The Ghosts of Surmanci: Queen of Peace, Ethnic Cleansing, Ruined Lives...

Are the alleged apparitions of Mary in Medjugorje a visitation from heaven, or the sinister projection of a collective guilty conscience?

There was another woman who lived in a house and something kept constantly knocking on her window. Later on, this very same woman got an apartment way up on the sixth floor and again something kept tapping on her window. I questioned the Gospa about what it was. She replied that the souls in Purgatory were doing so because she has forgotten to pray for them and they are demanding her prayers.

Mirjana Dragicevic, visionary

During the late afternoon of Wednesday June 25, 1997, a nondescript European rental car pulled off a narrow paved road at the far eastern end of the Brontjo plateau not far from the Neredva River in Bosnia-Herzegovina onto an even narrower unpaved road that was no more than two tracks of red dust punctuated periodically by football-sized limestone rocks. The car proceeded slowly, perhaps because the track was so narrow. The thorn bushes, which encroached on the track, scratching occasionally against the car’s roof like the fingernails of an ill-mannered child on a blackboard, seemed to grow to about two meters in height and then stop as if that were all the available nourishment and water allowed.

But the car proceeded slowly for another reason; both men in the car were looking for something. Both men were looking for the site of an atrocity committed against civilians in the early years of World War II. They were looking for something buried in the ground, something which had been buried over 50 years before, then exhumed and memorialized, then desecrated and abandoned. But the gravesite, no matter how significant, especially in the light of atrocities which got committed even more recently, had symbolic value as well. The pit at Surmanci symbolized the dead hand of the past resting silently on the tiller of the present, steering a course of events which seem random when viewed in ignorance of the past, but only so in light of that ignorance. Both men’s lives had been irrevocably changed by events which had taken place on the other side of the hill which now loomed to their west. Both men had been here before. Both of them were looking for something they had missed the first time around.

The driver of the rental car was a wealthy California businessman in his sixties. His face was tanned; his hair was silver gray and neatly combed and he was dressed as if he had just wandered off a golf course. Sitting next to him on the passenger side was a younger man, roughly 20 years his junior, with darker, longer hair, the author of this account, and a journalist by trade who had written a book about this region some nine years before.

I had made contact with Phil Kronzer, the driver of the car, in April of 1997, when he saw my name as one of a list of speakers at an anti-Call to Action Conference to be held in Lincoln, Nebraska in May. Call to Action was a Catholic group, comprised mostly of liberal clergy or ex-clergy founded in 1976 as a way of updating or subverting—depending on your point of view— the Catholic Church in the United States. One person who took the latter position was Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, ordinary of Lincoln, who made national news in the spring of 1995 when he threatened to excommunicate anyone who belonged to Call to Action in his diocese. Phil Kronzer, who picked me up at the airport in Lincoln, was convinced that Call to Action had destroyed his marriage and was in the process of destroying his business empire and came to me as an expert to help him out.

Just where my field of expertise lay, however, was not immediately apparent. The more he talked the more it became apparent to me that he was barking up the wrong tree. The source of Phil’s marital problems was not Call to Action or radical feminism (although he made a plausible case for their connection in California); the source of Phil’s problems was Medjugorje, the village we had just left, the site, since June of 1981, of alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and now the focus of a booming pilgrimage industry that was on hard times but recovering because the civil war that brought about the demise of Yugoslavia and its tourist industry during the four year period from 1991 to 1995 was now over. Phil and his wife Ardie had made their first pilgrimage to Medjugorje in the summer of 1987, and, as a result of that trip, became involved in Medjugorje prayer groups in California and then in the burgeoning and increasingly lucrative Marian conference industry, which took off in 1991 when the civil war put an end to tourism and left the Marian enthusiasts in the United States all dressed up with no place to go.

In early 1993, according to the account Phil sent me, Ardie Kronzer met a fellow Medjugorje enthusiast by the name of Marcia Smith, a mysterious lady who frequented charismatic circles in San Francisco and had even been a lector at the pope’s mass at Candlestick Park in 1986. Through Marcia Smith, Ardie became introduced to the tight circle of con men and felons who dominated the Medjugorje industry in the United States during the early 1990s. Through Smith, Ardie met Theresa Lopez, phony seer from Denver, and her handler at the time, Bishop Paolo Hnilica, of Rome and Slovakia, who had been convicted of trafficking in stolen goods in Rome. The good bishop had been wiretapped by the Italian police in conversation with underworld kingpin Flavio Carboni, whose notoriety became international when he was arrested in connection with the disappearance and death of Roberto Calvi, then president of the Banco Ambrosiano, whose failure in the early ‘80s was the biggest financial scandal to hit Rome and the Vatican in the post-World War II era. Bishop Hnilica was interested in buying Roberto Calvi’s briefcase, which had disappeared, reportedly full of Swiss bank account numbers, around the same time Calvi was found dangling from Blackfriar’s bridge in London on June 18, 1982.

Gradually, the Smith-Lopez-Hnilica group became aware of the Kronzer family’s financial resources and drew Ardie into a scheme which began with a series of retreats, during which she was told that she and her money were to play a crucial role in the conversion of Russia, and ended when Ardie moved out of her home in late June of 1994 after attending a Medjugorje conference at Notre Dame University. At that conference, Ardie and Marcia knelt down before Bishop Hnilica and, in a ritual that was bizarre even by Medjugorje conference standards, had offered up to him the 12 bay area Mir groups, over which he was to preside as a way of bringing unity to a Medjugorje movement whose main characteristic as of the early ‘90s had become battling over money from easily bilked pilgrims who had no place to go after the civil war broke out in Yugoslavia.

What this had to do with Dr. Jones, the passenger, would have been obvious to anyone who was familiar with these circles. In September and October 1988 I had published a series of articles on Medjugorje, later published in book form under the title Medjugorje: the Untold Story, which criticized the “apparitions” as a hoax and provided the world with one of the few sources on the phenomenon which wasn’t written to serve the financial interests of tour guides, conference promoters, or rebellious Franciscans from Herzegovina. The revelations prompted a decline in the circulation of Fidelity magazine, where they first appeared, and in the esteem with which the author was held in conservative, Marian circles in subsequent years. One perceptive reader wrote to Jones years later and at least partially in response to his stand on Medjugorje described him as “a one-legged man in an a**-kicking contest,” a description which Jones himself saw as not without justification.

After their initial meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, Jones joined Kronzer as the latter traveled back and forth across the country tracking down leads. One trip led to Reno, Nevada, where both men met the husband of a seer, or better, the seer’s ex-husband. Jeff Lopez met Tonie Alcorn in April of 1987 as the result of an affair they had had when both of them were working at Wendy’s in Denver, Colorado. In March of ’91 Tonie, who was then known as Theresa Lopez, went to Medjugorje shortly after pleading nolo contendere to a charge of writing bad checks. By November of 1991 she was having her own apparitions and drawing thousands of people to the Cabrini Shrine near Denver, Colorado. Two years later, Theresa left her husband to become a full-time seer. The last time they were together Theresa told Jeff, “if I get involved with this I can be somebody.”

Phil Kronzer had lost his wife to Medjugorje around the same time Jeff Lopez had lost his, which is to say, over the winter of 93-94. Both of these domestic tragedies began with Medjugorje; just where they were going to end was not clear. When Jones got back to his hotel room in Reno, he got a call from a man in England warning him that if he went back to Bosnia, the Franciscans were going to have him killed.

Proponents of the “apparition” like to talk about its fruits when they become uncomfortable with the behavior of the seers and their Franciscan handlers. Over the ten years since he had become involved in investigating Medjugorje, Jones had come up with his own list of fruits. The death threat he had just received in Reno was the beginning of a long list of bad things that had happened to the world since the Queen of Peace arrived in Yugoslavia in 1981.

In addition to the broken families there were the broken vows, the pregnant nuns, the poor people bilked of their money, the division in the Church, the de facto schism, leading most recently to illicit confirmations in Capljina, the kidnapping of the local bishop, the ethnic cleansing, and, most dramatically, the worst fighting in Europe since World War II. All in all it was an impressive amount of malfeasance coming, as it did, from a group of people whose stated intention was prayer and following the instructions of the Blessed Mother. It was Bishop Pavao Zanic, then ordinary of Mostar, who wrote to Rene Laurentin, then Medjogorje’s major promoter, and predicted that “one can look forward to a religious war here.” Zanic, who predicted war in the mid-’80s, was more prescient than Our Lady of Medjugorje, who was saying at the time that she was the Queen of Peace, and had come to bring peace to Yugoslavia and the world. Her promoters were saying that one of the signs of the authenticity of her messages was the fact that ethnic groups were living in peace in Yugoslavia.

The death threat (Jones) had just received in Reno was the beginning of a long list of bad things that had happened to the world since the Queen of Peace arrived in Yugoslavia in 1981.Then came the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia amid a vicious war, which is perhaps another reason why both men peered so intently at the rusty red and white track in front of them as their car inched its way further into the scrubby thorn bushes. One year earlier three journalists had died when their car had driven over a land mine on the outskirts of Mostar. As the car bumped its way slowly down the two tire-track path, Jones found himself remembering the incident and wondering just where the outskirts of Mostar began and ended.

At one point a farm appeared, the farmhouse, outbuildings and fences all assembled out of the building material most readily at hand, namely, the chunks of limestone that littered the landscape. A toothless grandmother, clothed in the traditional black skirt and sweater favored by peasants of the region, raised a hand in either greeting or warning as they passed.

The object of their search was a geological formation peculiar to the area known as a “jama,” translated roughly from the Croatian to mean pit or ravine. When the rains come to the Brontjo plateau, as they infrequently do, they percolate through the porous earth right to the limestone karst underneath where they erode caverns that lead directly to the Neredva river, which takes its luminous shade of blue-green from its journey through the limestone deposits.

During the spring and early summer of 1941, the Ustasha, a Croatian fascist group which means “insurgent,” had created a short-lived but ferocious independent Croatian state by allying themselves with the Nazis. Local Ustashe did a little informal geological research of their own in the area between Medjugorje and the Neredva River, taking note of the largest jamas, the ones most suitable to their future purpose. Then in June of 1941 roughly two months after the creation of the NDH on April 10, armed Ustasha functionaries showed up at the predominantly Serbian village of Prebilovci on the eastern side of the Neredva and other Serb enclaves and announced to the villagers that they were all going to be deported to Belgrade. The Serbs were told they were going to be reunited with the Serbian fatherland, a prospect that took the edge off their anger and anxiety. So the Serbs showed up in their best clothes as they marched off to the train station, to become one more dislocated group in a Europe that seemed full of dislocation and people who went off in trains and never came back. The Serbs of Prebilovci were herded together with other Serbs from the western part of Herzegovina and eventually six carloads of them were sent off on a train that was supposedly to take them back to Belgrade. The train ride was much shorter than expected, at least as expected by the Serb passengers, who were ordered out of the six cars they occupied at a town called Surmanci, on the west bank of the Neredva, and marched off into the hills never to return.

Roughly three months later, Bishop Zanic’s predecessor, Aloysije Misic, ordinary of Mostar, the ornate Ottoman town a few train stations upstream from Surmanci, wrote to Cardinal Stepinac, primate of the once and future Yugoslavia, a man who would end up in prison at the hands of Tito’s revolutionary justice, and told him of disquieting reports of atrocities perpetrated against the Serbs in his diocese. “Men are captured like animals,” Misic wrote, “they are slaughtered, murdered; living men are thrown off cliffs....From Mostar and from Capljina a train took six carloads of mothers, young girls, and Surmanci....They were led up the mountains and...thrown alive off the precipices....In...Mostar itself they have been found by the hundreds, taken in wagons outside the town and then shot down like animals.”

Eventually around 600 Serbs, including priests, women, and children, were thrown into the pit above Surmanci and then, after throwing hand grenades in on top of them, the Ustashe thugs buried them, most probably still alive. Parris writes: “At Prebilovci and Surmanci, in Herzegovina, 559 Serbs, all of them old men, women and children, were led to a deep crevice called Golubinka, massacred and then thrown into space. And to do the job more thoroughly, hand grenades were hurled down upon the dying bodies.” Parris then goes on to list the names of the perpetrators, a list which includes names like Ostojic and Ivankovic, names which are common enough in the area—names, in fact, of people still living in Medjugorje. Brian Hall wonders in his book on the break-up of Yugoslavia whether the Ostojic he stayed with while in Medjugorje was the Ostojic accused of the Surmanci atrocity.

The history of Yugoslavia, one quickly learns, is not something for those interested in a quick read. The more one delves into the issue, the more one comes away with the impression that there is no such thing as an impartial history of the region, certainly not during the period surrounding World War II. Parris, who is no exception to this rule, also claims that two priests took part in the massacre at Surmanci, one of whom also has a familiar name. Marko Zovko, it turns out, was a priest, but not a Franciscan like the more famous Jozo Zovko, the man who, in many ways, created the Medjugorje apparitions. Marko Zovko was the secretary to Bishop Cule, Misic’s successor. I learn this from the current Bishop of Mostar, Ratko Peric, who traces the Parris citation to Viktor Novak’s book Magnum Crimen, which was written to accompany Tito’s 1946 show trials. The purpose of both the book and the trials was to implicate the Church in the crimes of the Ustashe. As a result, Novak’s book has to be viewed with caution. This is the verdict not only of the current bishop of Mostar, but also Serb scholars as well. Miro Todorovich, editor of Measure, said no one, referring to the Serbs he knew, was willing to put his hand in the fire over Novak’s book. Srdja Trifkovic, also a Serb, who now teaches at Rose Hill College, an orthodox college in South Carolina, sees Magnum Crimen as “an attack on the role of the Catholic Church in Croatia, which Novak saw as the moving spirit behind the Ustasa atrocities.” When Serb nationalism reawoke in 1988, a reissue of Magnum Crimen was a huge best-seller in Belgrade despite the book’s high price. Bogdan Krizman called it, nonetheless, “a prominent Freemason’s settling of scores with the clericals.” Trifkovic has similarly unflattering things to say about Edmund Parris, claiming that his book Genocide in Satellite Croatia was ghost-written by Branko Miljus, a Serb emigre publicist, and dismisses Parris otherwise as the author of “several theological tracts critical of Roman Catholicism.”

The religious situation is complicated by the fact that the Catholic Church in Herzegovina is split between two factions, one loyal to the bishop of Mostar and one loyal to the Franciscans, who have been in open rebellion against both the local ordinary and the Franciscan general in Rome since 1976 when they refused to hand over a number of parishes which they administered to the Bishop of Mostar’s jurisdiction. Like his predecessors Misic and Zanic, Bishop Peric has had to deal with the rabidly nationalistic Herzegovinian Franciscans, the driving force behind the Medjugorje apparitions and collaborators in Ustashe atrocities during World War II. In January of 1997, roughly three months before I met with Peric at the chancery office in Mostar, Peric granted an interview to Yves Chiron in the French magazine Present, in which he admitted that Medjugorje was plagued with ecclesial disorders, which included Franciscans ministering at Medjugorje with no canonical mission; religious communities established without his permission, buildings erected without ecclesial approval, and the fact that parishes continued to organize pilgrimages to a place where it had been determined there had been no apparitions. “Medjugorje,” Peric concluded, “does not promote peace and unity but creates confusion and division, and not simply in its own diocese.” (Present, 25 January 1997).

Peric found out first-hand just how bellicose the “Queen of Peace” and her supporters can be. In April of 1995 the bishop was attacked by a mob in his chancery, and his pectoral cross was ripped from his person. He was then beaten up, forced into a waiting car and driven to an illicit chapel run by the Medjugorje Franciscans and held hostage for 10 hours. It was only when the mayor of Mostar showed up with UN troops that the bishop was released.

The Franciscan-orchestrated attacks on the Bishop of Mostar are one indication that some things never change in this story. A drive through Medjugorje indicates the exact opposite. Perhaps the best way of resolving the conflict is to say that the more things change, the more they remain the same. The Catholic Church did end up condemning Medjugorje in 1991, but St. James Church continued to attract pilgrims. Even the war didn’t stop that completely. The statement of condemnation issued by the Yugoslavian Bishops’ Conference in Zadar in April 1991 was similarly fraught with ambivalence. It stated that there was nothing supernatural about the occurrences at Medjugorje, but then went on to add that the pilgrims should be taken care of, which prompted the Franciscans to claim that Medjugorje had been officially recognized as a shrine for pilgrims without specifying just why anyone should go there since officially nothing supernatural had ever happened there. Pilgrims to what, one is tempted to ask. Eventually, Rome stepped in and said, in effect, no, Medjugorje had not been recognized as a shrine.

 Some indication of what Medjugorje was like during the dawn of its heyday, there is Mary Craig’s book Spark from Heaven, based on Craig’s trip to Medjugorje in September of 1986 as part of the crew which made the Everyman film, which eventually ended up getting shown on the BBC and spread far beyond as a video. “Never,” Craig tells us in no uncertain terms, “would the children accept money from well-wishers.” The quote crosses my mind after I almost get run over by Ivan Dragicevic, a seer who is in a hurry to leave the church parking lot in his late model, gray BMW. The Franciscans may still hate the local bishop, but the lives of the seers have certainly changed dramatically since the mid-’80s when Ivan used to stand on a pile of rocks and address the pilgrims not far from his home at the far end of Bijakovici, the hamlet where all of the children were born and the site of the first apparition. Ivan is a lot heavier than he was in 1986, which indicates either that he is not following the three-day-a-week bread and water fast that he prescribed for the rest of the world (allegedly at the Blessed Mother’s request) or that he is in urgent need of diuretics to alleviate water retention.

In addition to being the proud owner of a BMW, Ivan also has a German-looking mansion now across from where he used to live and on pretty much the same spot where he used to address credulous pilgrims telling them that the Blessed Mother wanted them to spend two hours saying the rosary. In addition to all that, Ivan is also now married, to Loreen Murphy, the former Miss Massachusetts. All in all this peasant boy from the poorest section of a poor country has done well for himself. His might be an inspiring success story were it not for the fact that his ostentatious lifestyle clashed so outrageously with the asceticism one associates with seers, or used to at any rate. Sister Lucia, the seer at Fatima, became a cloistered nun and disappeared from the world’s view and only published a memoir of her encounter with the virgin at the request of her religious superior. Her two fellow seers died horrible painful deaths in childhood.

On the afternoon of June 25, 1997, Ivan spends his time mingling with the crowds outside St. James Church. His hair is thinner now; his gut hangs over the waistband of his expensive suit, but he still has the same false teeth, and the same aloofness if the doesn’t know you and the same ingratiating obsequiousness if he does and thinks you can be of benefit to him.

St. James Church has undergone dramatic transformation as well. What used to be the muddy area surrounding it is now paved and decorated with statues. What used to be pasture and farmland behind it has now become a gravel parking lot, whose focal point is a hideous tent-like pavilion behind the church, which dwarfs the church itself, much as the apparitions and what they stand for have come to dwarf the Catholic parish which spawned them. Like the apparitions, the pavilion got the Franciscans in deeper trouble with the bishop for building it without permission, As I watch Ivan work the crowd, I remember the way people used to talk about the seers and their lives. Mary Craig wrote in 1986 that “it would be preposterous to say they’ve been telling lies for over five years, making fools of the whole world. They are too simple, too guileless, too unsophisticated for that. And anyway, why would they? For money? No, they resent being offered money. Fame? No, they shun publicity. A better life? Oh, theirs would be a miserable life indeed if they were living a lie. People have been besieging them, pestering them in their own homes for five years, leaving them no peace.”

No peace, did she say? The words take on increasing irony with time. Medjugorje, it turns out, did not bring peace; it was an interlude between two wars. In fact, it was an incident that grew out of one war and led to another. This is one of the things that becomes apparent the second time around as Phil and I bump down the dusty track that leads to the hole in the ground where 600 Serbs were murdered almost to the day forty years before the apparitions began. Ten years ago one heard rumors of the atrocity, but that all seemed part of the remote past then. One of the lessons one learns in this part of the world is that the past is never remote. It is always just beneath the surface ready to emerge like a corpse from a shallow grave after a heavy rain.

The corpses of Surmanci did, in fact, emerge from the ground in 1989 when a delegation of Serbs arrived at the jama and broke through the concrete lid the Communists had fastened over it and exhumed the Serb remains and took them in ceremonial procession, in little coffins draped with Serbian banners back across the river to be re-interred in Prebilovci, from whence they had departed. The disinterment took place in June, as does just about everything of significance in the Balkans. Politics didn’t seem important back in 1988 when I had been here last. Politics never seemed important to Phil on any of the several trips he had made. But then the war broke out, and then he lost his wife, and suddenly both of us had the sense that we had missed something the first time around, something a careful search might reveal this time.

To link the jama with Surmanci, the village which gives it its name, is deceptive in a way. Surmanci is village on the rail line that follows the Neredva river from Metkovic to Mostar. Surmanci is on the flood plain but surrounded by the cliffs which mark the beginning of the Brontjo plateau. It is from these cliffs that the Serbs were thrown to their death; it is on the plateau that ends abruptly with the cliffs over the Neredva that the village of Medjugorje is located. The drive out of Medjugorje is deceptive in this regard as well because the distance traveled is not in a straight line. The road from the place of the apparitions in Bijakovici to the jama above Surmanci is in effect a large U-turn around the hill called Crnica, now known as apparition hill. The drive is in effect around the base of Crnica. You begin the drive on the apparition side of Crnica and you end up on the atrocity side of the same hill when you get to the jama, which prompts a thought: were the atrocity and the apparition just two sides of the same coin?.

What strikes you even more than the spatial propinquity of atrocity and apparition is the eerie coincidence of dates. Just about everything of significance in Balkan history seems to happen in June. The defining moment of Serbian history, the Battle of Kosovo Pole took place on June 28, 1389. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the event that led to the outbreak of World War I, occurred on June 28, 1914, as sort of weird symbolic commemoration of the Battle of Kosovo Pole. The Croatians declared their independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, which corresponded to the day to the tenth anniversary of the apparitions of Medjugorje, which took place on the fortieth anniversary of the Massacre at Surmanci.

The coincidence of dates struck Mary Craig too:

Roger and I had seen, in the Orthodox Monastery at Zitomislic, a plaque that froze our blood. It commemorated the day, forty years earlier, 21st June 1941, when seven of the monks, from the Father Superior down to the youngest novice, were buried alive by the Ustase in the pit at Surmanci. Three days after that plaque had gone up, the apparitions started a few miles away in Medjugorje. That weeping woman, could there be a connection? Was this why Medjugorje had been chosen? Had those six children absorbed the hopes, desires, fears and guilts of a suffering people?

The connection between Surmanci and Medjugorje, both from the point of view of place and time, seems too obvious to ignore, although Craig goes on to do just that in Spark from Heaven, which ends up being one more instance of promotional literature— a bit ambivalent, better written perhaps, but in the end another piece of advertisement for the ultimate benefit of the airlines, the travel agents, the Franciscans and the “seers.”

Ever since the Catholic Church decided that nothing supernatural was going on in Medjugorje, the question of just what the “seers” were seeing became more problematic. Bishop Zanic, who had the advantage of talking to the seers firsthand in their native language, felt that the apparitions of Medjugorje were a joke that got out of hand. The two girls who started the whole thing told him they had gone up the hill to tend sheep. When Zanic reminded one of them, Ivanka Ivankovic, that it was a sin to tell a lie, she almost immediately recanted and said they went up to have a smoke. Just what they were smoking at the time was a source of contention as well. Mirjana Dragicevic, the other original seer, was known as a big city “Pankerica,” their word for punk, and her reputation in the village was associated with the big city, Sarajevo, and drugs. The charges never got resolved one way or the other. The children were never tested to see if they had taken drugs and in the end the accusation of drug use got dismissed as heavy-handed communist propaganda of the sort this sort of person would mount against saints.

But the “seers” are far from being declared saints by the same Church which declared them liars. So the questions remain. What exactly did they see on that day in June in 1981? Or did they see anything at all?

 In late October 1989, Ivan Dragicevic, the Medjugorje “seer,” was a long way from home. He was in San Francisco in fact, and having survived the biggest earthquake in recent memory on the day of his arrival, he was standing in the back yard of a Croatian Emigre by the name of Joe Tolaich, having a cigarette. Joe Tolaich was part of the Croatian Diaspora living in the bay area. He had grown up in Metkovic, a few kilometers down the Neredva from Medjugorje and had in fact been one of the first people to arrive in Medjugorje as pilgrims during the summer of 1981. Joe’s attitude toward the Blessed Mother had a distinctly practical bent. Faced with the prospect of having a seer who had daily contact with the Blessed Mother in his own home, Joe asked Ivan if the Virgin Mary might divulge, during one of her visits, her favorite six numbers, so that Joe could put them to good use in the state lottery. Perhaps Joe had become skeptical because of Ivan’s lifestyle. Whatever the reason, he never got an answer to his question, which prompted him to ask Ivan on that evening while he was having a cigarette in his back yard, whether Ivan was really seeing the blessed Mother. Ivan’s answer was something less than reassuring to the pious. “Joe,” Ivan replied after taking a drag on his cigarette, “I’m seeing something.”

Evidence from other sources close to the seers corroborates Ivan’s testimony. Mirjana once described a vision in which she saw the Virgin Mary appear, only to be replaced by a second virgin, who told her in a different voice, “You see even the devil can come dressed as me.” In a second encounter, Mirjana saw a beautiful young man standing in the doorway to her room who told her that even the devil can come as a beautiful being. The possibility that the seers were seeing a spiritual entity which was not the Blessed Mother was mentioned explicitly the day before our trip to Surmanci by a priest who has been associated with the apparitions for over ten years and during that period has gone from an being avid believer and promoter to a confirmed skeptic. After years of hearing confessions and assembling a library of new age material from penitents, it became clear to him that Medjugorje was a major stop on the New Age circuit. Before long, the Blessed Virgin even started talking like a new age guru. The first message to issue from the lips of “Our Lady of Medjugorje” after the bishops’ condemnation was that her devotees should turn “negatives into positives,” a turn of phrase which struck this priest at the time as totally unbiblical, a feeling which received dramatic confirmation when he found exactly the same phrase coming from the lips of New Age guru, Sanaya Roman, “Channel for Orin.” “Or,” the priest remembered, was the Hebrew word for light. The Latin word is Lux, whose genitive is lucis, which is the root of the name light-bearer, or Lucifer. The passage about changing negatives into positives, which Marija Pavlovic cited verbatim as the first message from the Gospa after the bishops’ declaration of April 1991, is the title of Chapter Five of Sanaya Roman’s book, Living with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation (Tiburon, CA: H. J. Kramer, 1986)..

Somewhere between the hypothesis that Medjugorje was a joke that got out of hand and the theory that the kids are talking to demons, I begin to descry a third possibility, based on its geographical and historical context and their relationship to the massacres at Surmanci just on the other side of apparition hill. The “seers” saw a ghost. Ghosts, to begin with, are psychological, whereas demons are ontological. Demons are actual beings; they are pure spirits, or angels who have chosen to rebel against God and live in a state of eternal separation from Him. Their only consolation comes from making other rational creatures, who were created to share happiness with God, share their misery instead. Ghosts, on the other hand, are a function of the mind which beholds them. They are traditionally seen as the souls of men who have not gone to hell but rather to purgatory, from whence they escape periodically to admonish the living about some still unfinished business.

Like the monster in horror fiction, ghosts represent the return of the repressed. Both Banquo’s ghost and Hamlet’s father represent an unrighted wrong. They are an indication that an event in the past has failed to achieve closure. As a result of repression, usually caused by guilt, the ghost frequently re-presents itself at moments usually associated in some way with an anniversary of the event that needs to be repressed.

To give a typical example, women who have abortions generally relive the guilt and anguish associated with the death of their child on the anniversary date of either the abortion itself or on the day the woman has calculated as the child’s birth date. The aborted child rises ghost-like on the anniversary of his death and accuses the mother in much the same way that Banquo’s ghost accuses Macbeth and the ghost of Hamlet’s father reproaches Hamlet.

 Reduced to its simplest form, Medjugorje was this: two girls saw something one hill away from the place where the Surmanci massacres took place on the fortieth anniversary of the massacres, at a time when Tito had been dead for a little over a year and all of eastern Europe was aflame with the nationalism that the Polish labor union Solidarity had inspired in the subject nations of the Soviet empire. Father Zovko tried to deflect attention from Surmanci, claiming that it was absurd “to offload on Medjugorje all the guilt for wartime atrocities that even we older ones hadn’t heard of; and as for the children, they weren’t even born,” but the Serbs remained unconvinced. Belgrade papers satirized an Ustase terrorist Madonna with a large knife between her teeth and a caption proclaiming, “The True Face of the Blessed Mother.”

In Medjugorje, the “anniversary reaction” was collective as well as personal, and collective in a way that involved the Serbs. Hence, the coincidence of dates. Our Lady of Medjugorje appeared at virtually the same time that the Serbs erected the plaque commemorating the atrocity at Surmanci at the orthodox monastery at Zitomislic, and both of those events occurred forty years to the day after the massacre itself. Ghosts always represent an unrighted wrong. The recognition of the wrong is triggered by some related event, like an anniversary, or the dislocation of the established order. In 1980 the sense that the established order was coming to an end in eastern Europe was in the air. In order to maintain order in an ethnically diverse country riven by atrocities during World War II, the Communists literally fashioned a lid out of concrete and placed it over the opening where the genocide of the Serbs had taken place at Surmanci. If repression can be represented by a lid placed over unwelcome memories and the emotions they generate, then the death of Tito and the election of a Polish pope and the rise of Solidarity meant that the communist lid was about to be removed from Yugoslavia, and the first thing that rose into consciousness in Herzegovina, after the communist repression was removed, was the guilt over what the Herzegovinians had done during the war.

In 1989, as a hint of the nationalism that was to follow, the Serbs literally removed the lid and took their dead home. But as in horror movies, so in real life. The guilt is re-presented in a form that is less threatening. Instead of a monster representing the Enlightenment gone wrong, the Herzegovisti were confronted by a warning Mother, a figure of radical ambivalence in which consolation is always a thin veneer over catastrophe, which will follow if her instructions are not carried out.

What the children saw, of course, became irrelevant by the third day of the apparitions when the Franciscans, specifically Jozo Zovko, became involved and turned the seers into foot soldiers in their war against Bishop Zanic. The deal with the children was cut as payment for not denouncing them as a hoax and exposing them thereby to the ire of an local population that wanted to believe that their deliverance was just around the corner. Vox populi, vox dei applies here in an uncanny way. It is the people who make a phoney apparition, not God or the Blessed Virgin. They fashion it into the idol of their desires, and so it is not surprising that Medjugojre should take on a nationalistic cast at this place and time. The Virgin was simultaneously the ghost of Croatian sin and the sign of Croatian nationalist hope that the old order was ending, and because the fall of communism seemed like a possibility in the summer of 1981, the Virgin was conjured up by an oppressed Croatian nation to bring it about. The times were propitious. Tito died in 1980; all of Eastern Europe was in turmoil caused by picture of Solidarity workers kneeling in front of the Gdansk shipyard praying the Rosary to the Black Madonna. If the Madonna could save the Poles who prayed to her at Czestochowa, why couldn’t the Gospa save the Croatians who prayed to her at Medjugorje.

 Although it was modeled consciously on Lourdes, with a little bit of Garabandal (the warning, the chastisement, the permanent supernatural sign) thrown in for good measure, Medjugorje itself was more like the equally bogus apparitions in Marpingen in Germany, which for a brief moment in the 1870s outdrew even Lourdes, upon which it too was based. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, apparitions took on the form which they still retain to this day. They happen to children of oppressed minorities or neglectful parents in borderlands or times of momentous social change. Medjugorje and Marpingen fulfilled both criteria. Marpingen took place in part of Germany which had changed from one country to another, and at the time of the alleged apparitions was suffering under Bismarck’s attempt to crush the Catholic Church, known as the Kulturkampf. In his classic study of the “apparitions” of Marpingen, David Blackbourn paints a picture which has remarkable similarities to Medjugorje:

The struggle in Prussia between state and church, known as the Kulturkampf, had already heightened denominational tensions and created fear among a substantial proportion of the Catholic minority; and by 1876 the economic recession that had begun three years earlier was causing serious distress and prompting calls for remedial measures.

...It was in order to gather bilberries-Waelen in local dialect-that, on the hot Monday of 3 July, a number of young girls found themselves in the Haertelwald, a hilly wooded area that contained many rocky gullies and lay a few minutes away from Marpingen to the south-east....Within less than a week thousands of pilgrims were streaming to Marpingen. Reports spoke of 20,000 in the village, with up to 4,000 at the apparition site singing, praying, and taking away foliage or handfuls of earth from the spot....the civil authorities closed off the area, the three visionaries began to claim apparitions in the school, in the graveyard and the church....Marpingen became a cause celebre. Journalists, priests, and the sellers of pious memorabilia descended on the village, as well as pilgrims from Germany and abroad. Supporters and opponents of events there dubbed Marpingen ‘the German Lourdes,’ even ‘the Bethlehem of Germany.’... There is no doubt that modern apparitions were commonly triggered by larger events: periods of wartime or post-war stress, political conflict, socio-economic crisis. It is also plain that many apparitions had an impact in turn on contemporary political conflicts, above all in helping to foster Catholic identity against the claims of the state or the challenge of anticlericals.

Blackbourn feels “there is overwhelming evidence... of the link between the apparitions and a combination of political persecution, material distress, and social change. That is true not only of the original events in Marpingen, but of the revitalized apparition movement in the twentieth century” (pp. xxi-xxvii).

Bosnia Herzegovina, it should be remembered, is the ultimate borderland for Europe. It marked the border between the East and West in the Roman Empire, between the Catholic and Orthodox lands of the Middle Ages, between the Austrian and Ottoman empires, and until most recently the western most rim of communism’s confrontation with the West, in the twentieth century’s version of the schism between east and west.

The children who began both Marpingen and Medjugorje had been influenced by Lourdes, Mirjana reading a book on it in the period between June 6 and June 21, 1981. The children represented an oppressed Catholic population looking for release from Prussian Protestantism or Communism respectively. Unable to achieve relief by either political or intellectual means or by force of arms, the oppressed population turned to popular Marian piety as an expression of protest. In both instances, it was the expectation and suppressed aspiration of an oppressed Catholic people, given leadership by the local priest, which brought the crowds and became the driving force behind the apparition.

The priest became as well the mediator of the intense psychological pressure that would come to bear on the children as the crowds increased in size and expectation. In exchange for protection from exposure, the children became the pawns of the priests, who, especially in the case of Medjugorje, used them for their own political ends, first as a weapon against the local bishop, and secondly and increasingly as a weapon against the Communists as the tide of nationalism rose to fill the vacuum created by an ideology no one believed in anymore.

 In January 10, 1983, Father Tomislav Vlasic interviewed Mirjana and then transcribed the tape, which was later published in severely edited form in books by Svetozar Kraljevic and Robert Faricy/Lucy Rooney. Sivric summarizes the profile of the seer which emerges from the interview:

Reading the interview with Mirjana, it is evident that she hears voices. Mirjana is quite frank in her conduct and about her interior disposition; at one time or another, she has suffered “terribly depressive moods,” she has behaved so strangely at school in Sarajevo that her peers considered her crazy. She is seized by sudden onsets of tears, as well as by “unexpected laughter”; she “cries for no reason,” she “is too sensitive,” etc. When the visions began, Father Zovko asked Mirjana if she were exhausted. She replied: “I would like just to sleep.” Like Vicka, she complained only once of a “fit of tears.” But she had these “crying fits” from the very beginning of the visions. It seems that she liked to cry. I have the impression that she is vulnerable.

One of the passages that got excised from the original interview, probably because it might cast doubt on her mental stability, is Mirjana’s description of purgatory. “There are souls in Purgatory,” she tells us,

...who pray a lot to God but nobody here on earth prays for them. There are other souls in Purgatory who do not pray at all, but some people on earth pray for them. These prayers are not applied to those souls in Purgatory for whom the prayers are offered but rather to those who pray. For the souls [in Purgatory] who pray a great deal, God allows them to communicate with their people here [on earth]. There was a woman whose two daughters were killed and they appeared to their mother in a dream and petitioned her to pray for them. . . . .I then asked the Gospa what that meant, and she replied that they are in Purgatory and are in need of a little hope to get them into Heaven: they begged their mother to pray for them while they prayed for themselves. There was another woman who lived in a house and something kept constantly knocking on her window. Later on, this very same woman got an apartment way up on the sixth floor and again something kept tapping on her window. I questioned the Gospa about what it was. She replied that the souls in Purgatory were doing so because she has forgotten to pray for them, and they are demanding her prayers.

There is no simple Sherlock Holmes explanation of the entities who come and tap on Mirjana’s window. This mystery is not going to be solved by the Enlightenment’s detectives or its scientists but only by someone who can understand the psychological and religious needs of the people who collaborated on establishing the meaning of the event.

Mirjana may very well have divined in some mediumistic way the psychic forces driving the region, and then, as if shocked by what she uncovered, she tried to get out from underneath the burden by progressively involving more people as collaborators. First she involved the other kids, then Marinko, then Zovko and the Franciscans and then the Croatian people and then Catholics from abroad and finally the forces trying to destabilize communism. The best metaphor is more predatory than that. There was no conspiracy here—at least not at the beginning, not until the Franciscans took it over, and even after that it was always a case of big fish eating little fish. As soon as any one person could assemble a certain number of people in one place who were willing to throw x amoung of D-marks into a hole, that person was a candidate to be eaten by someone more powerful than he. Once the crowds became significant enough in size, Zovko was motivated to take it over from Marinko, and the same process has been happening ever since. Big fish eat little fish; they open their mouths and bite ‘em; little fish eat littler fish and so on ad infinitum.

Mirjana was always characterized as the most “sensitive” of the seers. She cries a lot. The village children refer to her as a “Pankerica,” a punk from the big city who is suspected of dealing in drugs. Mirjana read a book on Lourdes at sometime in early June and then reflecting on her situation as part of a persecuted Catholic minority in a borderland area neglected by the regime because of its Catholicism, which was linked inalterably in the regime’s mind with the atrocity committed against the Serbs, Mirjana has a vision and her people are energized by the local instantiation of events that seem to be moving the entire world. One month after an attempt was made on the life of the pope, the Virgin comes to offer consolation and warning. As one woman who heard about the apparition within a matter of days while watching TV in Split put it, “it had to be true.”

Even granting the authority and the solace and protection that the priests offered, the psychological pressure on the seers was enormous, and given the fact that she orchestrated it at the beginning, it is perhaps not surprising that Mirjana Dragicevic would be the first to crack under the pressure. On Christmas day 1982, 18 months to the day from the first apparition, Mirjana announced that the apparitions had stopped. Before departing, however, the Blessed Virgin gave Mirjana ten secrets, which would be revealed to the world after three warnings, in the form of three dire events, which would take place just before the visible sign would appear from heaven. Once the great sign appeared, if the world did not turn to God, it would suffer a terrible punishment.

“As for the tenth [secret],” Mirjana warned the world, “ it is terrible, and nothing can alter it. It will happen.”

In February of 1997, 15 years after the Blessed Mother told her that her apparitions had ceased, the Blessed Mother evidently had a change of heart and decided to reappear to Mirjana monthly. Now that Mirjana had that big house she could also take in pilgrims, insuring herself a steady income by skimming the cream off the top of an ever-dwindling number of credulous spiritual tourists. The mysterious re-appearance of the Blessed Virgin is best explained by one of the tour guides who got to know Mirjana personally:

“Marko [Soldo],” he explained, “chased away Mirjana’s boyfriend and married her. He then built a house, got into financial trouble, and needed cash so she started to have apparitions again. Now he’s selling diesel cars from Italy. He’s on the radio in Croatia, with radio ads selling used cars.”

As of June of 1997, it looks as if Mirjana is planning to weather the chastisement, —now a bit long in coming—in style. Mirjana now lives in a German mansion right across the street from Ivan’s German mansion. Both buildings would hold their own in a well-to-do suburb of Karlsruhe or Stuttgart, which came to symbolize the promised land for Mirjana’s generation whose fathers were often away from home laboring as Gastarbeiter in the Bundesrepublik. Both houses have lawns, which require frequent watering, something in short supply in a place like Medjugorje.

Phil Kronzer probably noticed none of this as the two of us walked up to Mirjana’s front door. He knew that he had a nice house in Los Gatos once, but he had lost it as a result of his divorce settlement. He had an even nicer house in Carmel, the beautiful town on the California coast just South of Monterey, but he would lose that house too before the year was out. Mirjana and her husband Marko Soldo had stayed in that house on one of their appearances at one of the numerous west coast Marian conferences and had even told Phil that their second child had been conceived there. Phil’s plan was simple. Phil wanted his wife back, and he wanted Mirjana’s help in getting her back. His reasoning seemed plausible enough. If Ardie left him because of Medjugorje, what better way to get her back than have one of the Medjugorje seers arrange it. Mirjana could even say that she had talked it over with the Blessed Mother, a statement no less plausible than the ten secrets, which the average Medjugorje enthusiast had no trouble believing.

When we get to Mirjana’s door, we are greeted—albeit a bit warily—by a group of middle-aged female pilgrims from California, who tell us that Mirjana is not at home. She is involved in the festivities surrounding the 16th anniversary. “Come back later,” Phil is told, and it is only after we have turned away that he mentions that it was a tour guide from California who turned him away. If he recognized her, Phil reasons, then she most probably recognized him.

As we walk away from Mirjana’s house, I realize that for the first time during my stay in Medjugorje that the parties most financially interested in preserving the apparitions will know my exact whereabouts. The thought does not cheer me. I remember the expression on Slavko Barbaric’s face as we passed each other at the base of Mr. Krisovac. If looks could kill, I would have been dead. So now they know where we are going to be and when, I thought. The thought did not cheer me.

To be continued...

The New Ordinary of Mostar on Medjugorje: An Interview with Bishop Ratko Peric

The New Ordinary of Mostar on Medjugorje:  An Interview with Bishop Ratko Peric

“If, after serious, solid, and professional investiga­tion, our Bishops' Conference had the courage to declare that Medjugorje's apparitions are not supernatural, In spite of massive stories and convictions to the contrary, then that is a sign that the Church, even In the 20th century “upholds the truth and keeps it safe” (I Tim. 3:15). I  affirm this unequivocally and I an­swer it publicly to all those who have written either anonymous or signed letters to me with con­trary advice…” - Bishop Ratko Peric

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The Truth About Medjugorje: Bishop Zanic's Latest Statement 

This article first appeared in Fidelity Magazine, Volume 9 Issue 6. You may purchase the e-edition of the magazine to read this statement, and the other articles that appeared in the May, 1990 issue.

1. The truth regarding the events in Medjugorje is being sought out bya Commission of the Bishop's Conference of Yugoslavia (BKJ). Their work though is pro­gressing slowly. Therefore, with this statement, I wish to help the Commission in coming to a deci­sion as soon as possible. Propa­ganda in favor of Medjugorje is being rushed in order to place be­fore the Church and the world a "fait accompli." This has been the intention of the defenders of Medjugorje from the beginning. It must be admitted that they have succeeded, because the other side is either working too slowly or re­maining silent. For these reasons and due to the motivation that I have been given from many from all over the world who realize that the truth has been trampled upon, I have decided to make another statement according to my duty and my conscience and help the commission. With this statement I wish to awaken the conscience of those who defend Medjugorje. Their path is simple, wide and downhill all the way, while mine is difficult, thorny and uphill. The Church and Our Lady have no need of falsehoods. Jesus says: "The truth will make you free" (John 8:32). "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear wit­ness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears my voice" (John 18:37). For a short description of the falsehoods about Medjugorje we would need 200 pages, but for now all I will give is this short summary without a scientific approach. I am somewhat uneasy because of the fact that in some statements my name is in the fore­front, yet from the beginning of the "apparitions" I have been in the center of the events due to my epis­copal position and duties. I am sorry as well for having to men­tion some "unpleasant things," but without them the arguments lose their strength. However, the most unpleasant things will be left out. 

2. A characteristic attitude: Marina D., a tourist guide for At­las travel, brought a priest from Panama to my office in August 1989. His name: Presbitero Ro­driguez Teofilo, pastor of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes. With him came Carmen Cecilia Capriles -a jour­nalist, Gerente General of the lATA agency, and Averrida Alberto Navarro, Apartado 1344 Zona 7, Panama Marina presented herself as a tour-guide, translator for English and a convert because of Medjugorje. The priest asked me for the reasons why I do not be­lieve in the "apparitions." I told him that I have at least 20 reasons not to believe, of which only one is necessary for those who are sober and well instructed in the faith to come to the conclusion that the apparitions are not of supernatu­ral origin. He asked me to please tell him at least one reason. I told him about the case of the ex-Fran­ciscan priest Ivica Vego. Due to his disobedience, by an order of the Holy Father the pope, he was thrown out of the Franciscan reli­gious order by his General, dis­pensed from his vows and suspended “a divinis.” Hedidnotobey this order, and he continued to celebrate Mass, distribute the sac­raments and pass the time with his mistress. It is unpleasant to write about this, yet it is necessary in order to see who is speaking for Our Lady. According to the diary ofVicka and the statements of the "seers," Our Lady claimed 13 times that Vego was innocent and that the bishop was wrong. When his mistress, Sister Leopolda, a nun, became pregnant, both of them left Medjugorje and the religious life and began to live together near Medjugorje where their child was born. Now they have two children. His prayerbook is still sold at Medjugorje and elsewhere in hun­dreds of thousands of copies. 

Marina cannot be blamed for having fallen into a community which is concealing the truth. When I asked Marina to translate Vego's story into English, she spontaneously responded accord­ing to the practice in Medjugorje: "Do we have to tell them these ugly things?" I responded by saying that if she and other Medjugorje supporters had not held back the truth and covered up these "ugly events," these people from Panama would have found out earlier, and they would not have had to travel to Medjugorje for nothing. It is an injustice and a sin to hide this truth; even though it be unpleas­ant, it must be said. 


Rene Laurentin

3. The Marian theologian Rene Laurentin behaves in the same manner. He came to visit me around Christmas 1983, and I of­fered him dinner. When he asked me why I did not believe in the apparitions, I told him that accord­ing to the diary of Vicka and the words of the other "seers" this "Lady" has been speaking against the bishop. Laurentin quickly re­sponded: "Don't publish that, be­cause there are many pilgrims and converts there." I was scandalized by this statement of this well­ known Mariologist! Unfortunately this has remained Laurentin's position: to hide the truth and de­fend falsehoods. He has written around ten books on the topic of Medjugorje, and in almost all of them, the truth and Bishop Zanic are under fire. He knows well what people like to hear. Therefore, it was relatively easy for him to find those who would believe him. ''A verltate quidam auditum avertent, adjabulas autem convertentur" "They will tum away from listen­ing to the truth and wander into myths" (2 Tim. 4:4). The "seers" and defenders of Medjugorje led by Laurentin from the very outset have seen that the modem believer in a communist country very quickly believes in everything "miraculous," in apparent miracu­lous healings and apparent mes­sages from "Our Lady." 

4. The main players on which Medjugorje rests are retired Arch­bishop F. Franic, R Laurentin, L. Rupcic OFM, Arnorth, Rastrelli S.J., and some Franciscans and charismatics from all over the world. Many books have been quickly published, as well as ar­ticles, brochures, films and souve­nirs. There are tourist agencies, pilgrimages, 600,000 copies of prayerbooks (written by two Fran­ciscans, Vego and Prusina, who were thrown out of their Order) published in many languages, fa­natical prayer groups that are in­spired by the apparent messages of Our Lady, and finally there is the greatest motivator of all money. No one even mentions that which throws doubt on the "appa­ritions." The bishop has been warning everyone, but the "ma­chinery" has been working over­time. Fifty miraculous healings have been mentioned, then 150, 200, 300 and so on. Laurentin chose 56 dossiers and sent them to the "Bureau medical de Lour­des." Dr. Mangiapan responded in their Bulletin, April 84, that these dossiers have no practical value, and they cannot be used or con­sidered as serious proofs of the apparitions in Medjugorje. Much has been written about the heal­ing of Diane Basile. I sent the dos­sier to Dr. Mangiapan who stud­ied the case and then took the po­sition: "opinion plus que reservee." It is a case of multiple sclerosis. More will be written about this later in a book. 


Mirjana Dragicevic

5. The credibility of the "seers" - Mirjana Dragicevic. One month after the beginning of the "appari­tions" I went to Medjugorje to question the "seers." I asked each of them to take an oath on the cross and demanded that they speak the truth. (This conversa­tion and oath were recorded on tape.) The first one was Mirjana: 'We went to look for our sheep when at once ... " (The associate pastor in the parish interrupted and told me that they actually went out to smoke, which they hid from their parents.) 'Wait a minute, Mirjana, you're under oath. Did you go out to look for your sheep?" She put her hand over her mouth. "Forgive me, we went out to smoke," she said. She then showed me the watch on which the "mir­acle" occurred because the hands of the watch had gone haywire. I took the watch to a watch expert, who said that the watch had cer­tainly fallen and become disor­dered. After bringing the watch back to her I told her not to men­tion that a miracle occurred. Yet, on cassettes taped later on, she went on to speak of how a miracle occurred with the watch and that initially they had gone out to search for their sheep. 

Later on, she claimed that Our Lady said that all faiths are equal. How much can we believe Mirjana? 


Vicka Ivankovic

6. Vicka lvankovic has been the main "seer" from the begin­ning and through her the creator of Medjugorje, Rev. Tomislav Vla­sic OFM, has launched the main portion of falsehoods regarding Medjugorje. He presented himself to the Pope in a letter May 13, 1984 as follows: "I am Rev. Tomislav Vla­sic, the one, according to Divine Providence, who guides the seers of Medjugorje." It would have been better for him to withdraw into the "desert" and remain silent, because his past speaks enough about him. Vicka spoke and wrote much, and in so doing she fell into many contradictions. Prof. Nikola Bulat, a member of the first com­mission, questioned her and wrote a 60-page study on her. He num­bered all the illogicalities and false­hoods of her diary. Here I will only mention the bloody handkerchief incident. Word spread around that there was a certain taxi driver who came across a man who was bloody all over. This man gave this taxi driver a bloodied handkerchief and he told him to: "throw this in the river." The driver went on and then he came across a woman in black. She stopped him and asked him to give her a handkerchief. He gave her his own, but she said: "not that one but the bloody handker­chief." He gave her the handker­chief she wanted and she then said: "If you had thrown it into the river, the end of the world would have occurred now." Vicka Ivankovic wrote in her diary that they asked Our Lady if this event was true, and she said that it was, and along with this, "that man covered with blood was my son Jesus, and I [Our Lady] was that woman in black." 


Defrocked & Laicised Priest Tomislav Vla­sic

What kind of theology is this? From this it appears that Jesus wants to destroy the world if a handkerchief is thrown into a river and that it's Our Lady who will save the world! 

7. On the 14th of January 1982, Vicka, Marija and little Jakov came to visit me. Vicka began to speak quite nervously because she was speaking falsehoods. She said, "Our Lady sent us to you to tell you that you are too harsh with the Franciscans . . ." In what way? 'We don't know!" 1\vo Franciscan chaplains in Mostar, Ivica Vego and Ivan Prusina, which the bishop sought to remove from Mostar because of disorder and disobedience towards the faithful of the newly-established cathedral parish in Mostar, defended them­selves before their superiors by saying that they would not leave Mostar because Our Lady, through Vicka, told them not to leave. This was mentioned to me by a mem­ber of the Franciscan Provincial Council. I asked Vicka at our meet­ing: "Did Our Lady mention any­thing about the Mostar chaplains, Vego and Prusina?" "She did not. We don't know them," responded all three. Our conversation lasted 30 minutes, and I taped all of it. I repeated the question of the chap­lains of Mostar several times, and they always responded: 'We don't know them." Later on, I found from Vicka's diary that they knew the chaplains very well. It was clear to me that they were lying, yet I did not want to mention this to them in order to maintain their confi­dence during our conversations. 

8. On the 4th of April 1982, Vicka and Jakov came to visit me "sent by Our Lady." The chaplains of Mostar, Vego and Prusina, were thrown out of the Franciscan Or­der in January of that year by the superiors of their Order. Many fol­lowers of Medjugorje and "Our Lady" defended the expelled chap­lains. During our conversation Vicka very excitedly began: "The last time we were with you, we didn't tell you everything and for this reason Our Lady scolded us. We spoke of many things and therefore we forgot. ... " ''What did you forget?" "Our Lady told us to tell you that those chaplains, Vego and Prusina, are priests and, therefore, they can celebrate Mass just like other priests." 'Wait a minute. Did Our Lady tell you this before our last meeting?" "Yes, that's why she sent us to you. Last time I spoke of many other things and I forgot to mention this." Dur­ing that previous meeting I asked her directly several times if Our Lady mentioned anything about the two chaplains. It was clear to me that Vicka was lying, and this was proof enough for me not to trust her statements. Marija and Jakov also participated in this lie. 

9. Towards the end of January 1983, Rev. Grafenauer, a Jesuit priest, came to me with the inten­tion of researching the phenome­non of Medjugorje. He listened to 20 cassettes, and after having lis­tened to them he said that he would not go to Medjugorje be­cause he concluded that Our Lady was not appearing there. Upon my insistence he went to Medjugorje and after a few days he came back as a "convert" of Rev. Vlasic. He brought some documents, threw them on the table and said: "Here's what Our Lady wishes to tell you!" I understood this as a plot to over­throw the bishop with the help of Our Lady. The documents he brought were a compilation of Vicka's diary, the parish chronicle and hand-written documents. For this reason it is difficult to estab­lish where they were first written. Vicka and those who defend Medjugorje hid this from the bishop for more than a year. Here are a few quotes: 

December 19, 1981: "Our Lady said that the bishop is to blame for the disorder in Hercegovina She also said that Rev. lvica Vego is not to blame, yet that the bishop has all authority. Our Lady said that he [Vego] should remain in Mostar and not leave. 

January 3, 1982: All the "seers" together asked Our Lady about Rev. lvica Vego. Our Lady an­swered: "lvica is innocent. If they throw him out of the Franciscan Order, may he remain coura­geous .... lvica is innocent." Our Lady repeated this three times.

January 11, 1982: We asked again about the two chaplains of Mostar, and Our Lady repeated twice what she had mentioned earlier regarding them. 

(Note: January 14, 1982, Vicka was at the Chancery office with the bishop and at that meeting she mentioned that she did not know Vega.) 

January 20, 1982: The children asked what Rev. Ivica Vego and Rev. Ivan Prusina were to do now that they were thrown out of the Order. Our Lady answered: "They are innocent. The bishop was harsh in his decision. They can stay." 

April 15, 1982: Vicka asked Our Lady a question. "Could you gen­erally tell me everything about Ivica Vega and Ivan Prusina?" Our Lady smiled at first and then she said: "They are innocent." She repeated twice that: "The bishop has made a mistake .. .. let them remain in Mostar. . . . they can say Mass sometimes but may they be careful to stay away from attention until things calm down. They have no faults. . . ." 

April 16, 1982: "Yesterday while we were withOurLady we asked her if we could pray an Our Fa­ther for them [Vega and Prusina]. She answered immediately: 'Yes you can,' and she prayed with them. When we finished the prayer she smiled and said to me: Those two areconstantlyon your mind.' I answered: 'You're right."' 

April 26, 1982: Our Lady: "The bishop has no real love of God in his heart. Regarding the bishop, may Ivica and Ivan remain calm. What the bishop is doing is con­trary to the will of God, yet he can do as he pleases, but one day jus­tice as you have never seen shall be revealed." 


10. Vicka never denied that Our Lady said these things or that she wrote these things down in her diary. The assurance and authen­ticityof this can be best confirmed by a cassette taped by Rev. Grafe­nauer during his talks with Vicka and Marija He left taped copies of the cassette in the parish of Medjugorje, with the bishop, and he left one with the Bishop's Con­ference in Zagreb. The cassette should be heard! 

A conversation with Vicka: "The bishop has the duty to judge whether or not this is Our Lady…,” said Rev. Grafenauer. 

Vicka: He can judge as he wants, but! know it's Our Lady. 

Grafenauer: The Church says that those who are confident in themselves, that this itself is a sign that Our Lady is not in ques­tion here. 

Vicka: Let those who are doubt­ful remain doubtful; I'm not. 

Grafenauer: This is not a good sign ... you once told the bishop that he should listen more to Our Lady than to the Pope. 

Vicka: Yes I did. 

Grafenauer: This means that the bishop should listen to you more than to the Pope. 

Vicka: No, not me. 

Grafenauer: But the bishop doesn't know what the phenome­non is, and perhaps it is not Our Lady. 

Vicka: Yes, it is Our Lady. 

Grafenauer: You told the bishop that he is to blame and that those two [Vego and Prusina] are inno­cent and that they can perform their priestly duties. 

Vicka: Yes I did. 

Grafenauer: Can they hear con­fessions? Did Our Lady mention this? 

Vicka: Yes.

Grafenauer: If Our Lady said this and the Pope says that they can­not. ... 

Vicka: The Pope can say what he wants, I'm telling it as it is! 

Grafenauer: See, this is how one can come to the conclusion that this is not Our Lady ... when the Pope says no, they cannot cele­brate Mass, and they cannot hear confessions, and then on the other hand, Our Lady says they can do both; this cannot be! 

Vicka: I know what is right [What Our Lady said]. 

Grafenauer: This cannot be true. I would put my hand into fire to testify that this is not Our Lady speaking. When a person has a · greater gift there also exists a greater danger that the devil could be at work upon this per­son. 

What a degrading humiliation of Our Lady! According to these statements she is destroying obe­dience in the Church, obedience to the bishop, to the heads of the Franciscan Order, and to the Holy Father. She is defending Vega! 

11. The apparition in Cemo. Cerna is a village not far away from Medjugorje. The eighth day after the beginning of the apparitions in Medjugorje there was an "appa­rition" near Cerna. The "seers" told Rev. Jozo Zovko, the pastor of Medjugorje at the time, of this happening the evening of the event. They mentioned that Our Lady said four or five times that she would only appear for three more days, that is, on July 1, 2, and 3. This was recorded on cassette and publicized by Rev. Ivo Sivric, OFM. The cassette was repro­duced. A few years later Rev. Janka Bubalo published a book titled, A Thousand Meetings With Our Lady. This is a book of conversa­tions with Vicka Vicka does not mention this event, therefore Rev. Bubalo asked whether or not Our Lady said "only three more days." Vicka responded by saying that she did not remember! 

It is evident that Vicka is speaking falsehoods and that Our Lady cannot say that which Vicka is saying: Vicka is fabricating these statements. Should this remain unknown to the rest of the world? Evil (such as speaking falsehoods about Our Lady) must not be done in order to obtain a good (such as pilgrimages, prayers, etc.). 


Marija Pavlovic

12. "Seer" Marija Pavlovic. Here is a written account of the taped conversation between Rev. Grafenauer and Marija: 

Grafenauer: Did Our Lady say that the bishop is to blame? 

Marija: Yes. 

Grafenauer: Did she say that Vego and Prusina were not to blame? 

Marija: Yes. 

Grafenauer: When Our Lady says that the bishop is to blame this immediately appears suspicious, and we could conclude that this is not Our Lady speaking. The seers are apparently spreading word around that the bishop is to blame. 

Marija: Our Lady told us this. 

Grafenauer: This is causing re­volt in Hercegovtna and these are not good fruits. People will be angry with the bishop and will defame his reputation. How can Our Lady do such things? The Church knows well that Our Lady is good and that she would never do such things. 

Marija: Our Lady told us this. 

Archbishop F. Franic, Rev. Laurentin and many others know all this, yet they remain silent. What kind of theology can accept these statements by Our Lady through the declarations of the "seers" that their Teacher, Pastor and Liturgist, the bishop, who has legally received his duty from Christ through the Church, has no love of God in his heart, that he is declared a sinner throughout the world, that he should convert and that prayers will be said in Medjugorje for this intention? There were statements made that Jesus himself would pray for the bishop so that the bishop would believe and then take better action in favor of the events in Medjugorje. To say that the bishop is to wait for Our Lady’s judgement is an absurdity. It is an offense against Our Lady, the Mother of the Church. God knows that I am not without sin, and that Our Lady could criticize me, yet God alone is the judge. I have never been repri­manded or warned by the Holy See for my episcopal service. 

13. The creator of Medjugorje, Rev. Tomislav Vlasic, amongst other things has published and distributed in many languages a seventeen page booklet titled: A Calling in the Marian Year (Milan, March 25, 1988). This regards the founding of a prayer group for young men and women (some­thing which has been unheard of in the history of the Church!) who would live together, in Parma, It­aly. They would be the ones who would save the world. Our Lady apparently gave Rev. Vlasic and Agnes Heupel ( a German woman supposedly healed in Medjugorje) the inspiration to establish and to lead this community together in a manner similar to saints Francis and Clare, as described by Vlasic. In order for this action to succeed, Rev. Vlasic asked Marija to add "her witnessing" on three pages. She is a member of this commu­nity and on April 21, 1988 she wrote: "Senta il bisogno .. . " - "I feel the need ... " As expected, Our Lady has given a set program to this community of the "Queen of Peace" and she leads this commu­nity through Rev. Vlasic and Agnes who give messages to the com­munity. "I have been in the com­munity for a month and a half. I have apparitions, and Our Lady leads me in the mystery of suffer­ing which is the foundation of this community. I must write down everything and publish this once Our Lady tells me to. I have under­stood God's plan which he began through Mary in the parish of Medjugorje." This quotation is taken from pages 15 and 16 of Rev. T. Vlasic's text. The defenders of Medjugorje quickly understood that this community of young men and women living, sleeping, work­ing and praying together in the same house would eventually de­stroy themselves and Medjugorje. Therefore, they sent their Provin­cial, Rev. Jozo Vasilj to Parma He went together with the bishop of Parma, Msgr. B. Cochi and Rev. T. Vlasic to the Congregation in Rome. They were told there that the Church cannot allow such a community to exist and then Rev. T. Vlasic was ordered to dissolve the community and to return to Hercegovina Vlasic did not obey immediately, yet he returned later. This is what was explained to me by Rev. Jozo Vasilj regarding the community. 

14. The same Marija Pavlovic made another public declaration on the 11th of July 1988. On a single sheet of paper, distributed in the same manner as the earlier statement, she mentioned:

"I feel a moral obligation to declare before God, Our Lady (the Madonna). and the Church .... From the text of A Calling ... it appears as if I gave Our Lady's answer to the question put forward by Rev. T. Vlasic, etc. I now declare that I never sought from Our Lady (the Madonna) a confirmation of the work of Rev. Vlasic and Agnes Heupel ... My first declaration ... does not corre­spond to the truth. Rev. Vlasic suggested to me a few times [nota bene] that I as one of the "seers" should write a declaration which the world expects .... Everything I said does not correspond to the truth. This I declare before the Blessed Sacrament." 

The statement was signed, "Marija Pavlovic." 

15.Marija does not deny that she gave her first statement. Rev. T.Vlasic sought statements from her many times, and this obviously turns out to be manipulating one of the "seers." So we can conclude that Marija has consciously spo­ken falsehoods on the first or sec­ond occasion. She has lied, and this she attributes to Our Lady. It is evident that Marija is a toy in Rev. Vlasic's hands. This was clear to me even earlier, yet up till now, I didn't have material proof to back this up. Rev. T. Vlasic has manipu­lated all the "seers" in the same fashion. Under this type of ma­nipulation, Marija saw how Our Lady cried when someone men­tioned the bishop at a prayer meet­ing: "From Our Lady's eye flowed forth a great tear. The tear ran down her face and disappeared into a cloud under her feet. Our Lady began to cry and she as­cended to heaven crying" (August 22, 1984). An obvious fabrication by Rev. T. Vlasic intended to frighten the bishop.

Why don't the defenders of Medjugorje mention these two statements of Marija? Must these "ugly'' things be hidden from the world because, as Rene Laurentin would say, there are many "con­versions" in Medjugorje? Lau­rentin writes in his book Demi­eres Nouvelles 3, on page 27, that a certain monsignor asked Marija to pray for a message from Our Lady for his priests. Marija an­swered: "Our Lady said that they should read Laurentin's book and spread it around!" 

It is a terrible sin to attribute one's own lies to Our Lady. When the world learns of this, who will believe them anymore? They have been discredited. No one can destroy this material evidence. It will be reproduced and spread byword of mouth. I know well that there are many who disregard such material. They accept the events of Medjugorje irrationally, with great emotion and with personal inter­ests. They are blind, but these documents will remain a part of the history of the Church and Mariology. 

Ivan Dragicevic

Ivan Dragicevic

16. The "seer" Ivan Dragicevic. Regarding the "great sign," Vicka mentions this 13 times in the dia­ries, 14 times it is mentioned in the parish chronicle, 52 times on the cassettes, and in numerous times in talks with the bishop. In the spring of 1982, I asked the "seers" to write everything they knew about the sign without mak­ing the "secret" public. The way I suggested they do it was to write down information on paper in duplicate. Then this would be sealed in an envelope, and one copy would remain with them and one with the bishop. When the "sign" occurs, then we would open the envelopes and see whether or not the "sign" was predicted. Rev. Tomislav Vlasic, pastor of Medjugorje at the time, told the "seers" to say that Our Lady said not to write anything down, and so they didn't. However, Ivan Drag­icevic was in the Franciscan mi­nor seminary at Visoko, Bosnia at the time, and he wasn't informed of this on time. Two members of the first Commission, Dr. M. Zovkic and Dr. Z. Puljic (now bishop of Dubrovnik), went to visit Ivan in Visoko. They gave him a sheet of paper which was some­what greenish in color with ques­tions typed out on it. Ivan wrote down the content of the "sign," dated the document and signed it in their presence without a word or any sign of fear. A few years later, Laurentin wrote that Ivan told him personally that he wrote absolutely nothing down on that sheet of paper and that he tricked the two members of the Commission. On March 7, 1985, three members of the Commission went to ask Ivan if what Lauren tin wrote were true. Ivan said it was true and that they could freely go ahead and open the envelope in the Chancery office because in it they would only find a white sheet of paper. They came back to Mostar where the Commis­sion was having a meeting and before all the members, they opened the envelope. In the enve­lope on a greenish sheet of paper they found written the content of the sign: 

"Our Lady said that she would leave a sign. The content of this sign I reveal to your trust. The sign is that there will be a great shrine in Medjugorje in honor of my apparitions, a shrine to my image. When will this occur? The sign will occur in June." 

Dated: May 9, 1982. 

Seer: Ivan Dragicevic. 

After having heard this lie, the members of the first Commission wanted to end all further work, yet they stayed on. Within a few days of this event Rev. Slavko Barbaric OFM, took the "seers" somewhere and instructed them all, including Ivan, to write a declaration that Ivan did not disclose the sign! 

Ivan sent messages from Our Lady to the bishop. On April 24, 1984 Our Lady supposedly said the following regarding the bishop: "My son Jesus is praying for him so that he [the bishop] would be­lieve and therefore take better ac­tion in favor of Medjugorje." She added: "How would he react if my son were to appear on earth? Would he then believe?" 

Regarding the Commission, Our Lady says only the following:

"Pray, pray, pray! Think over and live the message I have given and you will see why I have come." 

This statement was signed: "Ivan Dragicevic, Medjugorje." 

17. "Tell the bishop that I seek a quick conversion from him to­wards the happenings in Medju­gorje before it's too late. May he accept these events with plenty of love, understanding and great re­sponsibility. I want him to avoid creating conflicts between priests and to stop publicizing their nega­tive behaviors. The Holy Father has given all bishops the duty to fulfill certain tasks in their respective dioceses. Among these, bishops are to solve problems and argu­ments. The bishop is the spiritual father of all the parishes in Her­cegovina For this reason I seek his conversion towards these events. I am sending my second-last warn­ing. If what I seek does not come about, my judgement and the judgement of my Son await the bishop. This means that he has not found the way to my Son Je­sus. Our Lady told me to give you this message." 

This message was signed "with greetings" and dated, "Bijakovici June 21, 1983." Rev. Tomislav Vlasic brought this docu­ment to me, which he more than likely wrote himself in a moment of exaltation. 

18. Ivan kept his own diary of the apparitions for a couple of years. This has not been revealed nor has Vicka's, nor have the writ­ings of the others. These are the original sources of the events at Medjugorje, yet they are full of naive statements, clear falsehoods and absurdities. They are good proof of the fact that the "seers" do not see Our Lady or receive messages from her. These mes­sages were written by someone else and they were given to Ivan for him to sign as his own. When Rev. Grafenauer brought excerpts from Vicka's diary to me, I later on asked Vicka to bring her diary to me. She wrote to me on May 7, 1983: "I have found out that ex­cerpts from my diary are being distributed .... " This was a very important point which the Com­mission accepted as good argu­ment that the diary was written by Vicka herself or that she con­sidered it her own. Later on, Rev. Vlasic also came to this conclu­sion, and therefore in 1984, he declared before the Commission and myself, that Vicka did not write that letter to me but rather, that a Franciscan did (probably Vlasic himself) and that he gave it to her to sign! There are many similar examples of manipulation, but none have such clear cut evi­dence as this. 

19. Secrets and secrecy. From the beginning of the "apparitions," the "seers" (obviously having been instructed in order to escape being examined effectively) have said that "Our Lady" speaks differently to each of them. When the "secrets" were fabricated, each was to have his/her own (60 in total), and no one was to reveal them to anyone. Mirjana and Ivanka received a let­ter from Our Lady which nobody was to read. In the beginning there were no moments of ecstasy or of avoiding the community. They spoke publicly and were spoken to. They only avoided the Commis­sion. After having admitted that they were consulted, they asked "Our Lady" if they could write down the content of the "great sign" on paper and seal it in an envelope. "Our Lady" responded: No! Ivan, though, wrote down the sign and later on said (a statement which has been taped as well) that "Our Lady" did not scold him for doing this. The secrets were to be given to a priest (a Franciscan). Why were they not given to the Commission, the bishop, or to the Pope? In the first months, they often said that the "great sign" would come: very soon, quickly, and so on. When the first year ended, they changed their tune. Vicka wrote "Our Lady's life" for a year and a half, and this was sup­posed to be a great secret which shall be published "when Our Lady permits." The commission asked for the diary about Our Lady, yet "Our Lady'' did not comply with their demand. Can the Commis­sion just see the diary without taking it or opening it? No, it can­not! This turns out to be a plot to make fools out of all those who are naive enough to wait until the end of the world for this sign. I have already declared earlier and now repeat the same declaration that if Our Lady leaves the sign which the "seers" are speaking of, I'll make a pilgrimage from Mostar to Medjugorje (30km) on my knees and beg the Franciscans and the "seers" for forgiveness. 

Pavao Zanic.jpg

+ Pavao Zanic

20. Slander against the bishop . . It has been said that "the bishop also believed in the beginning." This is not true! While the com­munists were persecuting the Franciscans, the "seers" and pil­grims, I defended all of them and therefore I did not change my mind "because of threats by the Republic commission or because the diocesan priests sought this from me." This is simply fabricated slander by many. While I was pub­licly defending the imprisoned Franciscans, Rev. Jozo Zovko said during the investigations that the bishop is a "wolf' and a "hypo­crite." These are his exact words. Zovko's lawyer, Vukovic, asked through a colleague what I had done to Zovko to deserve such heavy accusations. Similarly, Rev. Vlasic often put "Our Lady's" words into the mouths of the "seers," such as "Our Lady's" af­firmation that Satan (in this case the bishop) is out to destroy her plan. He wrote this more clearly in a letter to friends in the Vatican. I complained about this accusation, his calling the bishop Satan, in front ofVlasic and his Provincial. He did not deny my objection but rather he justified his words by saying that he wrote this while under the influence of extreme emotion. A person can say some­thing while under emotion, but this cannot be written down and translated into foreign languages. 

21. By their fruits. The most common argument of the defend­ers ofMedjugorje is that the fruits of the events in Medjugorje prove that Our Lady is appearing there. Those who know a bit more than the pilgrims who come to Medjugorje say: the fruits of the staunchest defenders of Medjugorje show that they them­selves do not believe in the appari­tions. If all the "ugly things" could be made public then surely the answer would be clearly negative to everyone. Yet, Laurentin, Rupcic, Vlasic, Barbaric and oth­ers meticulously hide the truth. If the defenders of Medjugorje come across someone who is skeptical of the apparitions, they quickly isolate this person, accuse him of something or declare him mad, as they did with J.L. Martin. The ma­jority of the pious public has naively fallen victim to this great propaganda, the talk of appari­tions and of healings. These people themselves have become the great­est propagandists for the events. They do not even stop to think that the truth has been hidden by de­liberate falsehoods. They do not know that not one miraculous healing has occurred that could have been verified by competent experts and institutions such as the "Bureau medical de Lourdes." No one knows of anyone healed from Hercegovina Everyone knows that little Daniel, old Jozo Vasilj, Venka Brajcic and others cited in the first books about Medjugorje were not healed. 

22. Promises of healings are characteristic of the events. When they don't occur as promised, then they are denied because they were never taped or written down on paper. There have been many promises that have ended tragi­cally. What interests us is whether or not "Our Lady" is giving these promises, or whether or not they are thought up by the "seers." The tragic end of Marko Blazevic as described by the retired arch­bishop of Belgrade, Msgr. Turk, says much regarding the "prom­ises" of healing. The archbishop wrote onMay 22, 1984, that he was received as a patient of the cardi­ology clinic at the Belgrade hospi­tal. The archbishop received the bed that was previously occupied by Marko Blazevic of Euna, near Mostar, who was to go in for an operation. Mr. Blazevic told the archbishop and many other pa­tients, doctors and hospital staff that Our Lady had promised, through the "seers," that the op­eration would succeed. A nun who assisted in the operating room, wrote to me later that Blazevic's wife and his daughter spoke to her with a fanatical type of faith in "Our Lady's promise." A certain doctor was also convinced of this promise. The patient did not wake up after the operation. During the operation, a group of patients prayed fervently outside the doors of the operating room. Many spoke of this incident which left many very disappointed and ashamed before people of other faiths and atheists. Rev. T. Vlasic, in his typi­cal fashion of hiding the truth, succeeded in convincing the daughter of the late Mr. Blazevic to go to the bishop to tell him that Our Lady only told them to pray, not that she promised them that the operation would succeed! I told her not to make a liar out of her late father or liars of the others to whom he spoke . 

23. The Franciscan and dioce­san clergy. The relations between the Franciscan and diocesan clergy regarding pastoral duties in the parishes of Hercegovina were established by a decision of the Holy See in 1899 by the sugges­tions of the Franciscans them­selves and then Bishop Paskal Buconjic, OFM. According to this decision the parishes were to be divided equally into two groups of 50 percent of the faithful between the Franciscan and diocesan clergy. Since there were no diocesan clergy at the time, the parishes that rightfully belonged to them were in 1923 left to the Francis­cans "ad nutum S. Sedes." Bishop Cule, the first diocesan bishop of Mostar, in 1948 was sentenced to 11 years and 6 months in jail. He served eight and a half years of this sentence before being released. After his jail term the number of diocesan clergy began to rise. In 1968, the Holy See ordered the Franciscans to hand over five par­ishes to the diocesan clergy. They barely gave two parishes. In 1975, after many years of talks and con­sultations, a Decree of the Holy See was issued regarding the division of parishes in Hercegovina The Franciscans publicly and collec­tively denounced this decree even though they administer over 80 percent of the faithful in the dio­cese of Mostar. In 1976, due to dis­obedience, the hierarchy of the Franciscan Province along with then Provincial Silic, lost their authority and since then, the prov­ince has been without its inde­pendence, and the General of the Order rules directly over the Prov­ince "ad instar." Another penalty was that in 1979, the Franciscans from Hercegovina were not allowed to participate in the election of the General. The first point mentioned by the new General of the Order to his brothers in Hercegovina was, "the development or creation of obedience to, and cooperation with the bishop in Hercegovina" Dis­obedience, however, prevails today as before, and "Our Lady'' from the beginning has been defending dis­obedient Franciscans. Vicka writes in her diary of the appari­tions, that Our Lady said that the bishop is to blame for all the dis­order in Hercegovina (See para no. 9) This has been repeated many times. The Franciscans themselves are divided. The Fran­ciscan opposition that def ends Medjugorje succeeded in toppling their own "ad instar" superiors that developed good relations with the bishop, and they installed a group that defends Medjugorje. 

The new Provincial "ad instar," Rev. Jow Vasilj, did not succeed in creating peace and order amongst his brothers so he es­caped to the missions in Zaire and won't come back! (Is this one of the good fruits?) He has been replaced by the Vice Provincial and the General has called for obedience from all or else the Province will be abolished. "It is time that all take their own personal responsibility before judicial sanctions are made or the Province is abolished" (Acta Ordinis F.M.Jasc. I/89). The Prov­ince will not receive its own hier­archy until the Decree is com­pleted. Three visitors of the OFM Order, who came to the Province in 1988, said that there is not one Franciscan in the province who is in favor of completing the Decree. This opinion is exaggerated yet still important. 

24. This is only a portion of the "good fruits" coming from Medjugorje. The pilgrims, though, only know that the bishop "hates the Franciscans." There are a good number of Franciscans in the province who cooperate well with the bishop and these Franciscans do not believe in the apparitions either. Some of them have never set foot in Medjugorje. 

A number of good Franciscans have begged me to write some­thing so that together, we could combat the lies of Medjugorje be­cause they believe that "God will punish us Franciscans severely because we have spread lies and falsehoods throughout the world and made money on them." 

Of the one hundred diocesan priests in the dioceses ofHercegov­ina, not one believes in the appari­tions. Of the 42 bishops of Yugo­slavia ( ordinaries, auxiliaries and retired), only one has been outspo­ken in declaring his belief and has defended the events. Of the 15 members of the first Commission, which was formed by the bishop of Mostar with the help of the bishops and provincials from Yugosla­via, 11 of the members said that there is nothing supernatural in the events ofMedjugorje, two (both Franciscans) claimed that the apparitions are authentic, one member said that there was some­thing "in nucleo" ( in the begin­ning), and one abstained. The Holy See (contrary to the story that has been spread by the defenders of Medjugorje) has never seen, much less rendered judgment on, the commission's three years of work. Neither did the Holy See abandon the bishop. 

25. From the beginning of the events I warned the Franciscans that they must wait for the judge­ment of the Church, so that to­gether we can search for the truth. The leaders of the events, though, had as their aim bringing the masses as soon as possible to Medjugorje, obtaining a lot of money for propaganda, and using Our Lady for their battle against the bishop. They fabricated mir­acles regarding the sun, and as a result many pilgrims damaged their eyes from staring into the sun. They cited 50, 150, 200 and 300 healings, and they spoke of all sorts of things, seeing that the faithful believed everything they said, especially when Archbishop F. Franic and Laurentin were there to back them up. The faithful in Medjugorje look upon the events as they are instructed, as is the case in all other places of appari­tions, be they true or false. The marveling and excitement here has been regarded at times as lead­ing to great blindness and fanati­cism.

26. The Italians know well the story of Gigliole Ebe Giorgini, the foundress of the false order of "Pia Opera di Gesu Misericordioso." Separated and remarried civilly, she spent time promoting various sorts of quackery. She gathered young women for her order and she received and earned great amounts of money. She had two priests in her service and many houses. She led a double life and had a false stigmata, which she made herself. Her "sisters" followed her fanatically, and they called her Mamma Ebe. She had male voca­tions as well, but some who left her later on, declared that she led an immoral life. She had many jewels and gold, two yachts, furs, etc. Many in the Church objected to her way of life, while others fanati­cally defended her, citing good fruits. She even received praise from two bishops. 1\vice during the night police raided her room in the mother house, and they found her in bed with one of her seminarians. A scandal broke out and she was sentenced twice to many years in prison along with a Franciscan who was her confessor. The press wrote for years about this scandal. An illicit film was made as well, yet her followers fa­natically and blindly defended her even when the order fell apart. According to them, she was a saint who attracted many vocations and this was argument enough for many that from the "fruits" she was obviously inspired by God! Religious blindness is ex­tremely hard to cure. Fanaticism brought the beginning of the here­sies in the Church: today it is the foundation of sects. 

The Protestant pastor Rev. Jim Jones developed a great charitable organization in the United States, and he gathered great sums of money and gathered many fanati­cal followers to his sect. In order to be freer in their work, about 1000 of them went to Guyana, South America where they established "Jonestown" as their new home. They established a dictatorship and demanded fanatical obedience to their "Messiah." Much was writ­ten about terrible things that went on, about the immorality of Jones and how some tried to escape the community but were caught and killed. Then they were without money. Rumors spread that the American army would intervene, so Jones ordered them to retreat to the jungle. Seeing no way out, he called on everyone to give up their lives in order to travel to eter­nity. Over 900 of them came with cups to a huge pot in order to drink poison and then fall dead. What gave them the strength to commit suicide? Fanaticism! Yet when the Christian faithful hear of appari­tions and miracles they easily ac­cept these events as facts without being at all critical of the events. They are then caught up in their blindness and fanaticism. What­ever is spoken is believed auto­matically, such as, the ordinary rosaries in Medjugorje tum to gold! And people actually believe this! 

27. This blindness towards the events in Medjugorje has also caught some priests and bishops. Many priests from Italy (such as Atnorth, Restrelli and others) eas­ily could have heard that the bishop, the commission, the bish­ops of Yugoslavia, a portion of the Franciscans and all the diocesan priests do not believe in these events. Yet they avoided the truth, even though I received everyone who inquired about the events and gave them my time. I'm particu­larly surprised by the lack of colle­giality of some bishops. Nobody has to accept my judgement, but everyone is obligated by con­science to study the events of Medjugorje well before taking a position, especially if that person has a position of authority in the Church, as bishops do. 

''What have they done to you Our Lady!" For nine years they have been dragging you along like a tourist attraction. They have been speaking with you whenever it pleased them, as if you were a bank teller. They have fabricated messages, and they say that you come and appear there, but be­yond their own arguments they have nothing to prove that what they say is true. The whole world has been expecting a "great sign," and the naive still wait and believe. Unfortunately this false sensation will bring great disgrace and scan­dal upon the Church. Those who lead the events are not converting even though the threat of the abo­lition of the province by the Gen­eral hangs over them. 

This is only a small compila­tion of that which I would like to write about. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to expand further, with precise documentation, and publish a book on these events. 

28. There are many prayers and pious activities in Medjugorje. Some say that there have been conversions as well. I have re­ceived, indeed, many truly touch­ing letters, and I feel sorry for those who will sooner or later be disap­pointed. But there has also been fanaticism, superstition, and mis­information in the events of Medjugorje. I have also received many rude accusations in the mail which I cannot mention, all in the name of the "Queen of Peace." That which is positive in these events cannot justify the falsehoods and lies that have been spread in or­der to win the world over for God. Jesus said: "I have come into the world to give witness to the truth" (John 18:37). The Church would easily be able to attract the masses if it dropped the sixth command­ment, if divorce were allowed, if it let everyone believe and do what they wanted. But Jesus went on the cross for the truth, and the martyrs gave up their lives for the truth. St. Paul writes to his faith­ful: "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:9). Today, many prayer groups all over the world pray from Rev. Ivica Vego's prayerbook and medi­tate over the supposed messages of Our Lady as if these things were more important than the Bible and the teaching Magisterium of the Church. I do believe, despite these events, that Our Lady shall beg the necessary graces for the Church in order for it to live Christ's truth. 

I know that there will proba­bly be many sincerely pious souls that will misunderstand me and consider me an enemy of Our Lady. I have been to Lourdes many times and to other shrines that have been tied in with apparitions that the Church has recognized. What I am doing is defending the truth, defending the Church, and I pray to God that I be able to give up my life for this. 

29. Those who have written about Medjugorje have sold their books well and have made great profits. Unfortunately, those who have written critically, haven't fared as well because they have come across an organized boycott. For the other side of the story, people should read: 

The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, volume I, 1989.

E. MICHAEL JONES, Medjugorje: The Untold Story

Most Rev. Pavao Zanic Bishop of Mostar