Fr. Tomislav Vlasic.
In Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger and von Balthasar answered with declarations in favor of Medjugorje. Meanwhile, Archbishop Frane Franic of Split-Makarska, publicly supported the apparitions.
Despite Zanic’s legitimate complaints, Cardinal Casaroli, Secretary of State and the pope himself requested his silence. However, in November 1985, the intrepid bishop announced the diocesan commission’s definitive report to be published in May of the following year. In April, he submitted it to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger, who ordered the dossier to be transferred to the Congregation. The negative report would never be published.
Bishops’ Conference Commission
Since the events exceeded the scope of the diocese, the then-Yugoslavian bishops’ conference was asked to complement the study with additional research. A new commission studied the events from 1987 to 1990. During those years, Charismatic lobbyists and the Vatican’s Ostpolitik worked in favor of Medjugorje, apparitions which were in line with the “Perestroika” and the new ecumenism in vogue. In March 1990, Bishop Zanic published another condemnation renewing his 1984 accusations. The Bishops’ Conference report was eventually published in April 1991:
“…based on the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”
The contradiction appearing in the conclusion will become the attitude adopted by Rome. Meanwhile the supernatural nature of the apparitions, messages and ecstasies was denied and the pastoral care of the pilgrims was recommended to the local bishop.
Same Condemnation, Same Tolerance
Bishop Zanic’s successor, Bishop Ratko Perić, appointed in 1993, condemned Medjugorje in his 1995 book Prijestolje Mudrosti (Seat of Wisdom). Two years later, he re-stated his conviction that the apparitions of Medjugorje are obviously not supernatural.
Over the years, Rome adopted a more tolerant position. The daily messages and the scandals of the priests involved in Medjugorje brought Cardinal Ratzinger to distance himself from Medjugorje, declaring that neither he nor John Paul II had ever recognized the apparitions as authentic.
In March 2010, Benedict XVI established a Roman commission to study the topic in further detail.
In October 2013, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”
In January 2014, the Roman Commission communicated its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which had not yet submitted its report to the pope for a final decision.
In February 2017, Pope Francis named Archbishop Hoser as a special envoy to Medjugorje then later [May 2018] as Apostolic Visitor to oversee the pastoral needs of both the local parish and pilgrims.
On December 10, 2017 in Il Giornale, Archbishop Hoser stated another contradictory attitude: “While it is absolutely true that pilgrimages to Medjugorje can be organized, they must have nothing to do with the apparitions or the seers.”
The public and constant condemnation of the apparitions issued by the two successive competent judges as well as the negative conclusions of first three commissions are based on indisputably recorded facts. It seems impossible that a future conclusion of the Holy See could contradict this constant judgement unless facts and testimonies are changed.
The First Apparitions:
The first apparitions in Medjugorje provoked terror and panic to the seers. Soon the apparitions would start to appear anywhere and everywhere as Bishop Zanic explained in July 1987:
“The Madonna started to appear on the Podbrdo of the Mountain Crnica, but when the militia forbade people from going there, she came into houses, into forests, fields, vineyards and tobacco fields; she appeared in the church, on the altar, in the sacristy, in the choir loft, on the roof, on the church steeple, on the roads, on the way to Cerno, in a car, on buses, in classrooms, in several places in Mostar and Sarajevo, in monasteries in Zagreb, Varazdin, Switzerland and Italy, once again on the Podbrdo, atop Krizevac, in the parish, in the rectory, etc.”…
On July 3, 1981, the seers declared that it was the last apparition. Since then, the apparitions occur daily and even happen to different seers, which is calculated to be more than 45,000 times.
On the 5th apparition, the “Madonna” seems embarrassed before the request to produce a sign proving her authenticity. The sign would never happen. This would be, six years later, a motive for Bishop Zanic’s gratitude.
“Thank you, Madonna, because with your long silence of six years you have demonstrated that you have not spoken here, nor appeared, nor given any message or secret, nor promised a special sign.” (Declaration of the Bishop of Mostar in Medjugorje, July 25, 1987)
Several points are of concern: the resurrection of the flesh; hell, where the damned are still “children of God” and where—according to Mirjana—“people come to feel comfortable,” the mediation of Mary, denied by the apparition: “I do not say [I am mediatrix] of all graces. I receive from God what I obtain through prayer…. Jesus prefers that you address to Him directly, moreso than through an intermediary.”
On October 1st, 1981, to the written question “Are all religions good?” the seers transmitted the answer: “All religions are equal before God.”
And also: “Peace, peace, peace…nothing but peace. Be reconciled. All religions are the same before God. God commands in all these religions as a king does in his realm.”
On June 30, 1981, the apparition declared that it would only appear only three more times. Several times, it promised the realization of a great sign for precise dates. It affirmed that it will quickly appease the quarrel opposing the Franciscans to the Diocese. Bishop Zanic affirmed having caught all the seers in lies. For example, about the reason for being on the hill during the first apparition: to hide and smoke. In July, they admitted it to Bishop Zanic, then obstinately denied it to Fr. Rene Laurentin, and eventually—five years later—Ivanka would admit it to Fr. Laurentin.
The Franciscans of Medjugorje, directors and confidants of the seers lied also. Fr. Vlasic perjured himself about Vicka’s diaries, Fr. Joko Zovko added messages the seers never talked about…
The contradictions of Fr. Laurentin, propagandist of Medjugorje are so numerous that they should exclude him of being taken seriously.
The Apparition Supports the Franciscans’ Rebellion:
Since December 1981, the apparition constantly supported the lack of discipline from the Franciscans of Medjugorje, encouraging them to ignore the sanctions imposed on them by Bishop Zanic and their ecclesiastical superior.
When Fr. Ivica Vego was expelled from the Franciscan Order for his disobedience and bad example, the apparition supported him. According to Vicka’s diaries and the seers’ declarations, it said 13 times that he was innocent and the bishop wrong. Eventually, Ivica Vego, abandoning the religious life, went to live with the nun he had a child with…
Sexual misconducts happened also to Fr. Jozo Zosko, ex-parish priest of Medjugorje and to Fr. Vlasic who was eventually laicized after being investigated “for the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspected mysticism and disobedience towards legitimately issued orders.”
Strangeness, Oddness, and Eccentricity:
In his 2017 statement, Bishop Perić explained that a study of the transcripts of interviews with the six visionaries shows that the “Madonna” usually speaks only when spoken to, “she laughs in a strange way. In response to certain questions she disappears and then returns, …she allows some of those present to step on her veil lying on the ground, to touch her clothes and her body.”
These touching sessions are disturbing and frequent. Witnesses reported the “Madonna allowed all those who wanted to come forward and touch her,” the seers guided them saying: “now you are touching her veil, her head, her hand, her dress…”
Let us also mention the swallows and the “black butterfly” that accompany the apparition, “beautiful like an actress” according to Jakov; the trembling of its hands, the fainting of the seers when holy water is throw in its direction.
Greediness and Business:
Medjugorje became a lucrative business for the seers, its propagandists and the whole town. Bishop Zanic declared it plainly: “Laurentin and the others are very wealthy liars. All those who have written and published books, who have filmed and reproduced video cassettes, who diffuse souvenirs, etc. They have all made themselves very, very rich. For money plays a very important role in this whole affair.”
Mirjana, the mother of two children, runs a guesthouse for pilgrims, very close to where Ivan and Jakov live. The Medjugorje locals have nicknamed the street where visionaries live, Millionaire Street.
How Was That Possible?
The apparitions were announced to Fr. Vlasic in an alleged prophecy by Sr. Briege McKenna during the Rome International Meeting of the Charismatic Movement of May 1981. Through its messages, Medjugorje supports the Charismatic Movement, its doctrines, its practices, its leaders.
Frs. Zovko and Vlasic, in charge of the parish and pilgrimage, Bishop Franic, the seers, the propagandists of Medjugorje were or became Charismatics.
The most famous lobbyist of Medjugorje, French Charismatic and priest, Fr. Rene Laurentin worked hard in selecting, editing, and promoting the apparitions in opposition to the local bishops. He received great benefits from the sale of his books. After Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter denying the support given to Medjugorje, he even declared several times that he had never said or written that Our Lady appeared in Medjugorje!
The political context and the new ecumenism have also played their role in the support that Rome gave to the partisans of Medjugorje against the constant condemnation of the local bishops.
A Common Objection—The Good Fruits:
The piety of the pilgrims is often brought as an objection. How can manipulation, lies or diabolical influence bring such fruits like confessions and conversions?
The answer is given by Bishop Zanic: “Here people are praying and fasting a lot, inspired as they are, of course, by the belief that these events are indeed supernatural.”
Fr. Dugandzig, rector of Medjugorje in 1987 reproached Bishop Zanic “You are actually working to prove that it is Satan in person who is at work and that, since the time of Jesus Christ, this is his greatest deception.” It seems difficult not to subscribe to such an observation.