Medjugorje and the New Evangelisation

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Role of the Local Church

Considering what the New Evangelisation ought to look like concretely in order to be successful, a well known German bishop and theologian, Karl Lehmann, says: "In the future we need places, groups, movements, and communities in which people with a determined will for life come together, learn together, and mutually help each other. That strengthening of faith, hope and charity is becoming ever more necessary today when Christianity is finding itself in the condition of diaspora. Only that way is faith able to become recognizable again and obtain a clear profile."7 Medjugorje for almost two decades already has been such a place where people gather from all over the world to pray together and to deepen their faith, creating communion in numerous prayer groups, movements, and new forms of community life. All that would, of course, be far stronger and more convincing if the condition in the local Church in Herzegovina were different, if it were not divided in itself. This condition affects many people, at least by confusing them. Therefore, they are ready also to call Medjugorje in question.

May I be permitted to express my own opinion about that. It has grown out of the experience of these seventeen years of Medjugorje, theological reflection, and prayer. During this time, the words of Jesus about the sword have often crossed my mind: "I did not come to bring peace, but the sword" (Mt 10:34). The way to real peace leads through a decision for Jesus. That decision does not tolerate any compromise. He is more important even than the closest family members and especially more so than any personal interests. On the way to real peace with oneself, one's neighbour, and with God one must go through numerous trials which Jesus metaphorically characterizes as a sword. Does not this word of Jesus refer also to Medjugorje and its position in the local Church?

The fact is that Medjugorje is taking place in a Church in which the so-called Herzegovina Case, which put unity and charity in that Church to a great test, happened a long time before. Because of that case, it is not only unity and charity that suffer in the relationship between the bishop and his priests on one hand, and the Franciscans on the other hand, but also within the Franciscan community itself. Therefore, before the beginning of the apparitions the Church in Herzegovina was disunited on various levels. Medjugorje was only a new occasion for this disunion to be exposed even more painfully. Some Franciscans have never even visited Medjugorje, not because they might be convinced on the basis of serious observation and studies that there is nothing supernatural there, but only because some of their brothers with whom they disagree on other matters and especially on the Herzegovina case, happen to be there. When Bishop Zanic turned against Medjugorje, those same Franciscans imposed themselves on him as being of the same mind, but only for the condemnation and rejection of Medjugorje. The Herzegovina Case, however, they did not move forward from its dead end. On the contrary, it is at this time reaching the peak of its absurdity in Capljina.

Is this perhaps at the same time a sign that the Church in Herzegovina has had enough of the sword and that the time has come for peace to reign? The Franciscans who are in Capljina, contrary to the will of their superiors, and those who support them, ordinarily base themselves on reasons of righteousness: 'with the help of the law the Bishop is doing injustice!' This is how the main argument sounds. But obviously, it is not working, and unity and charity in the Church are being put to an even greater test. The very essence of the Church itself is called into question. What then to do? For the man who takes the gospel seriously to the end, even when it seems that all possibilities have been exhausted, there still remains one more possibility, indeed the most difficult, but the one on which Christianity itself is based and that is, the sacrifice of total self-surrender. Sacrifice is always hard, especially if no kind of dignity is seen in it. The sacrifice of Jesus was like that, but it bore the fruit of the greatest victory, the resurrection. A great number of Franciscans, the ones who for all these years as believers have lived with Medjugorje, are ready for this sacrifice so the administration of the Province accepted it. Still, due to the complexity of circumstances, as already said, a great amount of wisdom is necessary on the part of all responsible agents in the Church, so that everything may serve to increase the unity and charity in the Church of Herzegovina, which will then be a powerful testimony for Medjugorje in the world, and then also a great contribution to the so necessary New Evangelisation of the world.

fra Ivan Dugandzic, OFM, 1998

Dr. Fr. Ivan Dugandzic - Franciscan priest, member of the Herzegovina Franciscan province. Born 1943 in Krehin Gradac, country Citluk, Herzegovina. After graduating in Dubrovnik in 1962, he entered the Franciscan Order. He completed theological studies in Sarajevo and Koenigstein, Germany. Ordained priest in 1969. Postgraduate study and doctorate in biblical science in Wuerzburg, Germany. Since 1990, he lives and works in Zagreb. He is professor of New Testament exegesis and biblical theology at the Catholic Theological Faculty and its institutes. He has published works in technical theological reviews. He publishes in religious newspapers in a contemporary style on various biblical themes. He has lived and worked in Medjugorje on two occasions: 1970 - 1972 and 1985 - 1988.


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