Between the biased bulletins of frenzied apparition enthusiasts on the one hand and the chaos that goes along with the current social unrest In Bosnia-Hercegovina on the other, the truth concerning Medjugorje has had a difficult time getting out to the rest of the world as of late, especially since the civil war erupted In what used to be known as Yugoslavia back In the summer of 1991, causing untold human suffering.
Just this past October, however, an Interview with the Most Rev. Ratko Peric, Bishop of Mostar and successor to the recently-retired Bishop Pavao Zanic was published In Crkva na Kamenu (The Church on the Rock), the local diocesan newspaper. The conversation covered a variety of topics, Including the reported apparitions at Medjugorje, and was conducted by Fr. Ante Tonca Komadtna, STD. the paper's editor. Fidelity has obtained a translation of this Interview and here publishes a section of it.
Fr. Komadina: You have a parish in your diocese which is known all over the world. one in which the Blessed Virgin Mary is supposed to have been appearing for over 12 years. What is your opinion of the Medjugorje phenomenon?
Bishop Peric: Medjugorje was already "phenomenal" in the last century. Fr. Petar Bakula, OFM, noted In a book he wrote in 1867 that people were even then claiming to see a very strong and pinkish light in and around Medjugorje. So the "phenomenon of light" did not start to fascinate people for the first time in 1981, but rather goes back to the last century. Since the beginning of the Medjugorje phenomenon, that is: 1981, I have curiously followed the happenings in Medjugorje. I tried to be of help to Bishop Zanic as a secretary, when he used to come to Rome and to submit his reports all about the events to the Holy See. I maintain that Bishop Zanic took a wise stand in the context of such circumstances. In the beginning he was open to accepting the phenomenon ...
Fr. Komadina: Just recently a statement of Bishop Zanic was misrepresented in the March 1993 issue of Glas Mira, as If the bishop had uttered it last night. (Glas Mira ("'The Voice of Peace"). a pro-Medjugorje Franciscan newspaper published in Medjugorje, quoted the following statement of Bishop Zanic: Everything indicates that the children are not lying. However, the most difficult question remains: Did the visionaries have subjective, supernatural experiences? Glas Mira not only implied that this statement had Just been made by Bishop Zanic, but also failed to mention that Zanic had in fact said those words over twelve years earlier, during the first few months of the “apparitions” - Ed.I.
Bishop Peric: Perhaps misinformation ls another of Medjugorje's phenomena. But let us go back to Bishop Zanic. The whole thing had so caught his interest that he became involved in questioning the visionaries himself and closely followed the happenings in Medjugorje. What bishop wouldn't be delighted that the Blessed Virgin Mary would be appearing in his diocese? Especially Msgr. Zanic, a very Marian bishop, who as a priest and later as a bishop made eleven pilgrimages to various marian shrines all over Europe: Lourdes, Fatima, Syracuse, etc. And then for the Gospa to have mercy on him and begin to “appear” in his own backyard, as if to bring an end to all his wanderings all over Portugal!
But after a few months, when he heard the small fibs and large lies. insincerities, inexactitudes. and all sorts of fabricated stories from those who claimed that the Gospa was appearing to them, he became totally convinced that it was not a matter of supernatural apparitions of the Gospa. Then he started to bring out the truth and to expose the falsehoods. The greatest satisfaction of his ten years of hard work was when the bishops of Yugoslavia at their spring meeting at Zadar on April i0, 1991 dutifully declared: "On the basis of studies It cannot be affirmed that super-natural apparitions and revelations are occurring. This is an exceptionally clear ecclesiastical ruling, and is a rebuttal of the claims of all those who claim to have seen the Gospa everywhere and at any time since the year of 1981.
The verdict of the Bishops’ Conference is for me an authoritative instruction, responsive, and binding unless another kind of verdict ls brought. But until now there has been no other (ecclesiastical) Judgment. In the same declaration the bishops said that a healthy devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary necessarily must be in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church and set about publishing proper liturgical-pastoral directives to that effect. The Commission also promised to continue to follow and investigate the happenings in Medjugorje. I know that the liturgical-pastoral committee met in Mostar in June. 1991. but that no document was released. In the fall of 1991 the Serbian aggression began in the Croatian regions of Eastern Hercegovina, and in the spring of 1992 the Serbs attacked the entire region of Bosnia-Hercegovina. It has become impossible for the commission to meet anymore.
Pr. Komadlna: Aren't you delighted by the fact that the world has finally heard of us Croatian Catholics, even If only through Medjugorje?
Bishop Peric: I am delighted for each locality in the world wherever the grace of God is at work, as it was in the Acts of the Apostles when Barnabas was speaking of his visit to Antioch. But my “Joy” with regard to Medjugorje ls disturbed by several facts. For instance, there have been claims for over 12 years of daily “apparitions”. If none of these several thousand apparitions have been recognized by the bishops as supernatural, then there is something very nebulous about the Medjugorje “phenomenon" which I cannot responsibly embrace in faith.
Pr. Komadina: It is said that even promoters of Medjugorje maintain that everything will go up in smoke if the “apparitions” would stop.
Bishop Perie: The official Church recognized only a few of the many reported apparitions at Lourdes, and. 135 years later. It Is still active. If someone in Medjugorje is forcing “apparitions,” he is probably looking more for quantity than quality.
Pr. Komadina: At present, allegedly, the Gospa is appearing every 25th of the month, and is giving the usual messages for fasting and penance. We read these messages in the secular newspapers. A few days ago (Sep. 12. 1993) we have read how one of the “visionaries” who used to transmit urgent messages of fast and penance to the people recently got married. of how she Is planning to spend her honeymoon on Cote d'Azur and of bow she is going to live in a six story building In Monza, Italy!
Bishop Peric: The reports of monthly apparitions sound more like propaganda than responsible journalism. The Madonna does not deserve this kind of propaganda! Prayer, peace, fasting and penance are the core of the Christian message, and have been such since the very first appearance of Christ light up to the present. The Church ceaselessly preaches this message and tries to put it into practice. In this sense nothing new is contained in Medjugorje's messages.
Pr. Komadina: What do you think about Medjugorje's “healings" and “miracles?"
Bishop Peric: Notice that we do not hear so much about miracles today as we did earlier. I asked Fr. Ivan Landeka that he-as a pastor-give me a report on the present situation in Medjugorje, which he did In June of this year. It ran six pages. He did not mention the “miracles” at all. Conversions are possible everywhere, and some are bound to happen In Medjugorje. But this IS not proof that the “apparitions” are supernatural.
Fr. Komadina: Finally, what is your stand on Medjugorje?
Bishop Peric: The Church recommends prayer, fasting, penance. reconciliation. and conversion to each of Its members. I do not want to forbid anyone to go wherever he wants to pray to God. But I cannot approve that from the altar of the church in Medjugorje the priests themselves advertise "pilgrimages to the place of apparitions," despite the fact they have simply not been recognized as supernatural by the church. 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…