Mgr. Joseph Das of the Indian bishopric of Berhampur visited Medjugorje from October 12th to 15th. On Sunday, October 15th, he celebrated holy mass for the English-speaking pilgrims and he also held the homily. This was his first visit to Medjugorje.
On October 26th, Mgr. Florencio Olvera Ochaoa, Bishop of Mexico, from the bishopric Tabasco, visited Medjugorje on his way to Dubrovnik. He was accompanied by Ante Luburić, Chancellor of the bishopric Mostar-Duvno. He said that it had been his ardent desire to visit Medjugorje, as a great number of his faithful come on pilgrimage here.
At the end of October, four bishops were in Medjugorje: Mgr. Leo Drona from the bishopric of San Jose from the Philippines, Mgr. Nestor Carino, General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Mgr. Cirilo Almario, retired Bishop from the bishopric of Malolos of the Philippines and Mgr. Nicodemus Kirima, Archbishop of Nyeria, Kenya. These four bishops were part of a group of 700 American pilgrims, who were taking part in a pilgrimage to several Marian shrines throughout Europe. This pilgrimage was organized by an American organization and one of the Shrines they visited was Medjugorje.
At the end of September retired bishop Msgr Janez Moretti was in Medjugorje for a two day visit. Before retirement Msgr. Moretti served as apostolic nuncio in Brussels, Belgium.
At the recently held Eleventh International Youth Prayer Festival on the theme: “The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us”, one of the speakers was Msgr. Robert Rivas, bishop of Kingstown, Saint Vincent and Grenada. On that occasions he addressed the assembled young people:
“My dear young people,
I am writing to you in the spirit of the Great Jubilee Year. What a privilege it is to be here with you in Medjugorje for this International Youth Prayer Festival. Thank you for hearing the call and responding to our Blessed Mother’s invitation to come together in this oasis of prayer, devotion and spiritual renewal. I admire you for coming from many continents to bear witness to your faith in Jesus Christ, her Son. Thank you for keeping your appointment with Jesus for the Jubilee Year.
Our great Jubilee profession of faith is centered in Christ, in the mystery of the Incarnation. St. John, the beloved disciple, beckons us to take a deep look into the mystery of the Incarnation and the birth of Christ when he writes in his Gospel: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. These are words of life. This is how close God has come to us. The divine has touched the human. All that was waiting, indeed all of creation, jumped for joy at the announcement of Christ’s birth. This is the great event we are celebrating in this Jubilee Year. Young people, may your hearts leap for joy today for your God dwells with you.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
Mary is at the heart of this great mystery of faith. She said “yes” to God and gave Christ to us. The birth of Christ opens the door to the greatest love story ever told or written. Again, St. John takes us to the heart of the story: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16.) Mary is the bearer of that love incarnate. Her message to you, young people, is to be bearers of that love to your friends and your peers at the beginning of this new millennium. We are all part of this great love story which has to be lived and told until the end of time. He promised to be with us for all time. This is love, love that lasts for ever. Your faith in Jesus Christ is the most precious ‘gift’ of love you could share with others. Remember always your Mother’s words to you: “Do whatever He tells you!”
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
Jesus emptied Himself (Phil 2:7) and identified with us in everything except sin (Heb 4: 14-16). Jesus, therefore, knows where He stands with us. Where do you stand with Jesus? Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, says that Jesus expects great things of young people. Indeed, at the beginning of this new millennium a great responsibility is being placed in your hands: To receive the faith, to preserve it and to pass it on to your peers and to future generations. Therefore, you cannot wait to see what others are doing. You have to be a light! Do you have a vision of the way forward for you as young Christian women and men? Do you have a plan for deepening and strengthening your commitment to Christ? Where you stand with Christ is a commitment that requires the energy and vibrancy of your youth. Give your youthful zeal to Christ today! Empty yourselves in service and love for others. You could make a big difference in the Church and your society.
Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium!! (15th World Youth Day, message of the Holy Father #3). Do not be afraid to be women and men of hope. Your bishops are counting on you! The Church is counting on you. In his message to you for this year’s World Youth Day, our Holy Father points Christ out to you as the one Who is there for you and the one to Whom you must go. “Turn then to no one, except Jesus”, he says. “Do not look elsewhere for that which only He can give you” (#3).
Seek always to find Christ everywhere, in everything and in everyone. See Him in the disfigured faces of young people, your peers. Hear His cry in the cries of the poor, the rejected and those crushed by suffering. Hear the cries for justice and be concerned about the needs of others. Meet Christ daily in His Word and fall in love with Him in the Eucharist. Let your prayer be nourished by Eucharistic Adoration. Without a personal relationship to Christ, our lives are empty. Endeavor to make this one of your youthful priorities. Christ wants you to be happy. Therefore, live your faith joyfully. Jesus did not come to take away your joy but rather that through Him you would come to know real joy.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
Young people, I exhort you to make God’s choice for life, your choice for life. Become missionaries of life. Listen, as Mary did, to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and be ready and willing to go where Christ needs you to represent Him today. Do not be afraid. Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Bread of Life, your brother, is with you!
I bless you, with your families, your priests, Religious and friends.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us. Medjugorje, August 3, 2000
In mid July the bishop of the Belgian city Namour, Msgr. Leonard Andre - Mutien made a three day visit to Medjugorje. On that occasion Fr. Slavko Barbaric spoke with Bishop Leonard Mutine for Glas Mira. We present here a part of that conversation:
Bishop Mutien: “I met Medjugorje through my seminarians. When I was rector of the school of theology at St. Paul in Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982 and 1983, some of my students of theology went to Medjugorje. That was at the very beginning of the apparitions. I had never heard it spoken of before. Some students of theology came to me seeking permission to go to Medjugorje during their vacation. I knew nothing about it and I asked them if there existed a position of the Church on Medjugorje. They told me no, that it had only begun a few years earlier, and that the Virgin seemed to be appearing there. They gave me an article to read and I told them, “Go and see, go and see!” They spoke to me several times about it and in 1984 I decided myself to go and see. Four of us priests came with the students of theology to Medjugorje in June1984. I must say that what I saw in the parish church in 1984, that folk piety, the manner in which the rosary was prayed, the Eucharist celebrated, the meeting that I had with the visionaries two times during the “apparitions” in the sacristy – all that seemed to me very positive, especially the manner in which they prayed here.
Glas Mira: How many times have you already come to Medjugorje?
Bishop Mutien: This is my second time. The first time, then, I came in 1984. I kept a very positive impression about what I saw here. Later I kept informed. I read the books of Fr. Laurentin, not all, but a few. I read some articles, and , accordingly, took an interest. Especially while I was a professor at Louvain, I saw among the students some who had been to Medjugorje and who there had discovered prayer, confession, Eucharist, fasting, and I remember that in the theologate I began fasting Fridays quite regularly, following the example of some of my students of theology or other students who I met at the university and who had fasted after pilgrimage to Medjugorje. When I became a bishop I met some believers of my diocese who fasted every Friday, who discovered the sacraments, thanks to their encounter with Medjugorje. I established the fact that regularly among the students of theology there were those who experienced conversion and received a vocation, thanks to Medjugorje. Now I have thirty students of theology, among whom there are some who have undergone a spiritual experience here which has marked their vocation. Such fruits are of interest to me. I know that from false premises according to logic we can draw exact conclusions. But still, the fact that so many positive discoveries take place, just with thanks to Medjugorje, is positive evidence in favor of Medjugorje. Accordingly, I continued to inform myself and said that some day I would be able also to return to Medjugorje. In the year 2000 I thought I might be able to take advantage of the Jubilee for a short pilgrimage. The fact that at the present time in France and in Belgium there exists much opposition to the Medjugorje events, books which criticize Medjugorje, moved me to come and see with my own eyes. I do not wish to judge things, situations, and persons from a distance, only from books. I would rather take a little more personal look. After I informed the bishop of Mostar about my coming, I came here as a pilgrim to pray, but also personally to convince myself, and I must say that what I see in the parish church on the pastoral level seems very good: praying the rosary, the Eucharist, adoration, solid devotion, balanced piety, cultivated devotion. As far as the Medjugorje events are concerned, it is not up to me to decide about that. It up to the local bishop, the bishops of Bosnia-Hercegovina, after a detailed study of the situation, to formulate a judgment about the authenticity or non-authenticity of the apparitions. That is not my business! In every case, I will accept the official judgment of the Church.
Glas Mira: Why does the Church hesitate when good fruits are visible?
Bishop Mutien: I think that the Church in her wisdom with these kind of phenomena wishes first to investigate the facts, and only then the fruits. I think that is the rule that Cardinal Seper already formulated when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. First the facts are studied, and only then the fruits. Investigating the fruits is not enough. The facts have to be investigated, but the abundance of positive fruits is in itself a positive evidence, even if it seems to me that there are, as in every human affair, also negative fruits. Wherever there are people, there are also human moments, sometimes far too human. As also among the twelve apostles. . .
Glas Mira: From where does the opposition come?
Bishop Mutien: I understand why questions are asked about the phenomena of Medjugorje and why there exist objections against the apparitions in Medjugorje. I understand why, for example, questions like these are asked: the multitude of apparitions, the fact that in some manner they are foreseen, known for a certain day. I understand why there is opposition. Personally there are not many a priori thoughts about what the Most Blessed Virgin would need, or what she would not need to do. I prefer to accept things, even if they disturb my personal ideas, but I understand why questions are asked and I believe that, according to what I have been able to see, there are in this phenomenon of Medjugorje essential things, but there are also parasites. I believe there exists that which is fundamental, but also accidentals. One is more positive, and the other is more negative. In Lourdes the testimony of Bernadette impressed me very much, I would say 100% pure. It seems to me that here there were parasites surrounding the central events. I understand why questions are asked. I keep informed also on the questions that the opponents of Medjugorje are asking. One has to hear them, and therefore I read the book of Joachim Boufflet from beginning to end. It is written in a polemical tone which does not seem to me to be in place, but there are real questions which are asked and which one day have to receive a clear and historically established answer. Accordingly, I accept those questions, but I wish to stay open to the event. I know bishop friends whose rule of behavior is to say: “Look out, if we are open to the events of Medjugorje, we can perhaps encourage something that is not authentic.” There exists a risk. I am more sensitive to the opposite risk and say: “Just the same, it is possible that Heaven has spoken to people at that place and I do not wish to take the risk of a priori being closed to that grace.” Two risks exist: the risk that we are being deceived in Medjugorje and the risk that we are bypassing a gift of grace.
Glas Mira: A gift from Heaven?
Bishop Mutien: My desire is that those who have the grace and the competence for that, the local bishop, the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina, a theological and investigative commission, continue to study this phenomenon, to formulate one day the judgment of the Church about what has happened here. Until then, between the two risks, I prefer to take the risk of being open rather than the risk of a priori being closed to the grace of God which can be operating in this place. Accordingly, therefore, I take the position of openness and prudence.
Glas Mira: We Franciscans, awaiting the final judgment, are placing ourselves at the service of the persons who come here. The bishop considers us “disobedient” because of the “apparitions”, but we do not have a big choice: if people come here, we have to serve them. . .
Bishop Mutien: As far as I can see, your pastoral work in the parish church is not based on the apparitions as such. It seems to me that there is not a lot of mention of the apparitions when Holy Eucharist and the sacraments are being celebrated. From time to time I even hear: “All the fruits of Medjugorje come simply from the fact that the Eucharist is celebrated, that there is adoration of the Eucharist, that there is confession, that there is prayer. The fruits, accordingly, if there are some, do not come from the alleged apparitions but from the sacraments of the Church.” I hear this from time to time.
Glas Mira: Some say: “Where there is prayer, there is grace and miracles.”
Bishop Mutien: That logic does not seem to me completely correct. It is true that there where there is prayer, Eucharist, confessions, fruits do come. But there are many other places in the world where there is prayer, where there is confession, where Eucharist is celebrated, but there are not the same kind of evident fruits!
Glas Mira: You, then, think that this dimension can be attributed to the apparitions?
Bishop Mutien: I believe that it is an indication which has to be studied, an indication that leads to consideration. I regularly meet young people who think about the priesthood or who have had a profound experience of conversion coming here, much more so than in relation to other places and that makes me question. I cannot accept without reservation that the fruits of Medjugorje are connected only with the living of the sacraments. They are also lived in other places. Here there exists something that presents a special question. It is not up to me to pronounce about the reality of these fundamentals, but there is a question that cannot be avoided.
Glas Mira: Finally, is it your wish to give some message here to the world?
Bishop Mutien: I think that on the spiritual plane we are living in a period that demands urgency. I am convinced, as is also Pope John Paul II, that the time of the Jubilee is a time of special grace, as John Paul II has said several times, that is preparing a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church. That which I am expecting from Medjugorje is that it contribute to the preparation of that new outpouring of the Holy Spirit which the Church and world need. Therefore I think that it is more useful to concentrate on the most fundamental, as you are doing here in this parish: to concentrate on the Eucharist which is the source of Christian life, and for the rest I think we need to cultivate the grace of peace and seek for the discernment in connection with Medjugorje to be done in the best possible climate, for the good of the Church.
Glas Mira: We will pray for you. Bless us! Thanks!”
From June 1st to 4th Msgr Waldemar Chaves de Araujo was here from Brazil with a group of pilgrims. Before his departure from Medjugorje Msgr. Araujo spoke with Fr. Slavko Barbaric. We present here the full conversation.
S.B.:Your excellency, would you say something to our readers about yourself?
WCH: I am Msgr. Waldemar Chaves de Araujo, Bishop of the diocese of Sao Joao del Rei in Brazil. I studied in Brazil and in Belgium. The situation in my diocese is good. I have developed good relations with my priests, religious and laity and we have various groups of active people who are working on different levels. In my diocese there are about 300,000 faithful with 304 communities. I came on pilgrimage with a small group from Brazil that has made the pilgrimage here to this place dedicated to Mary’s presence. We pray together, meditate and remain in silence. This is my first time in Medjugorje.
S.B.:When and how for the first time did you hear about Medjugorje and what is your experience?
WCH:I read reports from Medjugorje about he apparitions and all that was happening, and I spoke with people came here on pilgrimage. I believe that Our Lady is appearing here. She is the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She desires to help us. That is why I came with this group and why we are living these days conscious that she is present with us in a special way as Mother. My experience is that this indeed is a real place of prayer. I can say that I have always nurtured devotion to Mary, but here I have renewed and deepened it still more. Really, I have no difficulties believing that She is appearing here. God is working here how He wants to and when He wants to and He has decided to work in this manner to work in Medjugorje.
S.B.:Do you have some message for the parishioners, the pilgrims and people in general?
WCH:My message from Medjugorje is a message of hope. Whoever decides for a true devotion to Mary and does what She says, will meet Jesus, and Jesus give hope. Whoever starts living the sacraments, as I saw they are lived here - the celebration of mass, confessions, adoration, prayer - will have his life path filled with hope and peace. With Mary our path is sure. Accept what she says, she knows the Way, she knows her Son and will help us on our path to the final homeland in heaven. May God bless you all. I shall pray for all of you.
From March 18th to 23rd Msgr. Franziskus Eisenbach, auxiliary bishop of Mainz, visited in Medjugorje. He said the following about his impressions:
"I am here as a pilgrim. I want to get acquainted with Medjugorje and to pray in it. For years already I know about and follow Medjugorje and I also wanted to come earlier, but I waited for a sure sign for myself when to decide to visit Medjugorje. This time I was expressly invited, therefore I came.
Already my first impression is that the church is continuously full at all the masses, and especially at adoration. It is obvious that many people have understood that this is a special place of prayer. The experience of many is that their personal prayer improves and that it is supported by the experience of community prayer. I know many people who in Medjugorje have renewed their faith and have learned to pray again. And now I too have personally been able to experience how Medjugorje helps in this sense.
Another experience that for me is very important is that in Medjugorje it is not just a matter of prayer, but that prayer also brings forth fruits in the service of man, especially of man in affliction. It was especially important for me to get to know the "Mothers' Village" where mothers with children, abandoned children and orphans of war find a refuge, and everything is also connected with a large garden where encounters take place between the children of healthy families and the children of those who for various reasons have lost a normal family. I saw that abandoned children here have a chance to learn how to live. And that is very important. The community of Sr. Elvira in which those addicted to drug and other evils find a place of refuge and healing also impressed me deeply. I celebrated Holy Mass and prayed morning prayer with them. It was very nice to see with what strength they pray and how joyfully they celebrate Holy Mass. I understood that the main method of healing is the deepening of faith and the experiencing of community in prayer and work.
It was important for me to hear about the God-Parent program for children, that is, the action of helping the children of fallen defenders, in which many families from Germany cooperate helping every month with a financial contribution for the destroyed families and their children. These works of active love for the needy especially showed me that in Medjugorje it is not just a matter of the correct spirit of prayer. Love toward God that is shown in prayer has brought fruits that are recognized in the care of man.
By all means I also wanted better to understand the very phenomenon of apparitions. Therefore I made an effort at least to meet someone of those who tell about their experiences and affirm that they see Our Lady. I met one of the visionaries, spoke with her and was present at an apparition. At my first meeting with Marija in her family home I found her in the garden working in rubber boots. She is a completely normal, young woman with three children. In conversation with her I understood that she is a very alert person, knows how to ask questions and to speak of her experiences and discerns things well, sees what is good and what is not good. She invited me also to participate in prayer with her when she prepares the encounter with Our Lady, that is continuing already more than 18 years. We prayed in the chapel of her home where quite a few people were gathered for this occasion. We prayed the rosary in various languages and waited for the moment of apparition. Marija gave a brief notice that the moment of apparition was getting close and after a prayer that she led, she remained in silence. We all knew that it was the moment when she sees Our Lady. After the apparition she told us that Our Lady prayed over everyone and blessed us all. Once more she invited us to take part in a prayer. The meeting with Marija showed me that she is a completely normal, young woman, that she is standing with her two feet on the ground and that she is taking good care of her children. I saw that she has a good relationship with her family and with the pilgrims. She is simple and natural, and then again clear and understandable when she talks about her experiences. In the end I can say that she is a woman who can be believed, who is trustworthy and therefore I have no difficulty trusting in what she says, that is, that she is seeing and that it is authentic. This for me is a very important experience, because I concluded that this place of prayer rests on the experience that these young people have received like a gift and which they confidently transmit to others.
Mary is venerated in Medjugorje as the Queen of Peace. This title and all that she sees had to prepare the world for that terrible experience of war. Ten years after the first apparition war broke out in Croatia and in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Medjugorje is a place that continuously prays for peace. The message of Medjugorje for the world is clear: it has to overcome wars and conflicts by the power of love. One gets the impression that in Medjugorje the whole man is affected: heart, soul and body. Prayers and the place of prayer here take a hold of the entire person. Therefore Medjugorje, in this sense, carries a message for the whole Church: allow God and Our Lady to touch us in the totality of our human reality and let us allow Mary to bestow her love on us, and thus learn to love with our whole heart. Therefore I can say that no one needs to be afraid of Medjugorje even if it has not yet been officially approved in the Church. Here prayer is really done in a way that changes a person. Therefore multitudes of the faithful who also wish to learn to pray come here. I wish that this message and this experience be carried also to Germany because we Germans are inclined to rationalism rather than to feeling. And here it is a matter of a message for man in his entirety, something that is really necessary for everyone."
As we published in Bulletin No. 137, in February Bishop Robert Rivas was in Medjugorje for a private visit. Many pilgrims come to Medjugorje, among them more and more priests, and men and women religious. It is completely natural also that more and more bishops are coming. According to the Zadar declaration of April 1991, the bishops should accompany the events in Medjugorje in order to know where their faithful are going. We took advantage of this opportunity and spoke with Msgr. Robert Rivas, bishop of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean Islands, who spent ten days in Medjugorje. We are grateful to him for being available to share his testimony with us. Fr. Slavko Barbaric spoke with Bishop Rivas. Here is a part of that conversation:
SB: Tell us a little about yourself first?
RR:My name is Robert Rivas. I was born in Trinidad, Tobago. I entered the religious life, the Dominican order, at the age of 18. I did my noviciate and studies in Ireland. I was ordained in 1971. I was born in June 1943. After my ordination in Trinidad, I went to the Engelicum in Rome, and completed my studies there -- I received a Bacaloriate license in Theology. I went back to Ireland and studied Communications, Radio and TV production. I was very interested in that kind of work. When I returned to Trinidad, my superior told me I had been gone to long, 8 1/2 years, and that I needed to be 'inculturated' again to the local situation. I worked in three parishes over 7 years. After 5 years I was given the job of Director of Communications which I did for 2 years and then I was appointed Novice Master for the Dominicans in Formation. I did this work for 10 years, preparing young men for the priesthood and religious life. I also was a Unversity Chaplain for 6 years during that time. In the early 1980's I was given an appointment in the Carribbean as the first Domincan to be the Assistant to the Master of the Dominican order in Rome for the promotion of Domincan life in the Carribbean. The idea was to promote unity on the various existences of the Dominicans in the various dioceses in the Caribbean. There are at least 6 provinces within the Caribbean. My work was to coordinate all these groups toward common formation, -- the dream was to have a Dominican province in the Caribbean. I did that for 4 years and then I was appointed Bishop of St.Vincent, an island in the Caribbean.
SB: When and how did you hear about Medjugorje for the first time?
RR: In Trinidad a lot was going on in regard to Medjugorje, and then already from the first days of the apparitions. One of the pilgrims invited me to come as a priest. I only responded to the invitation in 1988. I was very happy and satisfied with my first visit to Medjugorje, because I experienced a renewal of faith and life by the faith of the pilgrims. A special grace of Medjugorje is that the priests who come with a group, start to minister especially as priests, making themselves available for confession and for conversations. The greatest grace of Medjugorje really is confession. Pilgrims by their coming to Medjugorje become eager to be active in their own parishes - both in regard to prayer and the sacramental life, and parish activities in general. Due to all that I experienced with the people, I have to say that a special work of grace exists here and that Mary is present. I really believe that Our Lady is speaking here.
SB: What convinced you the most and helped you to accept Medjugorje?
RR: Again I have to say: It is the pilgrims who started to change their life here and decided to live the faith.
SB: Now you are in Medjugorje the second time and no longer as a priest, but as a bishop. Now what can you say?
RR: I decided this time to come and to be in silence and to remain ôincognitoö. I wanted to make a retreat here and to be in silence. However, that did not happen, because pilgrims sought me out for confession and I also preached. I understood that my role also as a priest has changed. The love of the faithful for a bishop especially touched me. Whoever loves a bishop, loves the Church. The Holy Spirit is at work here. Our Lady is work here. I personally want to be continually under Her protection.
SB: Would you like to say something from Medjugorje?
RR: What I am trying to realize in my life is simplicity. I think I have learned simplicity in suffering in my priesthood, and I have grown in profound love for God, Our Lady, the Church and complete surrender to Christ. All that I want is to do God will and Gods work. My message to the parish community, to the visionaries, to priests in the parish and to all pilgrims is that they be capable of surrendering their life completely to God and to be freed for love, that the gospel be lived in complete simplicity and beauty. I want for ll of us to know that Jesus is the King of our life. We Catholics must be capable of showing the world the beauty of our faith with the help of Our Lady. I would recommend to everyone to come to Medjugorje, because here they will deepen their faith for the Church and Our Lady and thus become good witnesses to others of the good news. And in Medjugorje the good news is: Peace.
SB: Thank you for this conversation and we promise you our prayers.
From March 3- 5th, 2000 Bishop Joao E. M. Terra was on a private visit in Medjugorje. He is the auxiliary bishop of Brasilia in Brazil. This was his second visit to Medjugorje.
In Press Bulletin #129 we wrote about the visit of bishops that were in Medjugorje at the end of October. In this number we bring you their impressions.
After spending several days in Medjugorje Msgr. Stanislaus Lukumwena from Congo among other things also said this: "The first morning as soon as I came, I went to pray on the Hill of Apparitions. That impressed me very much, because I encountered many people who were concentrated and devoutly praying. An important experience was also the evening prayer program at which there were many people. The many people from different countries and various languages, who prayed together gave me a profound and inexpressible feeling of joy. I am here on a private visit, and therefore officially I accept the position of the Church, but a personal experience is still something else. I can personally say that it is clear to me that all this that is happening here, and especially the great number of people, cannot not be interpreted in any other way than a special intervention of God. Therefore, regarding the authenticity of the apparitions - we should leave that judgment to those persons in the Church are also called to that. I personally am praying that the moment of recognition come as soon as possible. Our Lady has always told us to pray for peace. The world today is divided. There is neither peace nor love. I recommend everyone to try to pray humbly with all their might that peace come as soon as possible to all people. I would recommend to all communities that do not have vocations to come here and pray in this spirit that is alive here and they will certainly have vocations. To all of you who are living here I wish to say that you should continue to work in the spirit of St. Francis: dedicated and humbly, as you are already doing. Keep on hoping, because the time of recognition will come and everyone will be happy."
Msgr. Jose de Jesus Nunez Viloria, bishop of Guyana in Venezuela came with a group of pilgrims and stayed himself as a pilgrim in Medjugorje from October 24 - 28, 1999. He said the following about his impressions:
"After these days spent in Medjugorje I have very positive impressions. It is clear to me that in this place there is something very strong and supernatural. Without this supernaturality these events could never hold out to such an extent and spread like this throughout the whole world. I know that all the more people are coming from the whole world and that many pray here and are converted. This is a great supernatural reality of which the facts themselves speak. The visionaries simply convey that which Our Lady tell them and that is what the Bible calls for: peace, conversion, prayer, fast and the faithful accept it and continue living accordingly. When I listened to one of the visionaries I saw that some pilgrims are concerned also with questions of curiosity, but the visionary answered very simply: she can only say what Our Lady tells her, and they have to ask a priest the other things. My impression is very positive about everything that is happening here. I especially like the evening program, rosary and mass and adoration.
This is the real way of conversion.
The only thing I can say as a brother is that you who work here need to be patient with the people who come here. They come from far away, many things they don't know and, as much as possible, you always have to listen to them patiently and help them. To the visionaries, priests and pilgrims I would recommend to accept Mary who today is helping us in a special way to come to Christ, and He is the only Mediator and Savior. To her Jesus said from the cross: "Behold your son, but to the disciple He said: "Behold your Mother! I am convinced that is the reason of the apparitions that is giving Mary the right and from which comes the duty that she appear and help us and our job is to accept her. What is being announced here is the essence of the Gospel, therefore we have to accept it. Therefore, the renewal of life according to the Gospel is at work. The spirit of devotion and fervor that is seen here will truly serve the new evangelization. I commend myself especially to your prayers, also all priests and the whole world, and I myself promise to pray for all of you."
In the second last week of October Msgr. Emilio L. Bataclan, a bishop from the Philippines made a private visit to Medjugorje. Before leaving Medjugorje he also said this:
"I believe that Our Lady is appearing here. She is the Mother and she cares for us. I believe that she is always with her children, especially when they have to suffer, when the they so many problems. I have no difficulties believing that Our Lady is here because, above all, the "sensus fidelium" [sense of the faithful] says that Mary is here, and also my priestly and pastoral experience through a full 25 years, and now also that of being a bishop helps recognize the special signs that May is present here and that she is caring for her children. I would like to say to everyone: Mary is the Mother who loves and truly has to come to this world. She comes and says what we have to do, because she cares for us. I hope that the world will open its heart and soul to this good Mother. Let us pray mercy for all people to open their hearts. Let us pray for each other. May God bless you all."
During October, five bishops came on a private visit to Medjugorje: Msgr. Joseph Mugeny Sabiti and Msgr. Christopher Kakooza from Uganda, Msgr. Stanislas Lukumwena from the Congo, Msgr. Jose de Jesus Nunez Viloria, a retired bishop from Venezuela and Msgr. Emilio L. Bataclan from the Philippines.
In this Press Bulletin we quote the impressions of the two bishops from Uganda. Among other things, Msgr. Joseph Mugeny said: "I have no problem about anything here. In fact, what is happening here is with great intensity. All over the world, there are things happening. This time we are living in is a special time. God is giving us special graces through this place. Many people who have problems with their faith should come here to Medjugorje. Medjugorje is a chance, a privilige, special gifts given by God through the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us. The world is in an extremely bad state and it is good that we have places like Medjugorje. Wars, divorce, drugs - all these are bad things. We need such a place where we are able to learn about true love, true peace, true faith. So there is no doubt about what is happening here. It is much more intense here than in any other place. The people living here are very prayerful. I believe that the persons who lead the Church should come here and experience the graces and gifts of this place, which will help them to live a better life and to lead others towards God in a better way."
Msgr. Christopher Kakooza had the following thoughts: "The Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared in many other places. Important is Her call for compassion, prayer and penance. Our Lady asks us to sanctify our lives, to convert, to turn our lives toward God so that we may be worthy to enter heaven. I think the message we must take to the whole world is conversion, prayer and to go towards God and so to open the way to eternity."
After having taken part at a meeting of the faithful with the Holy Father in Maribor (Slovenia) on September 19th, the archbishop of Salzburg (Austria), Msgr. Georg Eder, visited Medjugorje on September 20th. On this occasion he said the following:
"I am here now for the second time, but not officially, since - up to the present - a bishop is not allowed to come on an official pilgrimage here. I came to Medjugorje for only one day for personal reasons. I greatly trust in Our Lady of Medjugorje. Also I, as bishop, carry many things around with me which burden me. Then one needs to go somewhere to look for help and find it. Every smart child goes to its mother. So the bishop also needs help. At the beginning of the year, I found much help here and I hope that, also this time, I will not leave emptyhanded.
What happens here is not wrong, it is not a lie, but it is good. When, at some time in the future, the credibility of the events here will be accepted, what will happen to those who did not believe? There is no doubt about it: what happens here is good. What happens here is what should happen in the Church: prayer, mass, confession, adoration, conversion, the formation of prayer groups, vocations. These are all in light of the events which are being guided by Mary, with which She is preparing us for the new millennium. Much is happening here that we in the Church have forgotten. Mary calls and teaches us. For the Church in Austria, I can say: 'We have forgotten much and we must begin anew with what Mary tells us in Medjugorje.'
Since the beginning of the apparitions the 19th year is passing. There are six visionaries. It is interesting that throughout all this time their credibility has remained intact, they have never contradicted themselves. This is a true miracle. In Lourdes, there was one visionary, in Fatima there were three - and the apparitions only lasted a short while. Here it is completely different. Our Lady does not speak about what is happening at present. There was a terrible war here. But now I see that this was very wise. If She were to start speaking about things that are happening in the world, there would be a great danger of getting too involved. When I asked the visionary, Ivan, why Our Lady never speaks about the problems of our times, he simply answered that Our Lady tells us what we should do: that we should pray, personally, in our family and in prayer groups. And I realize that it is really so. The reason for war and every other distress lies within us. When people find peace in God, they can transmit this peace to others. That is why Mary is right. Here people experience joy, peace and happiness. I see that. The best way to heal the many negative things in the world is to point toward the positive things.
I must admit that at the beginning the messages were too simple for me. We theologians are like that. We want something great. Sometimes I thought the messages to be too banal and too simple. This was how I felt until my first visit. But since then, I experience them differently. Every evening I read one message. When I read it the first time, it again seems very simple. But when I read it the second time, I realize that we are being told in a simple way what we need. We are like that: we want great movements, sublime things, and forget that everything starts in a very simple manner in the heart of each one of us: first peace, then towards the light and then joy. Mary is a mother and She speaks simply. Very often I recall the words of my own mother: 'How often do I have to tell you that?' While always repeating the same things to us, she was educating us. So what our mother said came into our hearts. I remember how she admonished us to pray and to go to confession. But every friday she still had to remind us not to forget confession. Here in Medjugojre, Mary has chosen the right way to help us and I am grateful for everything.
Although only for one day, I was glad to be able to come to Medjugorje and I must admit that with this visit I also thought of myself. I thank you for everything and may God bless you in everything you are doing here."
More and more bishops from various parts of the world are coming to visit Medjugorje. One of them is Msgr. Tadeusz Werno, Bishop of Koszalina, Poland. We gave a short notice about his visit in Press Bulletin #124. After spending some days in Medjugorje, he said this, among other things, about his impressions.
"This year I am celebrating 25 years as a bishop. It is my silver jubilee. I am here for the first time by persuasion of the pastor of Podstrzela in Northern Poland, who is profoundly moved by the spirit of Medjugorje. Once when we were talking, he convinced me that I must come to Medjugorje and that gave me the idea to be disposed. That is how I came.
The experience of the people coming to Medjugorje affirms that this place is a place of special grace. Many convert and return to the path of truth. I admit that I personally pray the rosary, but I get tired already after the first part. Here perhaps I was able for the first time to pray all three parts of the rosary. People pray it in different languages but that doesn't tire me at all. It is even nice to listen to. I saw that many go to confession, return to Holy Mass, to Holy Communion, to union with God who is here amongst us. I am really happy to see that here in Medjugorje the Franciscans, our brothers, lead people to Jesus through Our Lady. I am very grateful to them. I especially like the devotion of the Way of the Cross on Cross Mountain. It was something very beautiful. I also met one of the visionaries and we conversed with her. I was also at the community of Sister Elvira, who is helping young men with the problem of addiction. That is really a wonderful fruit of the Medjugorje events. In addition to that, yesterday I was observing the people during Holy Mass. Young man, young ladies, adult men, children - are all praying, kneeling for hours and going to confession. That is what we need the most.
I believe in Jesus and I do not need the apparitions in Lourdes or in Fatima or in Medjugorje,
Here the Holy Mass is proclaimed as the center of life.
And finally, I want you Franciscans to persevere in this magnificent task, to continue being instruments in the hands of God. I am confident that the present Pope blesses your service in Medjugorje, that he thinks of you in his heart because he loves Our Lady so much. May God through Mary's intercession bless you all together with all the pilgrims. You must persevere. This is magnificent."
As we announced in the last issue of the Press Bulletin that Cardinal Bernardino Echeverria Ruiz, retired archbishop of Guayaquila and Bishop Victor Maldonado, both from Ecuador were on a private visit to Medjugorje from June 26 - 28th.
Two other bishops from Ecuador were here from June 27 - 29th on a private visit: Bishop German Pavon Puente of Tulcano and Bishop Carlos Altamirano, auxiliary of Quito.
In a conversation with Fr. Slavko Barbaric they said the following about their impressions:
Cardinal Bernardino Echeverria Ruiz:
S. B.: When did you hear about Medjugorje for the first time?
B. E. R.: Already a long time ago. I had a great desire to come here immediately, but till now it has not been possible. I am so happy that I have come. As for the messages, that is already well known to us because it is completely biblical. What attracted me was the desire to experience this parish community and to meet the Franciscan friars who are performing such a wonderful work here. It is real evangelization. Yesterday when I participated in the evening mass, it was for me a magnificent experience. Here there is time for prayer, for the celebration of Mass. I felt all the devotion while we prayed the rosary before the mass. It all touched me profoundly. I understood that, besides the message that Our Lady gives, her presence here is so important. God is speaking here through Mary not only to you, but to all nations and to all cultures. One does not come here because of tourism. One comes here for confession, for encounter with God. This is a divine moment for the world. In addition to the message and the presence of Mary, all the work that is done here is important. I personally feel here a beginning for the conversion of all Europe. I saw how many there are waiting for confession. A great many of the faithful go to Holy Communion and celebrate Holy Mass. And that is what for us in pastoral work must be primary and most important, that we be available for the people. Here that is happening. I am grateful to God that I have met my Franciscan brothers and the Croatian people here and I have felt your faith.
Bishop Victor Maldonado:
S. B.: What impressions did you get of Medjugorje?
V. M.: I can confirm that which Cardinal Bernardino Echeverria has already said: Medjugorje is a meeting place of God and man. Here there is found an authentic source of salvation. When one comes here, then he immediately understands that we are all in need of conversion. During these days we have met with the visionary Maria. We prayed with her during the apparition and talked with her. Truly we need conversion to be able to complete our task and to help others on the way of conversion. I have to admit that this visit here has opened my eyes to many things and that I would do a lot of things differently in all the tasks of my life.
S. B.: When you return, what will you say to those entrusted to you?
V. M.: Here I have better understood the role of Mary in the life of a Christian. I consider that for me a great gift and a great grace. So that is exactly what I will talk to people about.
At the invitation of Cardinal Dr. Franjo Kuharic the President of the Bishops' Conference of Japan, Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao, visited the Republic of Croatia. In the course of his visit to Croatia on August 16 he also visited Medjugorje in the company of Mr. Andjelko Simic, the Croatian ambassador to Japan. After walking around the shrine the Japanese archbishop also visited and conversed about the Medjugorje events with the Medjugorje pastor and the other Franciscans who are currently working in Medjugorje. Archbishop Hamao was particularly interested in the arrival of pilgrims from Japan and other regions of southern Asia to this world renowned shrine. The Medjugorje pastor, Fr. Ivan Landeka, presented the honored guest with a gift copy of the Photomonograph of Medjugorje and of a rosary, and Fr. Miljenko Stojic, the director of the Information Center, presented the Japanese archbishop with data on the Medjugorje events during these 16 years.
At the beginning of August 1997 Indian Bishop Dr. P. Arokiaswamy visited Medjugorje and stayed for a week. He presided at one evening celebration and gave the sermon for the assembled faithful. We here present the sermon of Bishop Arokiaswamy in full.
"I am a bishop from India. I became a bishop 21 years ago and a priest 51 years ago. It is my desire to visit all the Marian shrines, all the places where our most holy Mother has appeared. Four or five times I have visited Lourdes, which is the best known of these shrines. I have also visited the chapel of the Miraculous Medal. Last year I also visited Montichiari in northern Italy where Our Lady appeared as Rosa Mystica. The year before I visited Fatima in Portugal and Garabandal in Spain.
This year I have the honor of visiting this shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje, thanks to my friend from Germany, Mr. Benedict Meier whom I met last November in Montichiari. I am happy that I could spend some days here in prayer. Here one feels the atmosphere of faith, of prayer and of profound devotion to the most holy Mother, Gospa, as you call her here.
The Medjugorje message is the same as in other places: prayer, penance and conversion. The large number of people who are confessing and returning to God is a great sign of hope for the future of the Church.
In the past and in previous centuries rationalism flooded the world. People began to say that such things donot exist that belong to the field of the supernatural or the miraculous and that what is thought to be a miracle can be explained by natural causes and science. In one such context Our Lady appeared in Lourdes and worked many miracles. When scientists began to explain some of them by natural causes, Our Lady still worked miracles and still greater miracles, as if she were inviting them: "Now, what do you say to this. . . and to this???" In the end scientists had to acknowledge that they could not explain those amazing events by natural causes and had to acknowledge them as being supernatural and of a supernatural origin. God wanted man to come back from his total self-sufficiency to Him alone.
The same thing is happening also today. Progress in technology has taken man to the moon and to Mars. Man is proud of his technology and thinks he has no need of God. He tries to find satisfaction in dissolute pleasure. But he finds emptiness in himself. Material goods and longing for pleasure do not fulfill him. He finds out that only God can fill this emptiness and give him true happiness and spiritual peace.
God sends His own Mother at different times in different places for her to lead men to Him alone. Everywhere the message is the same: prayer, coming back to Him in trust, penance and conversion. These are the gospel values. We cannot find others. That is why all the basic messages in all the Marian apparitions are the same.
In Medjugorje numerous miracles are ascribed to the intercession of the most holy Mother, Our Lady: physical healings, conversions from a sinful life to a profound Christian life. The fact that pilgrims are constantly coming here and in ever greater numbers is a proof that miraculous gifts are being distributed here. Were that otherwise, the influx of pilgrims would have stopped long ago.
I think Chesterton was the one who said: "Some people you can deceive all the time, all the people you can deceive some time, but you cannot deceive all the people all the time."
People are constantly coming here in ever greater numbers and returning with peace in their hearts.
Personally I am convinced that the events here are of a miraculous origin. But, we must wait for the "official" judgment of the Church, which could last for years. For the official judgment of the Church in the case of Lourdes they waited a very long time - nearly 50 years. The Medjugorje events are only 16 years old. The Church is slow, but has not forbidden pilgrimages.
What saddens me the most is the negative position of the local bishop, both of the current bishop as well as his predecessor. Let us pray that this negative position changes. The Pope privately proposes pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Privately he approves them. That is enough for us for now.
We take fervent recourse to the Most Holy Mother of God that she form us according to the image of her own Son Jesus so that we might live according to the gospel values of love, forgiveness, and solidarity and be Jesus' witnesses among the people with whom we live.
Today is the feast of St. Lawrence, the renowned deacon and martyr of the early Church. Since today is Sunday his feast is not celebrated. I assisted at the Eucharist of Pope Sixtus II (whose feast we celebrated three days ago). The material goods of the Church and care for the poor were also entrusted to him.
It was conveyed to the emperor of Rome that the Church had great wealth. The emperor wanted to confiscate the church's goods. He sent one of his servants to tell him: "Lawrence, I heard that the Church possesses great wealth and goods. Can you show them to me?" Lawrence said to him that he would show them to him after three days. The servant was very happy. The fourth day Lawrence gathered all the poor of Rome, the crippled, the maimed, the blind and people like them in the district of Rome and showed them to the Roman servant saying: "This is the treasury of the Church." The servant was furious that Lawrence had made a fool of him and he ordered him to be tortured on an iron grate with fire below. The story goes that at one moment Lawrence said to his tormentors: "One side is officially baked, turn over the other side and eat." He died as a renowned martyr.
Let us look out for the poor, let us see Christ in them and help them, as though we were helping Christ. Jesus said: "Whatever you did to one of these least ones, you have done unto me." That is what Mother Theresa is doing to the slums of Calcutta. Let us recognize Jesus in the poor who are suffering and help them as much as we can.
The Church prays in its own official prayers that we be protected from passion and corruption, just as Lawrence was protected from fire. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Lord free us from the fire of passion and help us to lead good Christian lives."
Ecclesiastical dignitaries are also all the more frequently coming to Medjugorje. At the beginning of December the archbishop of Salzburg, Msgr. Georg Elder, arrived. The evening before his departure we askedto talk with him. Among other things this is what he said about his impressions:
"I had heard about the events in Medjugorje not long after their beginning. In recent times there is a lot of talk about apparitions and as a bishop almost every week I was receiving something about apparitions, visions and revelations. I have to admit that during the communist period in Yugoslavia I often came on vacation to Istria, but I did not go further south even though I could have. I just did not have sufficient motivation. Then I began to ask myself more and more often: Why these completely simple messages that are still even being repeated? It is always a call to prayer, fasting, penance, prayer for peace. I said: That must have some meaning. What does a mother do when she raises her child? I experienced that at home: she always repeats the same thing: I have already often told you that! But I cannot stop saying: Pray, or do so and so. Mary acts the same way in Medjugorje. She always says the same thing to her children that are already now adult persons. And what else would a priest have to do in his parish? He is always calling to prayer. John Paul II once said that priests have to be the first to pray and have to be the teachers of prayer. That is what Mary, a good Mother, does. She teaches us to pray, really in a very simple way. Now I have to say truly that Christ's word has the value for me of being the recognizable sign: By their fruits you will know them!
My impressions here are not surprising. I know that groups from Salzburg very often go to Medjugorje, that new prayer groups are constantly being started, that there are more and more people who say: In Medjugorje I received my vocation! I am reflecting: We are losing three things that we are getting back again in Medjugorje: penance, conversion and vocations. In Austria we look in vain for these things: Conversion is not even mentioned any more because people do not need it; confession is dying out with us except in shrines and in the churches of religious orders where this sacrament is sought and lived; spiritual vocations are less and less. In Medjugorje this is happening constantly: confessions, conversions and spiritual vocations!
That is what I ask myself: What must we do for conversion to happen to someone? I have repeated to the members of Peoples' Initiative that, for me, conversion in their program has disappeared. Are we the ones who do not need conversion, the way Jesus says it in the gospel? Conversion is being excluded, and confession is being lost, spiritual vocations are less and less, and we are asking ourselves how can we at all keep up a seminary? But all that is found in Medjugorje. We are finding exactly that which for us has disappeared.
I still have one more wish: That peace come here between the Franciscans and the bishop, and that Medjugorje can truly develop in that way that Our Lady wishes. I am now convinced of the authenticity of Medjugorje. I have believed it for quite a while. I still wanted to come and take a look. When pilgrims called me to go with them to Medjugorje, I answered: I am spiritually closer to Medjugorje than some others are! My impression was confirmed because of the simplicity of the visionaries and the evening program. Everything is in the church's spirit and that, very, very simply. At the same time also very devoutly, with strong faith and above all with a strong will for conversion and real renewal."
As we announced in the previous Press Bulletin, the auxiliary bishop of Portland, Oregon and the pastor of St. Mary's Parish, Corvallis, Bishop Kenneth Steiner visited Medjugorje for the first time on a private visit from November 7 - 12, 1998.
Here is what he said, among other things, about his impressions of Medjugorje:
"People are hungry and have to discover the spiritual dimension in their lives, which television, secularism and materialism are killing, and many indeed have lost that dimension. By their coming to Medjugorje pilgrims discover that spiritual dimension and return home helping others also to become more aware of it. It is a real miracle what people experience here and take with them to their families and parish communities. Many cannot come here for various reasons, therefore they need witnesses that can help them find inner peace and discover God. And many only when they have returned home become aware of all that God gave them here. I can say the same thing about myself. I too have become aware that I am truly blessed by coming here. I am completely renewed by coming here. I have become more aware of Christ's presence in the sacraments, in the Church, in Sacred Scripture and in people in general.
In Medjugorje I received a new spiritual motivation. Perhaps some think that we bishops and priests do not need such renewals. They would be wrong because renewal is very necessary for us. I have met many priests who have come to Medjugorje. They have a better idea of their own priesthood. That is what I personally will take with me. I will tell people that Medjugorje is a place where people can go and be renewed in their faith. I met many people here with deep faith and fervent prayer. I understood that the people, in spite of great sufferings, have stayed faithful to God.
I have discovered God again and for me that is the proof that Our Lady is here. Indeed that is her task. People sometimes come here to look for Mary, but they find God. That is her wish, because she does not want anything for herself, but she does everything for men better to get to know her Son, Jesus. Our Lady wants to spread God's peace among men, among her own children.
I invite everyone who comes here to become an example for all people when they return home. Let them become a call to peace, prayer and conversion. Everyone that comes here has already met someone who gave him a good witness about Medjugorje and showed a change for the better in his own life. We have to be witnesses, we have to evangelize others. That is our mission: to bring people the Good News and about the God who saves. We have to bring Jesus and Our Lady to this world and help people to understand that life in God is possible and necessary for everyone in this world. We have to be witnesses to those who the Lord has sent into our lives.
I will pray for each one of you and may God bless you."
Two bishops from Haiti visited in Medjugorje together with 33 pilgrims from November 16 - 23,1998: Bishop Louis Kebreau of Hinche and Bishop Joseph Lafontant, auxiliary bishop of Haiti's principal city. On the occasion of his visit Bishop Louis Kebreau also said this about his impressions:
"Many people have told us about Medjugorje. They sent us books, pictures, medals and video tapes. We both have a mutual friend in America who informed us about everything that is happening here. That friend also offered us this trip. We accepted and here we are in Medjugorje.
I am experiencing Medjugorje with faith. In the Gospel we read how Jesus came to Nazareth and did the reading in the synagogue. Many marveled at what he said, but some protested saying they knew his family, mother, father. I think it is necessary to come, to have time, to see, to experience living. That way we can get to know Medjugorje. One cannot talk lightly about Medjugorje. It is a profound experience, intimate, personal. Inner peace and reconciliation is experienced here. What is real Christian faith is easily discovered. For me this is a time of renewal. One has to come simply, to see, to meet and listen to people. One has to go on the mountains, participate in the evening program, find time for personal prayer in silence. I am having a personal experience of reconciliation with my self. In each of us there is a part that we do not know, it is that pagan part in us. Since one is dealing with inner freedom by reconciliation, one can sometimes feel the attack of Satan more strongly than usual, but strength is also received. The Virgin Mary brings with her the light that helps us to see one's way and better to understand one's task. She accompanies us on our way and wants to lead us to life in God. Medjugorje indeed opens the way for us to be able to plunge into the life of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary is doing that here. So I am grateful to her."
On the occasion of his first visit, Bishop Joseph Lafontant, among other things, said the following:
For almost ten full years I have received news about Medjugorje. It interested me more and more. And I gladly accepted being in this pilgrim group. Mainly because Bishop Louis is also here.
I often went on pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes and other places. Here I discover a big difference from all the other pilgrimage places. There is nothing stereotyped. Everything is different from the other places. Everyone has his own personal experience, even if he is in the midst of a lot of people. What is surprising is that everyone who comes here as a pilgrim wants to accept everything.
The final incentive for me to accept coming to Medjugorje was also the visit of the visionary Jakov Colo in September. A great number of people participated. Only then did I become aware of how many of the faithful from Haiti know about Medjugorje. He met with the faithful in two churches. During his visit there was such an evident will and desire for reconciliation with oneself and for reconciliation with others. There was a great number of people who wanted confession during those days, really more than ordinarily. I took part in both meetings. I celebrated one Mass and Bishop Louis did one mass. It was a real experience of faith. Coming here only confirmed that. This experience is necessary for everyone. It is an experience of conversion, coming back to oneself and to God just as also an experience of reconciliation with others. Our Lady helps each of her children to find himself. Our Lady wants to feel each one, to personally touch and guide each one. Yet in the depths of the soul no one feels forced to accept all this, freedom is completely respected. One Croat who lives in America told me at the airport that in the beginning he did not believe, but when he came here he found peace and from then on he believes in Our Lady's presence. Now I understand him. Here people find peace and are reconciled.
Both bishops ended their conversation with these words: May God's blessing and the protection of the Queen of Peace be with all of you."
In October 1998, two bishops visited Medjugorje, one from Brazil and the other from Poland. The latter is Msgr. Albin Malysiak, who is 81 years old but - as he says about himself - he still works like he did 15 years ago. Of particular interest is the fact that he worked together with Pope John Paul II for more than 20 years. He talks about these years as follows:
"Also after having been elected Pope, we remained friends and meet as often as possible. For example, I will meet the Pope the beginning of November of this year and then again in March of next year. I worked with him for ten years as parish priest and professor in theology and ten more years as Assistant Bishop. Working together with him was always a great joy for me. He is a great person, honest and sincere. He always had great sympathy for others. He was a Professor at the Faculty in Lublin. He taught social ethics and had a particular concern for the poor and abandoned. I always remained his close collaborator. We both suffered under Communism, which brought us even closer."
Although his visit to Medjugorje was a private one, Msgr. Malysiak gave us his impressions:
"I will enjoy very much coming here, once the Church has recognized Medjugorje, as we are all awaiting the official decision of the Vatican. I, personally, believe that the visionaries have genuine apparitions. I have met some of them. This morning, I also saw Vicka. She is a happy person and radiates peace. I am convinced that this is a place of apparitions but, most of all, this is a great place of prayer. And this has impressed me particularly. I also climbed up Mount Krizevac. There, I met many people who truly pray devoutly in front of the cross. I counted about 70 people who sat on stones around the cross and prayed quietly. It was about noon and it was very hot, but the heat did not bother them. The stillness and spirit of prayer inspired me and I will return home with the image of those praying.
I admire the Franciscans who work here, who pray with the pilgrims and are at all times available for talks and confessions. I wonder from where they take the strength for this. In church one feels the prayer of the people. Praying the "Our Father" together was a unique experience for me; to hear all the different languages as they pray as in one voice and one could make out the Polish language particularly clear. I am especially pleased about the fact that so many priests accompany the pilgrims.
Back in Poland, I will tell everyone about Medjugorje. I will tell them about the devoutness and the faith of the people, whom I met here. I will talk about this when I meet people and in my sermons. However, Medjugorje is being talked about much in Poland. This is also why I came here.
Finally, I would like to say that I have been touched by the work of the Franciscans in Medjugorje. As far as the Marian devotion is concerned, I am pleased that the people here are loyal to the Church teachings and the proclamations of the Pope. The love for the Mother of God, which is experienced by the people here, helps those who come here to grow in their faith. We all must try to accept and live the messages of Our Lady. Peace in the world is at stake and that is why we have make a decision to love one another and then this love will bring about peace. Here, the call for prayer is given particular importance but also especially the answer to this call. Everything one finds in the messages corresponds with the teachings of the Church. The call to live the faith and to live according to the Sacraments is particularly strong. I hope that this message will spread throughout the world and that more and more people will be coming here and accept the messages, while we are waiting for the Vatican to recognize Medjugorje. I bless you all and wish you peace."
This year in the first week of June the retired Brazilian Bishop Don Silverio Jarbas Paulo de Albuquerque visited Medjugorje. He is a member of the Franciscan Order and from 1970 to 1995 was ordinary for the diocese of Feira de Santana. He spent a week in Medjugorje, accompanied by one of the priests of his diocese.
He briefly summarized the impressions of his stay in Medjugorje: "The strongest impression made on me was the simplicity of prayer and the strong faith of those that I met. There is no kind of fanaticism here. I saw a very great number of young people gathering here. Marian shrines have an important role in the life of the Church."
Msgr. Tomasin had also visited Medjugorje and described his experience there as follows: 'The first time I was in Medjugorje was in 1984. A friend, who told me that he had received a great spiritual grace there, suggested that I make the trip. We arrived with our own car. I can still well recall the Communist militia. We arrived at Mostar where we also stayed overnight. One day later, we finally came to Medjugorje. I was very impressed by the landscape. We first went into the church where there were not many people. This is why I was very surprised when, before the beginning of the evening prayer, the church was filling up to the last seat. I saw mainly young people. I felt a deep faith which had nothing to do with fanaticism. I saw many people going to confession. This fact particularly caught my attention. During Mass, I could not understand anything but I saw that there was very deep faith. While many were praying the rosary in church, I was invited to pray the rosary with the visionaries. I was present during an apparition. I was very impressed by the simplicity. The following morning, I got up early and went up Apparition Hill. I prayed for myself, my community and the whole church. In the meantime, many faithful were climbing up Apparition Hill, praying really devoutly. I went to church and remained there praying almost the entire day. This is how I spent my time during my stay in Medjugorje. I did not speak with any of the Franciscans and also not with the visionaries. When I returned home, I felt completely renewed spiritually. Now I understood Mary better and accepted her better as my mother. Now I understood that the Church is being renewed through Her.'
'When I was again named General of the Order, I returned to Medjugore. I travelled via Ancona, accompanied by the local bishop, Msgr. Zaniæ, who took the opportunity to tell me all about his difficulties. I listened to him attentively. I knew the situation, I knew about the commission and the different opinions. And I also had the same spiritual experiences this time. I returned home and was deeply convinced that many things are happening here, which cannot be explained philosophically or psychologically. The faith and the apparitions are two realities. Nobody can question the fruits of faith in Medjugorje. The presence of God and His grace are obvious and, after sending His grace through the Fathers of the Church, He is now sending it through the Mother of Grace, the Mother of the Sinners, who stood at the cross. For me, this is without a doubt believeable. As far as the apparitions are concerned, aside from the conversions and the many other good fruits of faith, there must be still something else. And here we have to wait.' "
Drawn by the powerful words of Our Lady, bishops from all over the world are constantly coming to Medjugorje. At the end of April Bishop Gerard Dionn from Edmonson, New Brunswick, came to visit us from Canada. On that occasion he told us the following:
"I am on my first visit to Medjugorje which I heard about from the Croatian Franciscans who work in my diocese in Ontario. So in these last seventeen years I heard it continuously, and not only from them, that Our Lady is appearing here every day. For me that was all quite surprising and I did not know if I should believe it or not since all these events have still not been officially approved.
This year I am celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of my priestly ordination. A group of pilgrims that was planning to travel to Medjugorje requested me to be their spiritual director on this trip. That was for me a beautiful gift because already long before I had wished to find out what was going on there.
Everything I have seen here during my stay has impressed me deeply. Something like this is hard to find any place else. The faith of the people here, the attendance at holy mass and the spirit of self-denial cut deeply into my heart. I watched how crowds of countless people go up mountains that are not easy to climb, go to confession and pray. They were from every part of the world. It is difficult therefore to conclude that all this is accidental, that this is an ordinary place and that nothing has happened here. In my opinion, only faith could lead these people to come here, faith that is convinced of something concrete. This can all be compared with Lourdes and Fatima. Of course, I cannot express a final judgment. That belongs only to the local bishop. Nevertheless, according to the fruits that I see, I can say that there is something really special taking place here. It is not the Franciscans who are drawing the people here. I also have Franciscans in my parish, but there is nothing special going on. God is the one who is drawing the people to come here.
I have often talked things over with those who have been to Medjugorje. Some have also come several times even though its far away and very expensive. They try to witness their faith with a new zeal. God awakens new hope in their hearts and in the hearts of others through his own Mother. I believe she is appearing here. I don't know how I would in any other way explain the phenomenon that is alive here. It is not possible that the devil is at work, since people are praying. Likewise all this cannot be an ordinary deception. People can be deceived for a while, but not a full seventeen years and then not millions of people. I believe that something special is happening here because of the fruits. There cannot be so much good fruit on a bad tree.
Observing the liturgical life in the parish of Medjugorje I didn't notice anything particular. It is the everyday customary life of the Church. Mass is celebrated just like in other places. There is nothing here out of the ordinary. Last night we had adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Everything was so simple: a few words, a few songs, just like the Church wants it to be. People are so strongly attracted to it that they are prepared to spend hours on their knees. We do the same thing in our churches, but people do not come in such great numbers. Why? I cannot answer differently than to say that God is present here in a special way.
I would also wish the parish of Medjugorje to keep on continuously witnessing its faith through prayer and fasting. If they are prepared to respond to Our Lady's call, then we who come here from the outside will also do it more easily. It is truly a great responsibility for the parish. I hope it will carry on successfully and remain simple has it has so far. Many pilgrims who come here carry in their hearts a remembrance of the faith and the hospitality that they encountered in the parish of Medjugorje. It is a great honor for this parish that Our Lady has visited it in a special way and that she has spoken in the Croatian language. I hope that the parish of Medjugorje and the entire Croatian people will never lose sight of that.
Before Easter two bishops visited Medjugorje. There were Bishop John Dew from New Zealand and Bishop Donald Montrose from the United States. Here is what they said on the occasion about their impressions:
"I heard about Medjugorje for the first time from my parishioners. Those who went to Medjugorje came back with good fruits: the spirit of prayer, fasting, returning to the life of the sacraments and becoming active members of the parish community. Numerous prayer groups were established. I came with a group of pilgrims that also visited the Holy Land. These events in Medjugorje made a profound impression on me. Everything seemed natural and normal to me. I do not see any kind of oddities. People talk about the apparitions in a simple way and a large number of the faithful try to live Our Lady's messages. The experience of prayer and fasting are to me especially useful. I will try in a special way to find time for prayer before Holy Mass. I will try also to propose all that to the parishes of my diocese. And you here in the parish of Medjugorje, pray and fast and be apostles of love in everyday life. This is the preparation of all of us for the Great Jubilee" - said Bishop John Dew, auxiliary bishop of Wellington, New Zealand.
"I came to Medjugorje the first time before becoming an auxiliary bishop. Now I have come by the invitation of a group of pilgrims. Here I feel the special presence of Our Lady. I see that a great number of the faithful who have visited Medjugorje return with a renewed faith, a renewed experience of prayer, fasting, confession, Holy mass and adoration. The people that are faithful to Our Lady are also faithful to the Church. Devotion to Mary is very important. My message to you in the parish of Medjugorje is: Live the messages, love Our Lady, love the Eucharist, do not neglect confession, find time for prayer, pray at least one part of the rosary every day. I promise my prayer and blessing to all of you. I especially want to pray for the Franciscans, because what is happening here is great and the Franciscans have a great responsibility. I know about all your troubles and difficulties, but persevere in good" - said Bishop Donald Montrose of Stockton, California in the United States.
At the end of February 1998 Msgr. Patrick Power, the auxiliary bishop of Canberra, Australia, visited Medjugorje. This is what he said on that occasion:
"I am priest already for thirty three years and a bishop for twelve years. My mother was really a wonderful woman and very devoted to the Virgin Mary. My father had a special devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. I was born February 11, right on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I myself have been in Lourdes but I have experienced something special here. In January 1993, I participated in a prayer program in Canberra in which Fr. Slavko Barbaric and Ivan the visionary also took part. I was deeply touched by what I heard and saw. The message that Ivan spoke and the manner in which he did it impressed me very much. He spoke about peace, prayer, conversion, penance, fasting and deep faith. Those are messages that I have heard so many times and I also have spoken about them before, but the simplicity in which it was all expressed was for me exceptionally important. I remember how my mother experienced all that. It was for her an indescribable experience. In May 1993 I was in Rome. After that I came to Dubrovnik with Bishop Zelimir Puljic, the bishop of Dubrovnik, since I had three days free. We are friends already since 1972 when we met during our studies in Rome (1972-1975). So then in May 1993 I took advantage of the opportunity and came to Medjugorje "incognito". There was still war. There were not many pilgrims. However, many things impressed me. I was already a bishop then, but I did not come here as a bishop. I remained a private person. I celebrated mass. This is the second time that I come to Medjugorje. This time I came with a group from Australia and with my sister and her three children. I have not come with any special expectations, but this really is a time of great grace. I want to be sincere. This time I came because of my family. When I came back home after my first visit I also wrote an article about my experiences. It was very good. Even though I am here for the sake of my family, I have to admit that Our Lady has prepared many graces also for me. I have found a profound peace, especially after I heard Vicka's testimony. I felt that same peace that I felt in 1993 when I heard about the messages the first time. This all helps me again to decide for my vocation as a priest and for my ministry as a bishop. Medjugorje is PEACE. I have felt internal peace and I have witnessed about it to everyone in the group that I came with. When I see what is happening in our group, how people are returning to faith, prayer, confession, then I have to recommend many to come here. The experience of confession is exceptionally important and the evening prayer program and the meetings with the visionaries. Not only I, but also Bishop Kennedy who has been here several times, recommend to the faithful to come to Medjugorje. I wish to say: Thank you. Thanks to the faithful and the priests who work here. Your testimony of faith, love, prayer and hospitality for us pilgrims is very important."
This written testimony was sent to us October 9, 1997 by Mr. Marcello Pierucci, Via Castiglione 154, Bologna, Italy.
"During the Eucharistic Congress that was held recently in Bologna, I hosted Archbishop Msgr. Maria Rizzi, former apostolic nuncio in Bulgaria, and now stationed in Rome where he works on the cause for beatification of servants of God. During a supper in the presence of my wife Anna and Msgr. Novello Pedezzini, Archbishop Rizzi narrated the following:
'I found myself in the private chapel of the Holy Father at morning mass. At the end of Holy Mass the Holy Father approached us and personally greeted all those present. Near me was Msgr. Robert Cavallero from the Shrine of Our Lady of Chiavari. When the Pope got close to us with the intention of greeting us, Msgr Cavallero said: Holy Father I am just now coming from Medjugorje.
The Pope said; Monsignor, do you believe?
The Monsignor answered: Yes, Holy Father!
After that Bishop Cavallero asked the Pope: And You, Holy Father, do You believe?
Then after that question the Pope stopped for a moment in silence and then said at intervals: I believe. . .I believe. . .I believe. . .'
The next evening at my request Archbishop Rizzi repeated this testimony in the presence of Msgr Novello Pedezzini and the bishop of Prato, Msgr. Gastone Simoni."
I confirm the authenticity of this testimony with my own signature.
Medjugorje, October 9, 1997 Marcello Pierucci [signature]
At the beginning of November 1997 together with a group of pilgrims from Mexico Bishop Lazaro Perez also visited Medjugorje. He is the bishop of the Mexican diocese of De Autlan Jalisco. In a short conversation with us he spoke about his experiences, first of all in his own country and of his impressions about Medjugorje. We here present his impressions about pilgrimage to Medjugorje:
"Medjugorje is very well known in Mexico. I heard of Medjugorje for the first time about fifteen years ago when Medjugorje first began to be spoken of a little. I have to be honest and say that when we bishops hear news about apparitions and similar phenomena we are cautious in our statements. Usually it happens that in the first instance we say that it is impossible, we want to immediately oppose it. We are always afraid to confirm news about apparitions immediately since we are afraid that this view of belief will be fragile and grow into fanaticism. That was my personal conviction at the very beginning. After that I went to Italy in 1985. I met with a married couple that had been on a visit to Medjugorje. From then on I began to be take more and more interest. Well, I usually said that it cannot be the truth. I held that after the apparitions in Guadalupe there could not be any more talk about other apparitions because Mary from Guadalupe was Queen of Mexico. But all the more and more they began to talk about Mary's mission here, about her talking through the children. I was concerned so that some kind of religious fanaticism would not be created. My great interest began from that moment when completely by accident I came across the book of theologian Rene Laurentin in which he writes about apparitions in the whole world. I read the book with great interest just from the fact that the author was a priest and my former professor in Rome where I heard his lectures on Mariology. I thought that he was indeed a serious and well known theologian and that it was not a matter of fanaticism. For that reason I continued reading with still greater interest. In that book I found a very touching sentence in which Fr. Laurentin says: '. . .we are passing through a period during which ecclesiastical gardens have been become infertile and it was time that Our Lady come to renew them and give them a new freshness. . .' I came to the conclusion that the problems that exist in the Church are not solved and perhaps the pastors in the Church are responsible
for that. I felt that I was one of them. We need more holy priests and pastors who are disposed to live according to Jesus
Christ the Good Shepherd and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. All these events opened the doors to atheism, secularism, a consumer society, which together make a culture of values that are contrary to the teaching of the gospel. Reading the experiences of Fr. Laurentin I said: 'Certainly this is not some imagination, he is speaking the truth.' On one occasion I was conversing with a friend who was a theologian. He counseled me not to go to Medjugorje and said that he would not risk his theological honor. Fr. Laurentin told me that this type of theologian talks a lot about Mary, but does not genuinely love her. They use Mariology for teaching, but they do not have a felt relationship with Mary. All of this helped awaken in me a great interest in Our Lady although I feel that Our Lady held a significant place throughout my entire life . In the coat of arms of our diocese we have a star that represents Our Lady. I wanted that Our Lady's symbol by all means be put into the coat of arms of our diocese. After reading Laurentin's book my interest for these events grew all the more. In addition to that, I met with many pilgrims who had been to Medjugorje. Upon their return to Mexico they were religiously richer and more ready to live a life of doing good in the spirit of the gospel. All that shows the fruits of Medjugorje, even if the official Church still continues to look with caution at this phenomenon. I think that above all one has to pay great attention to the fruits of Medjugorje. At this moment I am here with 108 pilgrims from Mexico and already I can say that I have observed many good fruits.
I will invite my faithful to come to Medjugorje. Its too bad that it is so far away from Mexico. We have a well known religious culture, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary holds a special place. As the Second Vatican Council says, I think that Mary both prays and intercedes together with Christ and that is what I have experienced here in Medjugorje. This morning we talked with a visionary, Vicka. She presented to us Our Lady's messages on conversion, fasting, prayer, forgiveness and holy confession, about all these values that are gradually being lost today. I personally believe the following: If Our Lady through Christ is endeavoring to quicken these values then that ought to be the fundamental duty of a priest, especially of us bishops. We have to tell our faithful that this world has a way of salvation because Christ is our way. Christ is our Savior and here we see that the Mother of Christ calls us to this: to enliven the values that lead to salvation. They are prayer, reconciliation, conversion, and fasting in such a way that we can be closer to the cross of Christ. In today's time as also then in the time of St. Paul, the cross becomes a sign of scandal and not only for unbelievers. Sad to say, the cross has become a scandal also for Christians. Everyone would like an easy life, people are afraid of trials, they try to remove the presence of the cross from sight. Therefore I think Our Lady wants to give us great advice: Renew all the removed Christian values, and especially prayer and you will experience conversion. All of us have to reconcile with God and the Church through the sacrament of holy confession so that if we sincerely reconcile with God we can more easily follow the way of Christ. To follow Christ not just in any way, but to be ready to take our cross and witness the faith of Christ
At the beginning of November 1997 Msgr Joao Evangelist Martins Terra, the auxiliary bishop of Brasilia, capital city of the South American country of Brazil, visited the Shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje. At the time of his visit he gladly accepted to tell us something about his impressions and experiences. We here present his whole conversation :
Press Bulletin: We want to start by saying to you, "Welcome to Medjugorje." Tell us something about your country, your city Brasilia, the culture of your people, religion, standard of living. . .
Bishop Martins: First of all I greet all your readers. I am the auxiliary bishop of Brasilia and my name is John Evangelist Martins Terra. Brasilia is a new city and the capital city of Brazil. It is only thirty years old but it already has three million inhabitants. Brasilia is a city with a great influx of settlers. Even though the number of sects is growing in Brazil, Brasilia is still the diocese with the greatest number of Catholics. We have a diocesan seminary with 206 seminarians. We also have a seminary of the Franciscan Order with thirty seminarians. In addition we also have a movement that is spreading more and more in the world, and that is the neo-catechumenate movement. The seminary of the neo-catechumenate movement is also large with 76 seminarians. Next year twenty priests from this movement will be ordained. Brasilia in the beginning had priests from every order that came along with the people. Brazil with its huge area is more like a continent. It is just as big as all of United States and Europe together. It is composed of various peoples and races, the majority being Portuguese, Italian and other European nations. We also have a black population which originated from the slaves introduced in the sixteenth century and finally the indigenous population or native Indians. Now all of these make up one mixture of nations, 80% of which belong to the Catholic faith. In recent times various sects have begun to appear. These sects are non-
defined, with a highly pronounced discrimination. There is no difference between the sects, they just have different leaders. I think this phenomenon is insignificant and transient. In opposition to the appearance of these sects we have an outstanding charismatic movement that is called 'Renewal in the Spirit.'
I came here with a group of 45 members of that movement. First we visited the Holy Land. We were in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. We prayed a lot in these holy places. After each pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the end we come back to Medjugorje. Here in Medjugorje one senses a special devotion to Our Lady. Brazilians are greatly devoted to the Most Holy Virgin, Our Lady the Mother of Christ. In Brazil there is the shrine of Abresida where Our Lady appeared and there are many shrines dedicated to Our Lady.
Press Bulletin: When did you first hear about Medjugorje and from whom did you learn about this place?
Bishop Martin: I heard about Medjugorje the first time fifteen years ago. At that time I was in Europe. In Brazil we have a military cathedral dedicated to the Queen of Peace. In 1991 Marija Pavlovic and Fr. Leonard Orec visited Brazil. On that occasion they were present for the blessing of the corner stone of the same cathedral. The Catholic radio of Brasilia bears the name Queen of Peace and gets most of the credit for so many knowing about the events in Medjugorje.
Press Bulletin: Are you in Medjugorje for the first time?
Bishop Martin: Yes, I am here for the first time and unexpectedly. For me it is like a small miracle to find myself here. You know I am a professor of the Bible and I should now be in Brazil for lectures, but some unexplainable circumstances have led me here. For me and for the whole group this has been in some way a miraculous pilgrimage for us to be able to pray so long and without tiring.
Press Bulletin: What are your impressions, as a believer, as a bishop, a pastor of the Church?
Bishop Martin: I have visited Lourdes and Fatima several times. I saw that over there it is already practically finished, while here with the visionaries still always present one senses a great presence of Our Lady. I feel the whole place and surroundings alive for Our Lady, isn't it ? The whole place is alive for Our Lady. I am surprised at a place that is not as big as Fatima which has become a big city. Here it is not that way. One still always senses simplicity around the church. Yesterday I was at dinner with the Medjugorje Friars and their simplicity amazed me as also afterwards at prayer and at the time for confessions. I had a feeling like I were among the first churches in Jerusalem. I lived and worked in Jerusalem for two years as an archeologist and professor of Scripture. I worked in the Syrian desert as a chaplain to a Levitic tribe. I think all that work prepared me to be able now to feel great grace and Our Lady's blessing.
Press Bulletin: As a bishop, pastor of the Church you know that our local bishop is not favorable to these events. Does that bother you?
Bishop Martin: No, because there are also other bishops who think otherwise. I would like to recall the archbishop of Pescara who is my great friend and every year we go to the spiritual exercises in San Marino together with Fr. Gobbi. Every year spiritual exercises are organized for priests and bishops and that way also the archbishop of Pescara often comes. One time he told me that he asked the Holy Father about these events. "Holy Father what should I do when the faithful from my diocese of Pescara want often to go on pilgrimage to Medjugorje?" "What are they doing?" asked the Holy Father. "They pray and go to holy confession." "Well, isn't that good?" answered the Holy Father. I worked for ten years with the Holy Father and with Cardinal Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger is a wonderful man, full of spirituality and very pleasant. Sometimes I hear it said about him that he is very strict and serious, but I think he is a man with a big heart. Once I asked him what he thinks about this movement. He answered me that the tree is recognized by the fruits, because good fruits are a sign of God's presence.
Press Bulletin: Cardinal Ratzinger told you that?
Bishop Martin: Yes.
Press Bulletin: About Medjugorje?
Bishop Martin: Yes, about Medjugorje and about Fr. Gobbi. For both movements.
Press Bulletin: When you return to Brazil what will you tell your faithful as a bishop, pastor of the Church?
Bishop Martin: In Brazil we have organized pilgrimages to Medjugorje and moreover we have pilgrimages to other shrines. The most numerous are the pilgrimages to Medjugorje which was for me very interesting and therefore I have come now to thank Our Lady for this beautiful gift. I think that by this visit I have made a large number of faithful in our diocese happy.
Press Bulletin: Will you support their going to Medjugorje?
Bishop Martin: Naturally. Beside that in Brazil we have a weekly publication with the latest news from Medjugorje. The publication is free and thereby a greater number of people read it.
Press Bulletin: And finally, what would you say to us who live here and work every day with the pilgrims? Your message to all the parishioners of Medjugorje?
Bishop Martin: Ordinarily it is said that nobody is a prophet in his own place. Many people come here to pray, but I wonder if the towns people of this place live in the same way? Again I wonder if the youth of Medjugorje realize how much grace there is here? Are they able to undertake the whole responsibility and give witness to the strong faith that God has given them? The responsibility is not just on the priests, but on all the parishioners who are dedicated to Our Lady. All the inhabitants of Medjugorje have to always keep this in mind.
Press Bulletin: To close, we are very grateful to you and take the opportunity of recommending ourselves to your prayers. In the name of all our readers we promise to pray for you and for all the pilgrims who come here.
Bishop Martin: And I am very glad to have been together with all of you, and, sad to say, we are already going back to Brazil this afternoon.
At the end of May Msgr. Damian Kyaruzi, a newly named bishop in Tanzania, visited Medjugorje. On his journey to Rome where he will be consecrated bishop, he visited Medjugorje. This is what he said on the occasions: "I am a priest of the diocese of Bukoba in Tanzania. Till now I have the Vicar General in my diocese and now I am named as bishop of the diocese of Sumbawanga. I am already a priest for 29 years. My episcopal consecration will be on the anniversary of my own priesthood ordination, June 29, 1997. I am in Medjugorje for the first time. I came here to pray before my episcopal consecration. Here I found a place and people who pray a lot in Church, on Podbrdo and Cross Mountain. I saw deep devotion on the mountains. I welcomed this experience because for me it means that people are ready to pray, when they are given the opportunity and when they are led well. But this is not only a place of payer, but a place where one can learn a lot. It is particularly important to me that I understood that we are all pilgrims. Pilgrims who come here discover the gift of life. God heals them here. They come back to God, they grasp the law of life and become messengers of peace. I want in my own ministry to tell people not to be afraid to accept life, even though I know it isn't easy. When we climb the Medjugorje mountains, we can understand those difficulties. That can be experienced especially on Cross Mountain. The lesson one gets on Cross Mountain says: One has to accept everything one encounters in life and complete one's assignment. You only have to look at and follow Jesus' way of the cross. I want all pilgrims here to accept their life pilgrimage with God and Mary."
In the second half of June the bishop of the diocese of Mbalmayo from Cameroon visited Medjugorje. His name is Msgr Adalbert Hdzana and this is what he said on the occasion: "I gladly visit the great Marian pilgrimage place. I have already been to Lourdes and Fatima twice. Here I feel completely fulfilled and am happy that I came. Here I feel that Medjugorje is the continuation of Fatima. Someone already said that before. But what I see here is the continuation of Fatima, because here I see the realization of the gospel in a way that corresponds to the man of today and to the situation of men. What is important is being proclaimed here: love, confidence in God. However, sin is opposed to that life that God offers us here. Everything Our Lady is telling us here is found in the Gospel and the means to which she call us are out of the gospel and the tradition of the Church. Here life is spoken of, but in the world death is being experienced. The sacraments are the channels through which we obtain divine life. And Our Lady is inviting us to receive the sacraments and to live them. The sacrament of reconciliation is especially at work here and the Eucharist is found at the center.
The manner in which all this is happening here is very simple, I like that, yet again that which is most important is being proclaimed. I believe, that in these kind of events the Church has to remain very reasonable. I can especially understand all the caution because the events here are still not finished. But here much good is happening and already for a rather long time and this must help us to understand what we are dealing with. What I have learned here, I think, will help me to go back more to pastoral work, as the Pope also told us when he said to us to do everything to prepare well for the 2000 year jubilee. What is especially on my heart here in Medjugorje, what I will tell everyone, is conversion and consecration. Our Lady is constantly telling us, free yourselves from sin and open yourselves to God's love. When I go back, I will proclaim again what I have heard and experienced here. That is what re-evangelization means. I invite one to take advantage of this time of grace that God is giving us here through Mary. May God bless you. I will pray for all of your and you pray for me and my homeland."
Just as we mentioned in the last issue of the Press Bulletin, three Ugandan bishops paid a visit to the shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje, from the 8th to the 15th of May 1997: Bishop Frederick Dranuba, Bishop Deogratias Byabazaire and Bishop Joseph Oyanga. In issue no. 65 we published msgr. Drandua's interesting sermon in it's entirety, and in this issue we'd like to communicate testimonies of the impressions they had on their visit here:
MONS DEOGRATIAS BYABAZAIRE, the bishop from Hoime. He was ordained a priest in 1969 and to his Episcopal office in 1990. This is what he had to say about his impressions of Medjugorje:" I've spent a week in Medjugorje and I felt that it emanates much prayer, peace and friendliness. I met so many people who really pray and who seek prayer. I visited Krizevac and Podbrdo. I saw many many people praying. I was apprehensive about going up. But when I reached the top, I felt so happy. Both hills were a beautiful experience for me. I prayed very much and I saw many praying barefoot.
The evening mass made a deep impression on me. The church was full every evening, and there were even more people hearing the mass from outside. And even though they didn't understand the language they were deeply united in devotion and prayer. But even so, the most beautiful part of the prayer program was the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I saw a great number of priests confessing and a multitude of pilgrims and local people confessing.
I was present at an apparition. My impression is that we are dealing with something profoundly real here. Speaking with the visionaries, I understood that thy are sincere and mature people.
On my return home I will emphasize the simplicity of the Gospa's messages, and how it is this simplicity which breaks through to the hearts of her children."
MONS. FREDERICK DRANUBA, is the Bishop of Aru. He was ordained a priest in 1970 and a bishop in 1986. About his experience of Medjugorje, he had this to say:" This is really an important experience for me, especially at the level of prayer. I cannot say that Our Lady is not appearing. 15 years have gone by and the visionaries continue to say it. They are always repeating the same message. They don't change at all. The message is simple: to pray, to fast, to believe, to confess and to adore. That's precisely why we must be dealing with a supernatural event, because they are steadfast in their one message. People come and change their lives. Many confess. In these last ten years as a bishop I hardly ever heard confessions. Here people were constantly asking me to hear their confessions, and I did. In these days I must have heard over 100 confessions. I'm certain that the Lord is using this place for the conversion of nations. On my return home I intend to preach about the rosary, and I will recommend to priests that they dedicate one day in the week to Adoration.
On the occasion of their visit, all three bishops had a meeting with Mons. Ratko Peric the local Bishop. This is what Mons. Dranuba told us about his meeting: " Bishop Peric told me that Medjugorje is not a problem for him provided that people pray there. The problem is the Franciscans who, according to him want to be independent. I told him that Medjugorje is constantly speaking about peace. Our Lady invites us to a change of heart and to peace in our hearts. You cannot say that the Franciscans are bad. You must accept the fact that you must change too. Then, the Franciscans will change, and then peace will be possible. The message of peace is coming from your diocese. It is intended for you and the Franciscans. Have the strength to humble yourself in front of the Gospa and begin to pray for peace. I beg you dear brother, work for peace. Call the Franciscans! Maybe at first only a few will come. It won't all be resolved in one day. But you must go to them because you are the "Shepherd". Say to them, my dear sons, come, please come. If you do this I'm sure that you will succeed . "I'll try" was his reply. He told me that the Franciscans will listen to neither the general nor Rome. I said to him" No. Rome wants peace and you must work concretely for that objective here"."
MONS. JOSEPH OXYANGA, is the Bishop of Lir. He is already 33 years a priest and 8 years a Bishop. About his experiences in the shrine of the Queen of Peace, he had this to say:" This is a place of contemplation and prayer . Everyone who comes here takes part in an interpersonal togetherness. I saw people from Europe, America, Japan, Australia. They all feel as one. This made a strong impression on me. Here one really prays. I couldn't go up the hill but it really touched me when a pilgrim brought be back a stone from the Apparition site. Adoration is a special experience. It is something unique. I saw people fasting. In the house where I was staying the pilgrims ate nothing for dinner other than bread and a little salad. This spirit of penance, sacrifice and mortification is something which I haven't seen in such a long time. This experience will give me the strength to preach about the "Gospa". I feel now that I haven't given her enough attention. She is very close to us. That is the main message of this place."
Bishops also from various parts of the world are still continuing to come to the Shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje. From May 8 - 15, 1997 bishops Frederick Drandua, Deogratias Byabazaire, and Joseph Oyanga from Uganda came to visit. They said that before they began their journey they asked the papal nuncio in Uganda, Luis Robles Diaza, what he thought of this journey. He told them: "The Pope is not talking openly about Medjugorje, but he is supporting it. Go!"
Having experienced the spirituality of Medjugorje, they decided to celebrate the evening holy mass on May 12 together with the pilgrims. One of them, Frederick Drandua, also gave a homily on that occasion. Because his homily was so interesting we are presenting it here in its entirety.
"Dear brothers and sisters!
I am very glad tonight to celebrate this holy mass together with you. In one of his epistles St. Paul asks the community if they received the Holy Spirit. Tonight I also ask you: have you received the Holy Spirit? I ask you that for the reason that I am now speaking English. Do you understand me when I am speaking? If you say yes, then you understand my English. I guarantee you that I have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has only one single language. Everyone of us can understand it. You are probably wondering what that language would be? I will tell you that now. It is the language of prayer. Do you understand prayer? God has his own language. He has no other language except the language of prayer. Whether you pray in Croatian, in my mother tongue, in English or whichever other language, it is the language of prayer. All of us, therefore, have come here to pray and we have the Holy Spirit, the spirit of prayer. All of us have gathered around the altar because of prayer. We are all speaking the same language, we are all understanding each other, since together we are speaking to our heavenly Father. Isn't that wonderful?
I am coming from the far away country of Uganda of which many of you probably don't even know where it is located, but I have come here to pray and I am speaking to you and all of you will understand me. I am so happy that I came here to this school of prayer. Our dear Mother, Our Lady, established it. She wanted us to go through this school of prayer.
It is interesting that she established that school right here in the Croatian homeland. From the whole world we come to this school of prayer. What is happening is important also for you Croatians who live here around this school. Don't ever forget that many children who just live close to the school, fail in school. That is, they take their duties too lightly, thinking that it isn't necessary to study since the school is here close by and they will always have time for that. Those who come from far away and perhaps have to live near the school usually do better and succeed in getting a diploma.
Perhaps I might be able to tell you that I got my diploma ahead of you. The visionary Ivan last night gave me a certificate for that. He told me that Our Lady said that she is very happy because we bishops are here. She blessed us as well as all of our dioceses, saying that there is great hope for our dioceses. All of this I call a diploma or a certificate that Our Lady has given me. Did anyone of you get such a certificate? This is the first time that I am coming to Medjugorje. I have to congratulate myself that I am a good student, since I have already gotten my diploma. You Croatians and you dear pilgrims, have you received a diploma like that? If you haven't, you'll have to work a little more.
You pilgrims who have come here from far away and you have come here to work hard, have you received any kind of a certificate for your school? At least work hard enough to get an attendance certificate that you've at least been in the school. Everyone who attends the lectures gets that attendance certificate, meaning everyone who comes here for prayer, who climbs the mountains, who listens to Our Lady's messages. If you have not done that, but you have come here, I am afraid that you won't get a certificate, not even that you have been in the school. Are you sure that you want to go back home without that attendance certificate? I think it would be a great loss if you wouldn't get that attendance certificate.
Also you children who live in this place, I invite to compete with everyone that comes from far away to show that you too are good students, that you regularly come to the lectures in this school of prayer. If you don't do that, it'll be a catastrophe. It would be a mistake if you would not receive the graces that God is giving in this school of prayer and grace from the one who established this school. Imagine what that would mean if you would not pass the exams. You home town people have to work very hard to pass the exams in Our Lady's school together with us who come from far away.
I who am coming from Uganda also still have to work very much. I have to go now and talk about this school, the school of prayer. It is a school for all Christians. Those who wish to live their Christianity have to enroll in this school of prayer. In it is discovered a mother's love for her children. That love is great and a mother will never give anything wrong to her children. Recall those words of Jesus: when a child asks you for bread, will you give him a stone or if he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? Jesus says further in a very sarcastic manner, if you who are sinners know how to choose gifts for your children, what kind of gifts do you think that God himself will give? We can just imagine what kind of gifts Our Lady who established this school will give us.
I would ask that when you go to your homes you find still many more students who want to learn in this school of Our Lady. When I go back home I know that many Christians, many priests will come to me. They will ask me what good I have to tell and offer them? I will tell them that here they can get two good things. They can choose one or the other or choose both. Do you know which two things I'm thinking of? The first and main thing is prayer. The second is the friendliness of the Croatian people, their hospitality. I think that I will take both, prayer and hospitality. Perhaps someone came here just for prayer or just for hospitality, for enjoyment. Dear pilgrims, I would ask you to take both of these things, and not just one.
I would like to thank you Croatian parishioners for your friendliness and for your hospitality, but also for your prayer. You have tried hard for us to be glad to take both one and the other. You constantly invite us to come here from far away, so that everyone can finish in this school of prayer and get a diploma.
If anyone cannot graduate, I would ask him to at least get an attendance certificate that he was in this school. It isn't important whether you are living here or are coming from far away. I wish you the abundant blessings of God and of Our Lady.
On his journey to Sarajevo which was called by the Croatian name Vrhbosna all the way up to the Turkish occupation in 1463, Pope John Paul II was accompanied by 11 ambassadors with credentials at the Holy See, Vatican journalists, representatives of the secretary of state and bishops Moged Elhachem and Franco Hillary. On its way this thirty-member delegation also visited the Shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje.
Bishop Moged Elhachem presided and preached at the celebration of mass. In his sermon he said how they have set out all together for Sarajevo to encourage the Holy Father and to make a modest contribution themselves by their prayers for peace in Sarajevo, for peace in B-H, and for peace in this area.
After the celebration of mass Fr. Ivan Bradvica led them to the Hill of Apparition. There they all prayed together and discussed the events in the parish of Medjugorje.
At his departure Bishop Elhachem said that he came to pray for peace also in his own war torn homeland of Lebanon. Bishop Franco Hillary from New York announced that this was his second visit to Medjugorje and that he comes here gladly since he senses the presence of the Queen of Peace in his own life and labor. The Croatian ambassador to the Holy See, Ive Livljanic, who was also the travel guide, expressed for himself that the big miracle is just the fact itself that in these modern times a multitude of people comes to Medjugorje and prays there. He also added that the ambassadors were the chief movers and motivators for the journey to Medjugorje.
In recent days a military bishop also visited Medjugorje. He was Msgr. Johannes Dyba, bishop of the German city of Fulda. He came for a visit to the German SFOR units that are stationed in Bosnia-Hercegovina. "On the way Medjugorje was unavoidable", said Bishop Dyba who came to the Shrine of the Queen of Peace with a group of German officers and soldiers. After his visit to the Shrine he stayed longer for a hearty talk with the Medjugorje Franciscans who informed him about the events related to Our Lady's apparitions in this parish.
More and more often in Medjugorje we meet up with bishops, who come to this shrine as pilgrims. Recently, John Baptist Odama, director of the youngest diocese in Uganda, and himself, a bishop only a couple of months, stayed a week at the Marian shrine.This is what he had to say during his stay:
The first time I heard about the happenings here was in 1990. At the time I was in California in America. A friend of mine spoke to me about Medjugorje, showed me some books, pictures and a film.. The whole family were enthralled with Medjugorje. Then recently I received a letter from the Cardinal of Kampale who had paid a visit to Medjugorje. He offered me the possibility of going on pilgrimmage to Medjugorje in October promising that some one else would see to the costs. Now I know who that was: Joe Roy, the pilot, who was the first to bring the news to Uganda about Medjugorje, and has already helped to bring numerous bishops and even more priests. I immediately replied that I wished to go. After this I prepared myself for my coming here. I read different books and saw another film about Medjugorje in the family home of Joe Roy in London. On my arrival at Medjugorje, the first thing that surprised me was the welcome of the people with whom we stayed. I'm glad that it wasn't a big impersonal hotel. In families it is different. It is possible to meet people, to speak with them, to pray, to eat, in this way you receive the true spirit of Medjugorje. Furthermore, the fact that all the pilgrims whom I met here, are particularly aware of the magnanimity of whats happening here, really impressed me.The people are really attentive and are prepared to be continually so. Everyone is open to that something big which truly is offered here.. I saw great interest for spiritual matters. I see deep devotion to the Holy Mass and at the time of Mass.
When we started out for Krizevac it started to rain and afterwards to hail. At one point I thought it was better to return, because it seemed pointles to go on. However, something urged me onwards. I thought that Iwouldn't be able to get to the top, I felt a heaviness, because I hadn't gone anywhere on foot for so long. We didn't want to turn back, and to go on was so hard. At one moment I prayed for strength, so that I wouldn't give up. I have to admit that when, completely wet, we arrived beneath the cross on Krizevac, all at once every heaviness and tiredness left me. I felt as light as a bird. This experience was very important for me. This is how it is in life too. Often we feel that we can't go on, that it's too difficult, but when we succumb to the will of God, everything goes well.
The rosary on Podbrdo also impressed me deeply. It's as if that multitude of people, who prayed with us inspired me with good thoughts. The people to be lead. If the priest prays, the people will pray. It was very beautiful when, after having prayed the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, everyone knelt at the apparition site and once again prayed the creed, 7 Our Fathers, Hail Mary's and Glory Be's. I felt united to the whole Church, who prays with Mary and goes on living as Mary did.
I think that here the people really responded. In whatever direction you turn, you see individuals and groups, praying, reading Scripture, and Meditating. Here it's so natural to pray, so much so, that those who don't pray look strange. Really, in other places, it's the opposite. I want to use this opportunity to thank the Croatian people in a special way, who with their response, help all of us who come here. With pride, I must say that I always pray for the Croation people and I have often urged my followers to pray for the same intention. From now on I will do it even moreso.
And, to conclude I wish to say that the first thing that I will say to Bishops is that Medjugorje isn't contrary to what the Lord teaches, and what he wants of us. I will tell them not to be afraid to come here. As regards the apparitions, they are a gift from God. I was present at Maria, the visionary's, apparition. We prayed a rosary together. All at once a silence began. I believe that Our Lady came then. I didn't see anything, but I felt Our Lady's presence and through her God's presence. Mary is just a means. Through Our Lady, God calls us to Himself. That is her mission because she gave birth to Christ. That which I saw, has to be true. It would be good if every bishop could come and experience what Mary is doing here. Also, I will tell all bishops that I've just realised what we have to do, and most importantly, we must pray. From my heart I truly prayed that God makes me and my priests capable of spreading His Word to all humanity.
The English Bishop of the city of Liverpool, Mons. Augustine Harris stayed for two weeks in Medjugorje. He was the spiritual director to two different groups of pilgrims. He tirelessly assisted at confessions and masses.
We present here, his own words before leaving Medjugorje."Of myself I wish to say the following: When I was born in 1917 there was a war, and when in 1942 I was ordained to the priesthood there was a war then also. Now I am in Medjugorje,and much is being said about the peace after the terrible war in your homeland. It seems to me though, that we are treating the subject of peace far too superficially. If we desire real peace, we need something deeper. That which Our Lady wishes to say is: Don't make the same mistake again, speak about peace, and not go deeper into the soul and the heart, where true peace is made. Here, Mary is teaching us true peace. I heard about Medjugorje from different written articles and from freinds. When in Medjugorje, we pray a lot but we must be careful that this prayer seeps into our hearts and changes us. My freinds were going to Medjugorje and this time I went with them. I came privately. Freinds of mine organised the pilgrimmage and asked me to direct it. I accepted. It's very obvious to me that we must constantly speak of the depths of prayer: to meditate and live what we speak about. However, that which is important here is confession. People are really ready to meet themselves face to face here. They are ready for repentance and penance and I believe that this is the important experience of Medjugorje: to renew ourselves and to convert. But we must constantly remind each other that this is the start of the process and not the end. We must leave here with a solid decision to pray at home,individually, in families and as prayer groups.
In answer to the question:"Does the fact that the local bishop doesn't accept the apparitions disturb you?" Mons. Harris said, "I do not wish to judge the local bishop. What I wish to say is ; when someone comes here and wishes to pray, to confess, the change their lives, you cannot say :no! So many people are confused, so many live in fear, they do not know what to do. I would say that it is good to come to Medjugorje. Here you clear your conscience, and conquer confusion. I see this in so many people here. As for the appparitions, maybe there are, maybe there arn't. Personally, I have no reason not to believe in the apparitions. I met with one of them and I can say that she is a good person. I cannot believe that for years she has been lying. And if people ask me, can I go to Medjugorje, my answer will be: If you wish to clear your conscience, and if you are confused, go.
On the feast day of the Exaltation of the Cross I saw over 50 franciscan priests hearing confessions. This was really wonderful. Immediatly after the mass that day which I celebrated in the church of Medjugorje, a pilgrim stopped me and wished to confess. Was I supposed to say no?! Serve the people, teach them to pray, be ready to hear confessions. And everything else will be okay!"
During his recent visit to the Austrian soldiers in Bosnia Hercegovina, the military bishop,Chris Werner from Vienna, came to Medjugorje. Mons. Werner afterwards told of his impressions about Medjugorje to an Austrian newspaper journalist:
" It was an exceptionally peaceful day when I visited Medjugorje. Thanks to this, my meetings with the small groups were more intensive. It was interesting that the soldiers who were with me,( there were about fifty) didn't buy postcards, but rosaries. In Medjugorje I felt a silence. We sat near the Church which overlooks the square, and we simply remained in the silence and peace. Although unfortunately, we only stayed a few hours, we felt that this place radiated something really special. Both for myself and for the soldiers, it was something truly majestic. After the prayer, we went to a little restaurant where we met with some singularly open-hearted people. They spoke different languages and immediately were able to help us. I told my soldiers about the many conversions that took place in this place. One can have different ideas as to whether there are or arn't apparitions here. The fact that thousands come here and confess and then climb the hills and pray, this is very important. But there's something else- very many young people come here. I have seen the franciscans how they are constantly passing by with some groupof young people. That which we saw gives some little idea about what happens here on some of the big feast days. This is definitely a place of grace and of life..." "Oase des Friedens", Vienna, July 1996.
At the beginning of July, an active bishop from Uruguay, Msgr. Raul Scarone, visited Medjugorje. In the course of his two day stay in Medjugorje he participated in several masses of various language groups and in the Croatian language evening eucharistic celebration at which he gave a blessing to the faithful present. Here is what he said on that occasion:
"This is my first visit to Medjugorje. It is a grace for me to stay here two days. Providence brought me here. I am satisfied and I did not know that it has this kind of great dimension. The apparitions in Medjugorje are known of throughout the whole world. Popular devotion must be purified. It is a question really of religious motivation. That holds true for each one of us. In order for us to go firmly on the way of holiness, we need purification of motivation. When I think of myself, before my own personal confession, I always ask myself,"Am I a bishop in order that I might serve the church or only so that I might have authority?"
You in this parish have a great gift that is called Mary. She can always help us in evangelisation for the reason that she always leads us towards Jesus. She opens the doors of hearts and the doors of homes. I have seen that also in my own people which is so secularised and has so many sects. Where Mary is, there the heart is open. Accordingly, that which has to be done is evangelise with Our Lady's help."
The friends and pilgrims of Medjugorje recently organised a prayer meeting in the Belgian town of Baeuring. On that occasion the Eucharistic adoration was led by bishop Namura msgr Leonard. During his sermon, amonst other things he said the following:
The Church still hasn't given her official stance regarding the apparitions at Medjugorje. With trust and prayer we await it. I too went to Medjugorje. I came, I saw, and I believed in the trustworthiness of what is happening there. Every Marian apparition is an occasion of heaven opening towards the earth, and gives us a chance to smile upon heavens gift of love. What impresses me especially is the persistence of Our Lady during our times. Sometimes people say to me,"how is it possible that the apparitions are lasting so long?" or "How much she speaks!" I personally have no calculated idea about how long she should be speaking. I say to myself that maybe Mary is knocking on our door with the unusually longlasting apparitions precisely because in these times there are urgent and great needs. I interpret Mary's persistency as an urge to conversion. The fruits of Medjugorje are blessed fruits. Often people have confided to me their experiences which I can verify because they were accompanied with rich experiences of conversion, an openness to prayer, love peace penance and fasting, which brings them back to the sacramental life and the Eucharist....
I would like to invite both myself and you here, to accept all these incessant invitations and especially the invitation to prayer and fasting so that peace can come to this world and to our families and to our hearts."
For the fifteenth anniversary of Our Lady's apparitions at Medjugorje, inquisitive looks of pilgrims and others present, were attracted towards the figure of bishop Henry Kennedy, from Australia. He was in Medjugorje for the third time and he came clad in all the signs of episcopal office. He said that in his heart he felt that he simply must do this. He desires that the Church recognise Medjugorje as soon as possible, just like Lourdes and Fatima. In Medjugorje he feels peace and a most beautiful tide of freindship which he would like to feel between people in Australia. He is not afraid of the war, because in Medjugorje it cannot be felt. He expressed regret that so many lies abut this war are believed and he wishes for the success of the Croatian people in their just struggle.
From the french town of Gapa, bishop Georges Lagranges arrived in Medjugorje! He remained in Medjugorje a week. On the occasion of his meeting with the franciscans of Medjugorje he said:
"I come from the town of Gapa in France. My diocese borders on Italy. This is my first visit to Medjugorje and if I am correct, only two French bishops have visited up to the present."
To the question: "Does the fact that the apparitions are lasting so long surprise you?", he replied "Not in the least, because this happened to us too, three hundred years ago. That is, in my diocese, the Blessed Virgin appeared to a young girl when she was only sixteen years of age, and those visions lasted until the end of her life. She died at seventy two years of age. She never even counted how many times she saw the Mother of God. Her conversations with Our Lady began with teaching her to be a patient little shepherdess, they continued and finished with mystical visions of Christ crucified, in which she participated in his pain. It is interesting to note that Our Lady led this little visionary to a place where there was a waterfall. She told the girl that a house should be built there for priests whereby they would be able to host pilgrims who wished to come to make their peace with God in the sacrament of confession. This is how the Marian shrine "Our Lady of the Waters", came about. I would also like to add that in today's world there are many clashes between people and religions, and in this area in particular it has come to expression. I believe that it is precisely because of this, that the Blessed Virgin chose Medjugorje as a place of complete and true reconciliation".
On the occasion of his visit to Medjugorje, in February 1995, the Argentinian bishop Rubeir H.di Monteo had this to say:
"I came to know about Medjugorje reading the messages of Our Lady. I felt deeply that this was Our Lady's way of speaking. The direct motive of my coming to Medjugorje was the deep conversion of my two cousins which took place on the occasion of their visit to Medjugorje. One of them had been a communist and the other a fascist. It was really these fruits which pushed me to come and see what's really happening here. The theology of Our Lady's messages here seems to me to be sound and healthy and I understand it to be a continuation of Fatima. Even over the last century we can see a whole process of Our Lady's activities: Rue de Bac, Lourdes, Fatima and if you ask me, Medjugorje as the focal point of her deeds which she started at Rue de Bac. She invites to a change of heart. Here where there is so much suffering, prayer and reconciliation through the sacrament of confession, we are offered the possibility of this. In Medjugorje, we find a deep spirit of conversion, prayer and penance. Our Lady's messages are evangelical; prayer, fasting and conversion. Living Christ's messages of peace, a change of heart becomes possible through conversion and prayer and in turn eases divine justice.
The messages of Medjugorje are messages of hope. Many of today's events and happenings make this world a worse place. I am giving myself over to supernatural hope, because human hope is not enough."
Source: © Informativni Centar « Mir »-Medjugorje www.Medjugorje.hr