Cardinal Schönborn Interview
Mother of God – the best pastoral theologian
Date: January 30, 2010
Category: Shepherds of Church
Max Domej from Gebetsktion Wien spoke to Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna, during his visit to Međugorje.
I can not exactly explain how this happened. I know about Međugorje for many years, not personally because I have not been here before, but in out Diocese and even farer I experience fruits of Međugorje. I always use to say what Jesus has said in the Gospel: “You will recognise the tree by its fruits.” When I see the fruits of Medjugorje back at home I can only say that the tree is surely good. I will just mention two little examples.
At Vienna Airport, Security Check point, one of the guards recognised me, looked at my ticket and asked me if I was flying to Zagreb. I confirmed, and added from Zagreb to Split and then to Međugorje. His face immediately changed and he said: “I was in Međugorje before!” and with excitement started to talk about that. One of the guards at the Security Check point talks about Međugorje and how people are climbing the Cross Mountain, and what kind of an atmosphere is there…
Another example: Early in the morning I was standing at the local train station. The manager of the station recognised me and we started talking and he entrusted me his deep pain of loosing his wife from cancer, but he immediately added how his friends took him to Međugorje and that strengthened his faith even more. He was reflecting with such a joy…
Those are just two little examples amongst many, many experiences I have about Međugorje. I will just repeat what I once said in one interview: if there was something wrong about Međugorje, we would have to dismiss half of our seminarians, since so many of our priestly vocations are both directly and indirectly related to Međugorje. How did it happen that I decided to come to Međugorje? I always use to hesitate, and being Cardinal I am very exposed person in Catholic Church, and since there are many controversies and I did not want to start additional discussions, and my opinion on Međugorje was already known. But, this summer I visited community Cenacolo in Saluzzo. I know Sister Elvira for the last couple of years, I love her and respect her as the extraordinary witness of risen Lord, and I am aware of deep relationship community Cenacolo has with Međugorje. In Saluzzo, I was able to experience very strong feeling of inner security: my time to go to Međugorje has come! I would say that was a kind of inner encouragement. I expressed desire that my visit remains confidential, I simply wanted to spend time in silence and prayer. I did not want to hide my intention to come, but also did not want that to be main subject of discussions. I just wanted to come to the place where Our Lady gives so many abundant graces.
Besides that, Ivan Dragičević was in Vienna last year and I spoke with him, Marija Pavlovic Lunetti this year, they were both in Cathedral of St. Stephen and I gave my permission for those events. Both of those two encounters have impressed me so much, primarily because of modesty, simplicity, clarity and heart warmness of those two visionaries. That only strengthened my decision to quietly and simply come to Međugorje.
You are Dominican priest, and Dominicans are famous in the history of spreading the prayer of Rosary. What is your opinion about Rosary?
As Dominican, I am supposed to pray the Rosary every day and I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am not good Dominican in that sense, since I do not manage to pray the Rosary every day. There is one thing that I can say: Rosary for me was always the prayer of the poor ones. When it comes to me personally, there are always periods of major anxieties and in those circumstances Rosary is like a rescue cord. As much as we need cords when we climb the mountain, we also need Rosary. The priest through whom I was introduced to order of Dominicans was great teacher of scholastics, true thomist of the old style, new scholastic that has always fascinated me as intellectual, as theologian, but at the same time as eager promoter of the Rosary. That is what has brought me closer to the order of Dominicans. That is what moved me as a fourteen year old boy. On one side intelligence of somebody who is interested in philosophy and theology, and on the other side simple devotion. For me, that is the main characteristics of Dominican order, of St. Dominic: St. Thomas, his Summa and Rosary.
In Parish Office where Franciscans received you yesterday, really cordially and joyfully, you said you wanted to get to know that pastoral work of our Blessed Mother. Can you explain that a little please?
I was always fascinated how Mother of God has pretty peculiar pastoral method that differs in a way from pastoral-theological manuals or lectures. Ever since my youth I loved Lourdes and I still love do. This is how I imagine the events in Lourdes: bishop of Tarbes town probably had his own plans and his own opinions, and then Mother of God comes, without asking local parish priest or bishop, appears at completely impossible site, in a hole, on a rock, at the river where people where not even going to, and to a girl that is illiterate, that can not even explain what Holy Trinity is, because could not learn that at her religious education class. And Our Lady appears only to her, just like that, gives her precise instructions what to do, what to say to the priests, to come in processions, to build chapel. And then she orders her to grab a piece of soil, and water gushes out…Pastoral plan of Mother of God was very precise. She knew it all exactly. That was not foreseen in the pastoral plan of the Church but has determined and changed pastoral of France and whole world. In Vatican there is grotto of Lourdes in front of which Holy Father prays. Throughout the world there are grottos of Lourdes, and people are coming and praying, doing what Our Lady told them to do. And all of that through a little girl, Bernadette, visionary and Church has recognised that.
I thought, I want to see how does that look like in Međugorje today, how does Mary lead us step by step, how people experienced those beginnings here in 1981? What did Mother of God have on her mind when she decided to appear on really rugged hill to the group of wild children and to start giving them practical life guidelines, and for so many years? That is so fascinating to me! We need to think about pastoral work as well; because I can simply state that throughout the whole world Mary has proven to be best pastoral theologian. In Latin America she organised whole missions through Guadalupe where she appeared to Indian, Indian! And told him what is that he should say to his bishop. She did not say that to bishop, but to Indian. There are similar experiences in every country and that is something theologians should think about.
Many faithful are discouraged because of rejection’s attitude of local bishop, and use that as excuse, so they are cut off from pastoral of that kind. As whole South America is marked with apparitions in Guadalupe, I think that similar strength should be coming out of this place. Somehow, humble faithful should be protected from any kind of mockery…
I think we should fear not in that sense at all. Mother of God is best diplomat even here. Already in Kana of Galilee she had organised everything in the best way, she knows how to handle difficulties, and she is beautifully doing it for centuries already. She tells us: “Do as He tells you to do!” It is obvious that she advices us to listen to the Church. Supreme authority in the Church is Holy See, Holy Father and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that is the highest authority in all of the issues of faith and morality. Supreme authority of the Church gave us clear guidelines, not directly from Holy Father himself, but from Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith that had clearly confirmed what once bishops from Yugoslavia said, and that doubtlessly is applicable in Međugorje. I have always repeated that, those texts are very much known, there are three elements that are valid still today, and I can place my visit to Međugorje within those guidelines. In that sense, my visit is not something that is unusual at all. Holy See, in accordance with the Statement of Bishops from 1991, says the following:
First: Non constat de supernaturalitatae. That is the expression that is rarely used, and means that supernaturality of the events has not been confirmed, and that is classical formulation of the church doctrine. It is not said that supernaturality was excluded, but has not, or still is not finally confirmed, and all because of one simple reason that I fully support. I am the member of the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith, and it is understandable that I support that, if we were to discuss it. Namely, as long as the phenomenon is still ongoing, it is normal that final decision of the Church is not going to take place yet, because something like that was never done in the past before. Both in Lourdes and Fatima the events first ceased and than Church had its decision about that. Its final decision. Sooner or later that will take place here as well, but in this case we let Mother of God with freedom of choice.
Second, no official pilgrimages are to be organised, which means that I can not organise pilgrimage of my diocese to Međugorje. That is logically related to what was mentioned in the previous point. So, there is no official recognition yet, but in that formulation it is also said that supernaturality is not excluded. Church has clearly said it is not excluded. It is not confirmed, but it is not excluded.
Third thing that church doctrine clearly states is, also in accordance to statement of Yugoslavian Bishops, that the faithful journeying to Međugorje require attention and pastoral care. That means that indeed pastoral care of pilgrims needs to exist, and that is the matter that many are trying to serve, Gebesaktion Wien, amongst others, who take care of pilgrims, follow them and help them even after pilgrimages. I think that in that way, Međugorje can continue well on their journey, with full trust that Church, Mother and Teacher, in this case, is going to continue to monitor their journey. I would advise for patience. Mother of God is so patient with us that for nearly 29 years here, in a very direct way, she is showing her vicinity and care for parish of Međugorje and numerous pilgrims. We can peacefully wait and have patience! Twenty nine years is a long period of time for us, but not such a long period to our God!
It is really incredible that visionaries will continue to have one apparition per year until the end of their lives.
I believe that Our Lady is supreme and absolute. She is coming directly from the heart of our God, her intentions and desires are surely in accordance to Holy Trinity. If she would like to express her vicinity in this way, even for the lifetime, she must have good reasons for that. Already now we can say that in these 29 years Međugorje did not loose its strength, it did not pause. We could even say, just as Franciscans mentioned yesterday, even if there wouldn’t be more apparitions, even if supernatural phenomena of this kind would stop, people would still be coming because here they feel presence of Christ and Mother of God in strong way. Just as in Lourdes where apparitions stopped 150 years ago, but presence of Mother of God did not stop. How many people in Lourdes experience nearness of Mother of God that brings them such consolation! Recently I experienced the same again: when a man goes to grotto during the night and prays at the place where Bernadette had apparitions, he can simply say: She is there! And that will continue to be the case! It is true consolation to see what is that that reflects and radiates from this place through her blessing hands and heart.