Bishops in Medjugorje and About Medjugorje until 2001
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Bishops in Medjugorje and About Medjugorje, part IX
The Ugandan Bishops in Medjugorje
Just as we mentioned in the last issue of the Press Bulletin, three Ugandan bishops paid a visit to the shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje, from the 8th to the 15th of May 1997: Bishop Frederick Dranuba, Bishop Deogratias Byabazaire and Bishop Joseph Oyanga. In issue no. 65 we published msgr. Drandua's interesting sermon in it's entirety, and in this issue we'd like to communicate testimonies of the impressions they had on their visit here:
MONS DEOGRATIAS BYABAZAIRE, the bishop from Hoime. He was ordained a priest in 1969 and to his Episcopal office in 1990. This is what he had to say about his impressions of Medjugorje:" I've spent a week in Medjugorje and I felt that it emanates much prayer, peace and friendliness. I met so many people who really pray and who seek prayer. I visited Krizevac and Podbrdo. I saw many many people praying. I was apprehensive about going up. But when I reached the top, I felt so happy. Both hills were a beautiful experience for me. I prayed very much and I saw many praying barefoot.
The evening mass made a deep impression on me. The church was full every evening, and there were even more people hearing the mass from outside. And even though they didn't understand the language they were deeply united in devotion and prayer. But even so, the most beautiful part of the prayer program was the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I saw a great number of priests confessing and a multitude of pilgrims and local people confessing.
I was present at an apparition. My impression is that we are dealing with something profoundly real here. Speaking with the visionaries, I understood that thy are sincere and mature people.
On my return home I will emphasize the simplicity of the Gospa's messages, and how it is this simplicity which breaks through to the hearts of her children."
MONS. FREDERICK DRANUBA, is the Bishop of Aru. He was ordained a priest in 1970 and a bishop in 1986. About his experience of Medjugorje, he had this to say:" This is really an important experience for me, especially at the level of prayer. I cannot say that Our Lady is not appearing. 15 years have gone by and the visionaries continue to say it. They are always repeating the same message. They don't change at all. The message is simple: to pray, to fast, to believe, to confess and to adore. That's precisely why we must be dealing with a supernatural event, because they are steadfast in their one message. People come and change their lives. Many confess. In these last ten years as a bishop I hardly ever heard confessions. Here people were constantly asking me to hear their confessions, and I did. In these days I must have heard over 100 confessions. I'm certain that the Lord is using this place for the conversion of nations. On my return home I intend to preach about the rosary, and I will recommend to priests that they dedicate one day in the week to Adoration.
On the occasion of their visit, all three bishops had a meeting with Mons. Ratko Peric the local Bishop. This is what Mons. Dranuba told us about his meeting: " Bishop Peric told me that Medjugorje is not a problem for him provided that people pray there. The problem is the Franciscans who, according to him want to be independent. I told him that Medjugorje is constantly speaking about peace. Our Lady invites us to a change of heart and to peace in our hearts. You cannot say that the Franciscans are bad. You must accept the fact that you must change too. Then, the Franciscans will change, and then peace will be possible. The message of peace is coming from your diocese. It is intended for you and the Franciscans. Have the strength to humble yourself in front of the Gospa and begin to pray for peace. I beg you dear brother, work for peace. Call the Franciscans! Maybe at first only a few will come. It won't all be resolved in one day. But you must go to them because you are the "Shepherd". Say to them, my dear sons, come, please come. If you do this I'm sure that you will succeed . "I'll try" was his reply. He told me that the Franciscans will listen to neither the general nor Rome. I said to him" No. Rome wants peace and you must work concretely for that objective here"."
MONS. JOSEPH OXYANGA, is the Bishop of Lir. He is already 33 years a priest and 8 years a Bishop. About his experiences in the shrine of the Queen of Peace, he had this to say:" This is a place of contemplation and prayer . Everyone who comes here takes part in an interpersonal togetherness. I saw people from Europe, America, Japan, Australia. They all feel as one. This made a strong impression on me. Here one really prays. I couldn't go up the hill but it really touched me when a pilgrim brought be back a stone from the Apparition site. Adoration is a special experience. It is something unique. I saw people fasting. In the house where I was staying the pilgrims ate nothing for dinner other than bread and a little salad. This spirit of penance, sacrifice and mortification is something which I haven't seen in such a long time. This experience will give me the strength to preach about the "Gospa". I feel now that I haven't given her enough attention. She is very close to us. That is the main message of this place."
Three Ugandan Bishops in Medjugorje
Bishops also from various parts of the world are still continuing to come to the Shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje. From May 8 - 15, 1997 bishops Frederick Drandua, Deogratias Byabazaire, and Joseph Oyanga from Uganda came to visit. They said that before they began their journey they asked the papal nuncio in Uganda, Luis Robles Diaza, what he thought of this journey. He told them: "The Pope is not talking openly about Medjugorje, but he is supporting it. Go!"
Having experienced the spirituality of Medjugorje, they decided to celebrate the evening holy mass on May 12 together with the pilgrims. One of them, Frederick Drandua, also gave a homily on that occasion. Because his homily was so interesting we are presenting it here in its entirety.
"Dear brothers and sisters!
I am very glad tonight to celebrate this holy mass together with you. In one of his epistles St. Paul asks the community if they received the Holy Spirit. Tonight I also ask you: have you received the Holy Spirit? I ask you that for the reason that I am now speaking English. Do you understand me when I am speaking? If you say yes, then you understand my English. I guarantee you that I have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has only one single language. Everyone of us can understand it. You are probably wondering what that language would be? I will tell you that now. It is the language of prayer. Do you understand prayer? God has his own language. He has no other language except the language of prayer. Whether you pray in Croatian, in my mother tongue, in English or whichever other language, it is the language of prayer. All of us, therefore, have come here to pray and we have the Holy Spirit, the spirit of prayer. All of us have gathered around the altar because of prayer. We are all speaking the same language, we are all understanding each other, since together we are speaking to our heavenly Father. Isn't that wonderful?
I am coming from the far away country of Uganda of which many of you probably don't even know where it is located, but I have come here to pray and I am speaking to you and all of you will understand me. I am so happy that I came here to this school of prayer. Our dear Mother, Our Lady, established it. She wanted us to go through this school of prayer.
It is interesting that she established that school right here in the Croatian homeland. From the whole world we come to this school of prayer. What is happening is important also for you Croatians who live here around this school. Don't ever forget that many children who just live close to the school, fail in school. That is, they take their duties too lightly, thinking that it isn't necessary to study since the school is here close by and they will always have time for that. Those who come from far away and perhaps have to live near the school usually do better and succeed in getting a diploma.
Perhaps I might be able to tell you that I got my diploma ahead of you. The visionary Ivan last night gave me a certificate for that. He told me that Our Lady said that she is very happy because we bishops are here. She blessed us as well as all of our dioceses, saying that there is great hope for our dioceses. All of this I call a diploma or a certificate that Our Lady has given me. Did anyone of you get such a certificate? This is the first time that I am coming to Medjugorje. I have to congratulate myself that I am a good student, since I have already gotten my diploma. You Croatians and you dear pilgrims, have you received a diploma like that? If you haven't, you'll have to work a little more.
You pilgrims who have come here from far away and you have come here to work hard, have you received any kind of a certificate for your school? At least work hard enough to get an attendance certificate that you've at least been in the school. Everyone who attends the lectures gets that attendance certificate, meaning everyone who comes here for prayer, who climbs the mountains, who listens to Our Lady's messages. If you have not done that, but you have come here, I am afraid that you won't get a certificate, not even that you have been in the school. Are you sure that you want to go back home without that attendance certificate? I think it would be a great loss if you wouldn't get that attendance certificate.
Also you children who live in this place, I invite to compete with everyone that comes from far away to show that you too are good students, that you regularly come to the lectures in this school of prayer. If you don't do that, it'll be a catastrophe. It would be a mistake if you would not receive the graces that God is giving in this school of prayer and grace from the one who established this school. Imagine what that would mean if you would not pass the exams. You home town people have to work very hard to pass the exams in Our Lady's school together with us who come from far away.
I who am coming from Uganda also still have to work very much. I have to go now and talk about this school, the school of prayer. It is a school for all Christians. Those who wish to live their Christianity have to enroll in this school of prayer. In it is discovered a mother's love for her children. That love is great and a mother will never give anything wrong to her children. Recall those words of Jesus: when a child asks you for bread, will you give him a stone or if he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? Jesus says further in a very sarcastic manner, if you who are sinners know how to choose gifts for your children, what kind of gifts do you think that God himself will give? We can just imagine what kind of gifts Our Lady who established this school will give us.
I would ask that when you go to your homes you find still many more students who want to learn in this school of Our Lady. When I go back home I know that many Christians, many priests will come to me. They will ask me what good I have to tell and offer them? I will tell them that here they can get two good things. They can choose one or the other or choose both. Do you know which two things I'm thinking of? The first and main thing is prayer. The second is the friendliness of the Croatian people, their hospitality. I think that I will take both, prayer and hospitality. Perhaps someone came here just for prayer or just for hospitality, for enjoyment. Dear pilgrims, I would ask you to take both of these things, and not just one.
I would like to thank you Croatian parishioners for your friendliness and for your hospitality, but also for your prayer. You have tried hard for us to be glad to take both one and the other. You constantly invite us to come here from far away, so that everyone can finish in this school of prayer and get a diploma.
If anyone cannot graduate, I would ask him to at least get an attendance certificate that he was in this school. It isn't important whether you are living here or are coming from far away. I wish you the abundant blessings of God and of Our Lady.
Proposal of Archbishop Frane Franic
The events in the parish of Medjugorje have penetrated all the pores of church life. One of those who at first opposed them, and after that came personally and being convinced of what is happening there began to spread it with all his heart, is the retired Archbishop of Split, Frane Franic. He was one of the outstanding personalities at the Vatican II Council. Together with 500 other bishops he dedicated himself to the condemnation of Marxist atheism, even though the Council had in principal taken the position not to pronounce a condemnation, but only positively to expose Christian doctrine. This undertaking of his was an act of great personal courage, since he was coming from Croatia which communist Yugoslavia had occupied. The Council at the end of its session on its pastoral constitution "The Church in the Modern World" no. 21 proclaimed the condemnation of Marxist atheism as the most radical atheism that has appeared in the history of mankind.
For all his merits he received an award from his native Split - Dalmatia regional officials for his life's work. On that occasion a long conversation entitled "Communism Destroys Everything Good" was published in the Croatian daily Slobodna Dalmacija (April 19, 1997). He answered the following question also: "Although you have received an award for your life's work, your ideas even today have aroused quite a bit of caution in ecclesiastical and civil public opinion. One of those proposals also is that on the occasion of the Great Jubilee (Jubilee 2000 - op. P.B.) our Churches organize the closing celebration in the shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje." His answer was: "Yes. I wrote that in The Church in the World (a Croatian theological magazine - op. P.B.) in order that in 2001 our bishops with the approval of the Holy See, and Pope John Paul II is for that, could organize a thanksgiving celebration to Our Lady in Medjugorje for all the gifts we have received, and especially for the gift of freedom for it does not come from just anything, but can be only the work of God through Our Lady's intercession.
The Croatian bishops have not yet responded anything publicly to the fore mentioned proposal. To be sure that would be a great event not only for the Church in Croatia, but also for the universal Church.
Bishops Moged Elhachem and Franco Hillary in Medjugorje
On his journey to Sarajevo which was called by the Croatian name Vrhbosna all the way up to the Turkish occupation in 1463, Pope John Paul II was accompanied by 11 ambassadors with credentials at the Holy See, Vatican journalists, representatives of the secretary of state and bishops Moged Elhachem and Franco Hillary. On its way this thirty-member delegation also visited the Shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje.
Bishop Moged Elhachem presided and preached at the celebration of mass. In his sermon he said how they have set out all together for Sarajevo to encourage the Holy Father and to make a modest contribution themselves by their prayers for peace in Sarajevo, for peace in B-H, and for peace in this area.
After the celebration of mass Fr. Ivan Bradvica led them to the Hill of Apparition. There they all prayed together and discussed the events in the parish of Medjugorje.
At his departure Bishop Elhachem said that he came to pray for peace also in his own war torn homeland of Lebanon. Bishop Franco Hillary from New York announced that this was his second visit to Medjugorje and that he comes here gladly since he senses the presence of the Queen of Peace in his own life and labor. The Croatian ambassador to the Holy See, Ive Livljanic, who was also the travel guide, expressed for himself that the big miracle is just the fact itself that in these modern times a multitude of people comes to Medjugorje and prays there. He also added that the ambassadors were the chief movers and motivators for the journey to Medjugorje.
Visit of the German Military Bishop, April 1997
In recent days a military bishop also visited Medjugorje. He was Msgr. Johannes Dyba, bishop of the German city of Fulda. He came for a visit to the German SFOR units that are stationed in Bosnia-Hercegovina. "On the way Medjugorje was unavoidable", said Bishop Dyba who came to the Shrine of the Queen of Peace with a group of German officers and soldiers. After his visit to the Shrine he stayed longer for a hearty talk with the Medjugorje Franciscans who informed him about the events related to Our Lady's apparitions in this parish.