Bishops in Medjugorje and About Medjugorje until 2001
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Bishops in Medjugorje and About Medjugorje, part IV
The Retired Archbishop of Split-Makarska on Medjugorje
In an interview for Kulturni Obzor the retired Archbishop of Split-Makarska, Msgr. Frane Franic, referred to the Medjugorje events:
To the question: AFor you the mediation of Mary is unquestionable. What is Mary's role in the modern world? What do you say about her role in Medjugorje? Archbishop Franic said:
AIt is a fact that there are numerous Marian shrines in all Catholic nations. The most known and the most frequented today are the Marian shrines in Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje. I am partial and an advocate in the Church of the many charisms that St. Paul enumerates in his epistles, prophecy, physical miracles of healing and praising God in other tongues, which is what I have in recent days read also in the Pope=s letter Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) in the Italian translation. There he spoke about mysticism and about the need for renewal of metaphysics in philosophy and theology. For me after some of my personal experiences, it was not difficult to recognize Our Lady=s presence in Medjugorje, where she has been speaking already for the eighteenth year through her chosen visionaries and thus to recognize the authenticity of those Marian apparitions. But one must also look out for false apparitions and locutions, because there have always been such false prophets and there always will be.
Vecernji list, no. 250, Zagreb Feb 14, 1999, p. 13
Visit of Austrian Bishop
Ecclesiastical dignitaries are also all the more frequently coming to Medjugorje. At the beginning of December the archbishop of Salzburg, Msgr. Georg Elder, arrived. The evening before his departure we askedto talk with him. Among other things this is what he said about his impressions:
"I had heard about the events in Medjugorje not long after their beginning. In recent times there is a lot of talk about apparitions and as a bishop almost every week I was receiving something about apparitions, visions and revelations. I have to admit that during the communist period in Yugoslavia I often came on vacation to Istria, but I did not go further south even though I could have. I just did not have sufficient motivation. Then I began to ask myself more and more often: Why these completely simple messages that are still even being repeated? It is always a call to prayer, fasting, penance, prayer for peace. I said: That must have some meaning. What does a mother do when she raises her child? I experienced that at home: she always repeats the same thing: I have already often told you that! But I cannot stop saying: Pray, or do so and so. Mary acts the same way in Medjugorje. She always says the same thing to her children that are already now adult persons. And what else would a priest have to do in his parish? He is always calling to prayer. John Paul II once said that priests have to be the first to pray and have to be the teachers of prayer. That is what Mary, a good Mother, does. She teaches us to pray, really in a very simple way. Now I have to say truly that Christ's word has the value for me of being the recognizable sign: By their fruits you will know them!
My impressions here are not surprising. I know that groups from Salzburg very often go to Medjugorje, that new prayer groups are constantly being started, that there are more and more people who say: In Medjugorje I received my vocation! I am reflecting: We are losing three things that we are getting back again in Medjugorje: penance, conversion and vocations. In Austria we look in vain for these things: Conversion is not even mentioned any more because people do not need it; confession is dying out with us except in shrines and in the churches of religious orders where this sacrament is sought and lived; spiritual vocations are less and less. In Medjugorje this is happening constantly: confessions, conversions and spiritual vocations!
That is what I ask myself: What must we do for conversion to happen to someone? I have repeated to the members of Peoples' Initiative that, for me, conversion in their program has disappeared. Are we the ones who do not need conversion, the way Jesus says it in the gospel? Conversion is being excluded, and confession is being lost, spiritual vocations are less and less, and we are asking ourselves how can we at all keep up a seminary? But all that is found in Medjugorje. We are finding exactly that which for us has disappeared.
I still have one more wish: That peace come here between the Franciscans and the bishop, and that Medjugorje can truly develop in that way that Our Lady wishes. I am now convinced of the authenticity of Medjugorje. I have believed it for quite a while. I still wanted to come and take a look. When pilgrims called me to go with them to Medjugorje, I answered: I am spiritually closer to Medjugorje than some others are! My impression was confirmed because of the simplicity of the visionaries and the evening program. Everything is in the church's spirit and that, very, very simply. At the same time also very devoutly, with strong faith and above all with a strong will for conversion and real renewal."
Visit of American Bishop
As we announced in the previous Press Bulletin, the auxiliary bishop of Portland, Oregon and the pastor of St. Mary's Parish, Corvallis, Bishop Kenneth Steiner visited Medjugorje for the first time on a private visit from November 7 - 12, 1998.
Here is what he said, among other things, about his impressions of Medjugorje:
"People are hungry and have to discover the spiritual dimension in their lives, which television, secularism and materialism are killing, and many indeed have lost that dimension. By their coming to Medjugorje pilgrims discover that spiritual dimension and return home helping others also to become more aware of it. It is a real miracle what people experience here and take with them to their families and parish communities. Many cannot come here for various reasons, therefore they need witnesses that can help them find inner peace and discover God. And many only when they have returned home become aware of all that God gave them here. I can say the same thing about myself. I too have become aware that I am truly blessed by coming here. I am completely renewed by coming here. I have become more aware of Christ's presence in the sacraments, in the Church, in Sacred Scripture and in people in general.
In Medjugorje I received a new spiritual motivation. Perhaps some think that we bishops and priests do not need such renewals. They would be wrong because renewal is very necessary for us. I have met many priests who have come to Medjugorje. They have a better idea of their own priesthood. That is what I personally will take with me. I will tell people that Medjugorje is a place where people can go and be renewed in their faith. I met many people here with deep faith and fervent prayer. I understood that the people, in spite of great sufferings, have stayed faithful to God.
I have discovered God again and for me that is the proof that Our Lady is here. Indeed that is her task. People sometimes come here to look for Mary, but they find God. That is her wish, because she does not want anything for herself, but she does everything for men better to get to know her Son, Jesus. Our Lady wants to spread God's peace among men, among her own children.
I invite everyone who comes here to become an example for all people when they return home. Let them become a call to peace, prayer and conversion. Everyone that comes here has already met someone who gave him a good witness about Medjugorje and showed a change for the better in his own life. We have to be witnesses, we have to evangelize others. That is our mission: to bring people the Good News and about the God who saves. We have to bring Jesus and Our Lady to this world and help people to understand that life in God is possible and necessary for everyone in this world. We have to be witnesses to those who the Lord has sent into our lives.
I will pray for each one of you and may God bless you."
Visit of Two Bishops from Haiti
Two bishops from Haiti visited in Medjugorje together with 33 pilgrims from November 16 - 23,1998: Bishop Louis Kebreau of Hinche and Bishop Joseph Lafontant, auxiliary bishop of Haiti's principal city. On the occasion of his visit Bishop Louis Kebreau also said this about his impressions:
"Many people have told us about Medjugorje. They sent us books, pictures, medals and video tapes. We both have a mutual friend in America who informed us about everything that is happening here. That friend also offered us this trip. We accepted and here we are in Medjugorje.
I am experiencing Medjugorje with faith. In the Gospel we read how Jesus came to Nazareth and did the reading in the synagogue. Many marveled at what he said, but some protested saying they knew his family, mother, father. I think it is necessary to come, to have time, to see, to experience living. That way we can get to know Medjugorje. One cannot talk lightly about Medjugorje. It is a profound experience, intimate, personal. Inner peace and reconciliation is experienced here. What is real Christian faith is easily discovered. For me this is a time of renewal. One has to come simply, to see, to meet and listen to people. One has to go on the mountains, participate in the evening program, find time for personal prayer in silence. I am having a personal experience of reconciliation with my self. In each of us there is a part that we do not know, it is that pagan part in us. Since one is dealing with inner freedom by reconciliation, one can sometimes feel the attack of Satan more strongly than usual, but strength is also received. The Virgin Mary brings with her the light that helps us to see one's way and better to understand one's task. She accompanies us on our way and wants to lead us to life in God. Medjugorje indeed opens the way for us to be able to plunge into the life of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary is doing that here. So I am grateful to her."
On the occasion of his first visit, Bishop Joseph Lafontant, among other things, said the following:
For almost ten full years I have received news about Medjugorje. It interested me more and more. And I gladly accepted being in this pilgrim group. Mainly because Bishop Louis is also here.
I often went on pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes and other places. Here I discover a big difference from all the other pilgrimage places. There is nothing stereotyped. Everything is different from the other places. Everyone has his own personal experience, even if he is in the midst of a lot of people. What is surprising is that everyone who comes here as a pilgrim wants to accept everything.
The final incentive for me to accept coming to Medjugorje was also the visit of the visionary Jakov Colo in September. A great number of people participated. Only then did I become aware of how many of the faithful from Haiti know about Medjugorje. He met with the faithful in two churches. During his visit there was such an evident will and desire for reconciliation with oneself and for reconciliation with others. There was a great number of people who wanted confession during those days, really more than ordinarily. I took part in both meetings. I celebrated one Mass and Bishop Louis did one mass. It was a real experience of faith. Coming here only confirmed that. This experience is necessary for everyone. It is an experience of conversion, coming back to oneself and to God just as also an experience of reconciliation with others. Our Lady helps each of her children to find himself. Our Lady wants to feel each one, to personally touch and guide each one. Yet in the depths of the soul no one feels forced to accept all this, freedom is completely respected. One Croat who lives in America told me at the airport that in the beginning he did not believe, but when he came here he found peace and from then on he believes in Our Lady's presence. Now I understand him. Here people find peace and are reconciled.
Both bishops ended their conversation with these words: May God's blessing and the protection of the Queen of Peace be with all of you."
Two Bishops Visited Medjugorje
In October 1998, two bishops visited Medjugorje, one from Brazil and the other from Poland. The latter is Msgr. Albin Malysiak, who is 81 years old but - as he says about himself - he still works like he did 15 years ago. Of particular interest is the fact that he worked together with Pope John Paul II for more than 20 years. He talks about these years as follows:
"Also after having been elected Pope, we remained friends and meet as often as possible. For example, I will meet the Pope the beginning of November of this year and then again in March of next year. I worked with him for ten years as parish priest and professor in theology and ten more years as Assistant Bishop. Working together with him was always a great joy for me. He is a great person, honest and sincere. He always had great sympathy for others. He was a Professor at the Faculty in Lublin. He taught social ethics and had a particular concern for the poor and abandoned. I always remained his close collaborator. We both suffered under Communism, which brought us even closer."
Although his visit to Medjugorje was a private one, Msgr. Malysiak gave us his impressions:
"I will enjoy very much coming here, once the Church has recognized Medjugorje, as we are all awaiting the official decision of the Vatican. I, personally, believe that the visionaries have genuine apparitions. I have met some of them. This morning, I also saw Vicka. She is a happy person and radiates peace. I am convinced that this is a place of apparitions but, most of all, this is a great place of prayer. And this has impressed me particularly. I also climbed up Mount Krizevac. There, I met many people who truly pray devoutly in front of the cross. I counted about 70 people who sat on stones around the cross and prayed quietly. It was about noon and it was very hot, but the heat did not bother them. The stillness and spirit of prayer inspired me and I will return home with the image of those praying.
I admire the Franciscans who work here, who pray with the pilgrims and are at all times available for talks and confessions. I wonder from where they take the strength for this. In church one feels the prayer of the people. Praying the "Our Father" together was a unique experience for me; to hear all the different languages as they pray as in one voice and one could make out the Polish language particularly clear. I am especially pleased about the fact that so many priests accompany the pilgrims.
Back in Poland, I will tell everyone about Medjugorje. I will tell them about the devoutness and the faith of the people, whom I met here. I will talk about this when I meet people and in my sermons. However, Medjugorje is being talked about much in Poland. This is also why I came here.
Finally, I would like to say that I have been touched by the work of the Franciscans in Medjugorje. As far as the Marian devotion is concerned, I am pleased that the people here are loyal to the Church teachings and the proclamations of the Pope. The love for the Mother of God, which is experienced by the people here, helps those who come here to grow in their faith. We all must try to accept and live the messages of Our Lady. Peace in the world is at stake and that is why we have make a decision to love one another and then this love will bring about peace. Here, the call for prayer is given particular importance but also especially the answer to this call. Everything one finds in the messages corresponds with the teachings of the Church. The call to live the faith and to live according to the Sacraments is particularly strong. I hope that this message will spread throughout the world and that more and more people will be coming here and accept the messages, while we are waiting for the Vatican to recognize Medjugorje. I bless you all and wish you peace."