Bishops in Medjugorje and About Medjugorje until 2001
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Bishops in Medjugorje and About Medjugorje, part I
Visits of Bishops
Mgr. Joseph Das of the Indian bishopric of Berhampur visited Medjugorje from October 12th to 15th. On Sunday, October 15th, he celebrated holy mass for the English-speaking pilgrims and he also held the homily. This was his first visit to Medjugorje.
On October 26th, Mgr. Florencio Olvera Ochaoa, Bishop of Mexico, from the bishopric Tabasco, visited Medjugorje on his way to Dubrovnik. He was accompanied by Ante Luburić, Chancellor of the bishopric Mostar-Duvno. He said that it had been his ardent desire to visit Medjugorje, as a great number of his faithful come on pilgrimage here.
At the end of October, four bishops were in Medjugorje: Mgr. Leo Drona from the bishopric of San Jose from the Philippines, Mgr. Nestor Carino, General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Mgr. Cirilo Almario, retired Bishop from the bishopric of Malolos of the Philippines and Mgr. Nicodemus Kirima, Archbishop of Nyeria, Kenya. These four bishops were part of a group of 700 American pilgrims, who were taking part in a pilgrimage to several Marian shrines throughout Europe. This pilgrimage was organized by an American organization and one of the Shrines they visited was Medjugorje.
Visit of Italian Bishop
At the end of September retired bishop Msgr Janez Moretti was in Medjugorje for a two day visit. Before retirement Msgr. Moretti served as apostolic nuncio in Brussels, Belgium.
The Bishop of Saint Vincent and Grenada to Youth
At the recently held Eleventh International Youth Prayer Festival on the theme: “The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us”, one of the speakers was Msgr. Robert Rivas, bishop of Kingstown, Saint Vincent and Grenada. On that occasions he addressed the assembled young people:
“My dear young people,
I am writing to you in the spirit of the Great Jubilee Year. What a privilege it is to be here with you in Medjugorje for this International Youth Prayer Festival. Thank you for hearing the call and responding to our Blessed Mother’s invitation to come together in this oasis of prayer, devotion and spiritual renewal. I admire you for coming from many continents to bear witness to your faith in Jesus Christ, her Son. Thank you for keeping your appointment with Jesus for the Jubilee Year.
Our great Jubilee profession of faith is centered in Christ, in the mystery of the Incarnation. St. John, the beloved disciple, beckons us to take a deep look into the mystery of the Incarnation and the birth of Christ when he writes in his Gospel: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. These are words of life. This is how close God has come to us. The divine has touched the human. All that was waiting, indeed all of creation, jumped for joy at the announcement of Christ’s birth. This is the great event we are celebrating in this Jubilee Year. Young people, may your hearts leap for joy today for your God dwells with you.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
Mary is at the heart of this great mystery of faith. She said “yes” to God and gave Christ to us. The birth of Christ opens the door to the greatest love story ever told or written. Again, St. John takes us to the heart of the story: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16.) Mary is the bearer of that love incarnate. Her message to you, young people, is to be bearers of that love to your friends and your peers at the beginning of this new millennium. We are all part of this great love story which has to be lived and told until the end of time. He promised to be with us for all time. This is love, love that lasts for ever. Your faith in Jesus Christ is the most precious ‘gift’ of love you could share with others. Remember always your Mother’s words to you: “Do whatever He tells you!”
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
Jesus emptied Himself (Phil 2:7) and identified with us in everything except sin (Heb 4: 14-16). Jesus, therefore, knows where He stands with us. Where do you stand with Jesus? Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, says that Jesus expects great things of young people. Indeed, at the beginning of this new millennium a great responsibility is being placed in your hands: To receive the faith, to preserve it and to pass it on to your peers and to future generations. Therefore, you cannot wait to see what others are doing. You have to be a light! Do you have a vision of the way forward for you as young Christian women and men? Do you have a plan for deepening and strengthening your commitment to Christ? Where you stand with Christ is a commitment that requires the energy and vibrancy of your youth. Give your youthful zeal to Christ today! Empty yourselves in service and love for others. You could make a big difference in the Church and your society.
Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium!! (15th World Youth Day, message of the Holy Father #3). Do not be afraid to be women and men of hope. Your bishops are counting on you! The Church is counting on you. In his message to you for this year’s World Youth Day, our Holy Father points Christ out to you as the one Who is there for you and the one to Whom you must go. “Turn then to no one, except Jesus”, he says. “Do not look elsewhere for that which only He can give you” (#3).
Seek always to find Christ everywhere, in everything and in everyone. See Him in the disfigured faces of young people, your peers. Hear His cry in the cries of the poor, the rejected and those crushed by suffering. Hear the cries for justice and be concerned about the needs of others. Meet Christ daily in His Word and fall in love with Him in the Eucharist. Let your prayer be nourished by Eucharistic Adoration. Without a personal relationship to Christ, our lives are empty. Endeavor to make this one of your youthful priorities. Christ wants you to be happy. Therefore, live your faith joyfully. Jesus did not come to take away your joy but rather that through Him you would come to know real joy.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
Young people, I exhort you to make God’s choice for life, your choice for life. Become missionaries of life. Listen, as Mary did, to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and be ready and willing to go where Christ needs you to represent Him today. Do not be afraid. Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Bread of Life, your brother, is with you!
I bless you, with your families, your priests, Religious and friends.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Medjugorje, August 3, 2000
Visit of Belgian Bishop
In mid July the bishop of the Belgian city Namour, Msgr. Leonard Andre - Mutien made a three day visit to Medjugorje. On that occasion Fr. Slavko Barbaric spoke with Bishop Leonard Mutine for Glas Mira. We present here a part of that conversation:
Bishop Mutien: “I met Medjugorje through my seminarians. When I was rector of the school of theology at St. Paul in Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982 and 1983, some of my students of theology went to Medjugorje. That was at the very beginning of the apparitions. I had never heard it spoken of before. Some students of theology came to me seeking permission to go to Medjugorje during their vacation. I knew nothing about it and I asked them if there existed a position of the Church on Medjugorje. They told me no, that it had only begun a few years earlier, and that the Virgin seemed to be appearing there. They gave me an article to read and I told them, “Go and see, go and see!” They spoke to me several times about it and in 1984 I decided myself to go and see. Four of us priests came with the students of theology to Medjugorje in June1984. I must say that what I saw in the parish church in 1984, that folk piety, the manner in which the rosary was prayed, the Eucharist celebrated, the meeting that I had with the visionaries two times during the “apparitions” in the sacristy – all that seemed to me very positive, especially the manner in which they prayed here.
Glas Mira: How many times have you already come to Medjugorje?
Bishop Mutien: This is my second time. The first time, then, I came in 1984. I kept a very positive impression about what I saw here. Later I kept informed. I read the books of Fr. Laurentin, not all, but a few. I read some articles, and , accordingly, took an interest. Especially while I was a professor at Louvain, I saw among the students some who had been to Medjugorje and who there had discovered prayer, confession, Eucharist, fasting, and I remember that in the theologate I began fasting Fridays quite regularly, following the example of some of my students of theology or other students who I met at the university and who had fasted after pilgrimage to Medjugorje. When I became a bishop I met some believers of my diocese who fasted every Friday, who discovered the sacraments, thanks to their encounter with Medjugorje. I established the fact that regularly among the students of theology there were those who experienced conversion and received a vocation, thanks to Medjugorje. Now I have thirty students of theology, among whom there are some who have undergone a spiritual experience here which has marked their vocation. Such fruits are of interest to me. I know that from false premises according to logic we can draw exact conclusions. But still, the fact that so many positive discoveries take place, just with thanks to Medjugorje, is positive evidence in favor of Medjugorje. Accordingly, I continued to inform myself and said that some day I would be able also to return to Medjugorje. In the year 2000 I thought I might be able to take advantage of the Jubilee for a short pilgrimage. The fact that at the present time in France and in Belgium there exists much opposition to the Medjugorje events, books which criticize Medjugorje, moved me to come and see with my own eyes. I do not wish to judge things, situations, and persons from a distance, only from books. I would rather take a little more personal look. After I informed the bishop of Mostar about my coming, I came here as a pilgrim to pray, but also personally to convince myself, and I must say that what I see in the parish church on the pastoral level seems very good: praying the rosary, the Eucharist, adoration, solid devotion, balanced piety, cultivated devotion. As far as the Medjugorje events are concerned, it is not up to me to decide about that. It up to the local bishop, the bishops of Bosnia-Hercegovina, after a detailed study of the situation, to formulate a judgment about the authenticity or non-authenticity of the apparitions. That is not my business! In every case, I will accept the official judgment of the Church.
Glas Mira: Why does the Church hesitate when good fruits are visible?
Bishop Mutien: I think that the Church in her wisdom with these kind of phenomena wishes first to investigate the facts, and only then the fruits. I think that is the rule that Cardinal Seper already formulated when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. First the facts are studied, and only then the fruits. Investigating the fruits is not enough. The facts have to be investigated, but the abundance of positive fruits is in itself a positive evidence, even if it seems to me that there are, as in every human affair, also negative fruits. Wherever there are people, there are also human moments, sometimes far too human. As also among the twelve apostles. . .
Glas Mira: From where does the opposition come?
Bishop Mutien: I understand why questions are asked about the phenomena of Medjugorje and why there exist objections against the apparitions in Medjugorje. I understand why, for example, questions like these are asked: the multitude of apparitions, the fact that in some manner they are foreseen, known for a certain day. I understand why there is opposition. Personally there are not many a priori thoughts about what the Most Blessed Virgin would need, or what she would not need to do. I prefer to accept things, even if they disturb my personal ideas, but I understand why questions are asked and I believe that, according to what I have been able to see, there are in this phenomenon of Medjugorje essential things, but there are also parasites. I believe there exists that which is fundamental, but also accidentals. One is more positive, and the other is more negative. In Lourdes the testimony of Bernadette impressed me very much, I would say 100% pure. It seems to me that here there were parasites surrounding the central events. I understand why questions are asked. I keep informed also on the questions that the opponents of Medjugorje are asking. One has to hear them, and therefore I read the book of Joachim Boufflet from beginning to end. It is written in a polemical tone which does not seem to me to be in place, but there are real questions which are asked and which one day have to receive a clear and historically established answer. Accordingly, I accept those questions, but I wish to stay open to the event. I know bishop friends whose rule of behavior is to say: “Look out, if we are open to the events of Medjugorje, we can perhaps encourage something that is not authentic.” There exists a risk. I am more sensitive to the opposite risk and say: “Just the same, it is possible that Heaven has spoken to people at that place and I do not wish to take the risk of a priori being closed to that grace.” Two risks exist: the risk that we are being deceived in Medjugorje and the risk that we are bypassing a gift of grace.
Glas Mira: A gift from Heaven?
Bishop Mutien: My desire is that those who have the grace and the competence for that, the local bishop, the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina, a theological and investigative commission, continue to study this phenomenon, to formulate one day the judgment of the Church about what has happened here. Until then, between the two risks, I prefer to take the risk of being open rather than the risk of a priori being closed to the grace of God which can be operating in this place. Accordingly, therefore, I take the position of openness and prudence.
Glas Mira: We Franciscans, awaiting the final judgment, are placing ourselves at the service of the persons who come here. The bishop considers us “disobedient” because of the “apparitions”, but we do not have a big choice: if people come here, we have to serve them. . .
Bishop Mutien: As far as I can see, your pastoral work in the parish church is not based on the apparitions as such. It seems to me that there is not a lot of mention of the apparitions when Holy Eucharist and the sacraments are being celebrated. From time to time I even hear: “All the fruits of Medjugorje come simply from the fact that the Eucharist is celebrated, that there is adoration of the Eucharist, that there is confession, that there is prayer. The fruits, accordingly, if there are some, do not come from the alleged apparitions but from the sacraments of the Church.” I hear this from time to time.
Glas Mira: Some say: “Where there is prayer, there is grace and miracles.”
Bishop Mutien: That logic does not seem to me completely correct. It is true that there where there is prayer, Eucharist, confessions, fruits do come. But there are many other places in the world where there is prayer, where there is confession, where Eucharist is celebrated, but there are not the same kind of evident fruits!
Glas Mira: You, then, think that this dimension can be attributed to the apparitions?
Bishop Mutien: I believe that it is an indication which has to be studied, an indication that leads to consideration. I regularly meet young people who think about the priesthood or who have had a profound experience of conversion coming here, much more so than in relation to other places and that makes me question. I cannot accept without reservation that the fruits of Medjugorje are connected only with the living of the sacraments. They are also lived in other places. Here there exists something that presents a special question. It is not up to me to pronounce about the reality of these fundamentals, but there is a question that cannot be avoided.
Glas Mira: Finally, is it your wish to give some message here to the world?
Bishop Mutien: I think that on the spiritual plane we are living in a period that demands urgency. I am convinced, as is also Pope John Paul II, that the time of the Jubilee is a time of special grace, as John Paul II has said several times, that is preparing a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church. That which I am expecting from Medjugorje is that it contribute to the preparation of that new outpouring of the Holy Spirit which the Church and world need. Therefore I think that it is more useful to concentrate on the most fundamental, as you are doing here in this parish: to concentrate on the Eucharist which is the source of Christian life, and for the rest I think we need to cultivate the grace of peace and seek for the discernment in connection with Medjugorje to be done in the best possible climate, for the good of the Church.
Glas Mira: We will pray for you. Bless us! Thanks!”
Visit of Brazilian Bishop
From June 1st to 4th Msgr Waldemar Chaves de Araujo was here from Brazil with a group of pilgrims. Before his departure from Medjugorje Msgr. Araujo spoke with Fr. Slavko Barbaric. We present here the full conversation.
S.B.: Your excellency, would you say something to our readers about yourself?
WCH: I am Msgr. Waldemar Chaves de Araujo, Bishop of the diocese of Sao Joao del Rei in Brazil. I studied in Brazil and in Belgium. The situation in my diocese is good. I have developed good relations with my priests, religious and laity and we have various groups of active people who are working on different levels. In my diocese there are about 300,000 faithful with 304 communities. I came on pilgrimage with a small group from Brazil that has made the pilgrimage here to this place dedicated to Mary’s presence. We pray together, meditate and remain in silence. This is my first time in Medjugorje.
S.B.: When and how for the first time did you hear about Medjugorje and what is your experience?
WCH: I read reports from Medjugorje about he apparitions and all that was happening, and I spoke with people came here on pilgrimage. I believe that Our Lady is appearing here. She is the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She desires to help us. That is why I came with this group and why we are living these days conscious that she is present with us in a special way as Mother. My experience is that this indeed is a real place of prayer. I can say that I have always nurtured devotion to Mary, but here I have renewed and deepened it still more. Really, I have no difficulties believing that She is appearing here. God is working here how He wants to and when He wants to and He has decided to work in this manner to work in Medjugorje.
S.B.:Do you have some message for the parishioners, the pilgrims and people in general?
WCH:My message from Medjugorje is a message of hope. Whoever decides for a true devotion to Mary and does what She says, will meet Jesus, and Jesus give hope. Whoever starts living the sacraments, as I saw they are lived here - the celebration of mass, confessions, adoration, prayer - will have his life path filled with hope and peace. With Mary our path is sure. Accept what she says, she knows the Way, she knows her Son and will help us on our path to the final homeland in heaven. May God bless you all. I shall pray for all of you.