Archbishop Paul Kim Tchang-Ryeol, of Seoul, South Korea, visited Medjugorje from August 6 - 10, 1999 with three priests from his archdiocese (Rhee Dae Won, Chang Daee Ik and Chang Keung Sun). Following the thousands of Koreans who come on pilgrimage every year to the Queen of Peace, he came to get acquainted with this place of pilgrimage and the prayer and liturgical life of the pilgrims. As a pilgrim he prayed especially for his Church and the elimination of tensions between Koreans who are divided into two states.
In the last issue of the Press Bulletin we announced that Archbishop Jose Dimas Cedeo from Panama visited Medjugorje. We present here a portion of the conversation that Fr. Slavko Barbaric had with him:
S.B.: In brief tell us about yourself!
J.D.: I am an Archbishop in Panama, Central America. I am President of the Bishops' Conference. Spanish is the language spoken. Panama has about one million inhabitants, and it is interesting that it I the first diocese founded in all of America, and now has eight dioceses. I am 47, and bishop from the foundation of this diocese. The conditions in our Church are good. We still have sufficient vocations and it is especially important that we have many lay movements and active laity who bring a true spirit to the activity of the Church. We have many reasons for hope.
S.B.: What can you say about your stay in Medjugorje?
J.D.: I have come for the first time to Medjugorje. With me came twenty pilgrims. During these days I have seen and experienced a great devotion and zeal in prayer. That is noticed in all pilgrim groups. The readiness for prayer is amazing. The spirit of faith that is felt here in prayer encourages a renewal of faith in the hearts of all who are coming here.
S.B.: Are the fruits of Medjugorje visible in Panama?
J.D.: By all means, thank God. We have a parish community that is led by Fr. Francesco Verar. He often comes to Medjugorje and the church is made completely the same as this church in Medjugorje. Francesco has also founded a community that is called: The Sisters of Mary Queen of Peace. Every evening they also have the same program as here in Medjugorje. They are very active.
S.B.: Is this community already recognized by the Church?
J.D.: Yes. I recognized this community on the diocesan level when I saw what they are doing and how they are living and that their main work is to pray for peace and when I sensed their spirituality.
The community is in existence already for several years. They are having good experiences. And I invited the pastor, who knows them well and when he again confirmed everything to me, I recognized the community precisely on June 25, 1998. And that is exactly also the anniversary of the apparitions. I am fully conscious that this is a fruit of 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
On Friday, October 9, th 1998, the parish priest of Medjugorje, Father Ivan Landeka and Father Slavko Barbariæ visited the retired Archbishop of Split-Markarska, Dr. Frane Franiæ. Upon their return, they told us the following:
"The meeting and the talks, as well as our lunch together, were really warm. Despite his age, the Archbishop reads and writes much and spends the afternoons in prayer and adoration. Smiling and deeply convinced, he admits that he learned this in Medjugorje and that he has remained loyal to Our Lady's calls for prayer. He also recalled the words he spoke at the end of the Mass, celebrating his Diamond Jubilee: Every priests should pray three hours daily, bishops four hours and retired bishops five hours. He also promised to visit Medjugorje again, which he recognizes as he did in 1982, when he came incognito to see what was really happening here. He visited Medjugore for the first time not only because he felt responsible for the faith of his people but also to personally experience Medjugorje and also to be able to voice his opinion. Since his first experience with Medjugorje, he became a great supporter and advocate of the Medjugorje happenings. He also confided in us something that happened during an apparition. During one of his visits to Medjugorje, he was also present at an apparition, after which the visionary, Marija, gave him a message that Our Lady had given to him personally. This message is now a prophesy for the Archbishop, since it occurred later exactly as he had been told. Since it is something that the visionary could not have known, this was further reason for the Archbishop to believe in the apparitions. We thanked the Archbishop for everything he has done for Medjugorje with his statements and wished him to be able to visit Medjugorje in the near future."
Archbishop Krieger from Brazil visited the parish of Medjugorje from February 25 - 28, 1998. At the evening mass on February 27, he preached to the assembly of the faithful. We here present his entire sermon:
"I am Bishop Murillo Krieger, archbishop of the city of Maringo in Brazil. Eight years have pass since I was in Medjugorje. For me it is a great joy to be here together with you, because Medjugorje has always remained in my heart. Since I am here with you, certainly you would like to know everything that an archbishop thinks about Medjugorje.
I see Medjugorje as a gift and a responsibility. Medjugorje is a gift and a grace. Our Lady gives to everyone who comes here the possibility to find the same love and tenderness that she revealed in Cana of Galilee. Our Lady has come close to us and asks of us to "Do all that He tells you." And the servants in Cana of Galilee did everything asked of them and they filled up the jars with water. Thus it was possible for Jesus to work his first miracle in Cana. If our hearts had been open and ready to walk in the way of Christ, everything that the Lord wanted to do through Medjugorje would have already been done. Is it really that hard to give our hearts to Jesus Christ?
Medjugorje is a great responsibility. I understood that immediately, from the first moment I set foot on the soil of Medjugorje. That was in May 1985 immediately after my episcopal consecration. Observing and listening to the visionaries I came to the conclusion that they need our prayers so they may be able to be faithful to their mission. From that moment I decided to dedicate to them the first five mysteries of my daily Rosary. That is my small gift. I thereby offer my support and help because they have an important mission which is obvious in the presentation of Medjugorje regarding the parish and the Church in the world. I am grateful to the visionaries for their being disposed and open to the grace of God. I am grateful also to the Franciscans for their dedication and perseverance in this pastoral work. I am grateful to you in the parish of Medjugorje because you have responded in great numbers to Our Lady's call. You cannot even imagine how important is the role of this parish for the Church and the world. May the Lord bless all of you. May Our Lady, Queen of Peace with her intercession accompany you, your friends and brothers and sisters in Medjugorje."
On March 1, 1998 the Archbishop for the Unites States Armed Forces visited the parish of Medjugorje. Here is what he said on that occasion:
"I am Edwin O'Brien, the archbishop responsible for the entire armed forces of the United States of America. That is the responsibility for every American in all branches of the military, for military hospitals and for all members of the diplomatic corps. I began this ministry in September, 1997. Recently I became an archbishop. My assignment is to visit American military personnel there where they are serving. I have been in the Pacific and now I'm in Europe (Italy, Germany, England, Belgium and Bosnia-Hercegovina). For Christmas I visited Sarajevo and I was very disappointed that I did not succeed then in coming to Medjugorje. I had to answer: No! I did not have the opportunity. I was living in Rome from 1985 to 1990, but I did not come. When I was in Sarajevo I asked my superiors if I can visit Medjugorje. Today I am here. The fact that I celebrated Holy Mass in the parish church of St. James is for me a great privilege. I have heard many good things about Medjugorje.. I was in Medjugorje very briefly. Now I am already planning my second visit to Medjugorje. I would like to go on Podbrdo, the place of the apparitions, but I don't have time and that bothers me. I am happy that I have celebrated Holy Mass here today. I prayed before Our Lady's statue. I hope that Our Lady understands me. I have decided to come another time to have more time to be here. I will do everything that the other pilgrims also do. I will try my best for my next visit to be this summer. Till then let us remain united in prayer for peace in the world."
We have already met many pilgrims from the African country of Gabon in Medjugorje in these past years. In September this year, the pilgrimage group from the capital city of Liberville, was accompanied by Mons. Andre Fernand Anguile. He remained the entire week in Medjugorje. Speaking about his own country and his home he had this to say about Medjugorje.
" People from my diocese have often come to me after having been in Medjugorje. They related to me their experiences, and they brought books and newspaper articles. Last year, some pilgrims invited me to accompany them. However, I didn't really want to go because I knew that Medjugorje has not received full recognition. This year I have come with this group, but I was completely aware that I was coming as a private individual. I wanted to see for myself what is happening here. I know of the many good fruits of Medjugorje. Those who had been here, after returning home become testimonies of faith on all levels. And that's what's most needed at this moment.
The first thing that deeply impresses me is the spirit of prayer here in Medjugorje. I see pilgrims from the whole world here The evening program alone is enough to show how much and how deeply people pray here. Those inside the church and those who cannot enter (because there is no more space) still pray ardently and devotedly. I see all the priests here confessing for hours and who pray more devotedly than they would normally. But the thing that really delighted me was the sight of so many young people praying and confessing. Here it's not difficult to feel the presence of God and the workings of grace in action, that's why it's so easy to believe in the presence of Mary. I listened to the testimony of the visionaries and I prayed with Ivan at the time of apparition. They radiate peace and joy. They speak very simply and their ideas on prayer really impressed me. We recommended ourselves to their prayer and asked them to ask Our Lady to intercede for Gabon, for all peoples and for the Church. The overall impression which I have at the moment is really good. People come here and really pray. You can feel the spirit and presence of Our Lady.
To the question; "what would you now recommend to the faithful, bishops and priests?" Mons. Anguile replied, "Our Lady's apparitions are a good sign for our times. She wants to prepare us for the third millennium through Medjugorje and we must do as she says. If we're obedient, all will be well and the world will have hope. It's good that Our Lady has appeared here and that the priests, the visionaries and the parish community have managed to remain faithful to her. You have become an example to many. Here great good is being done. Please remember me in your prayers and I promise to remember all of you also. When I return home I will tell people that I have been to Medjugorje and I will call all the laity to pray and fast more, and to allow Mary to lead us all into this new time."
For the 16th anniversary of the apparitions in Medjugorje a Columbian archbishop also visited. Here is what he said on that occasion:
"I am Fabio Betancourt Tirado, Archbishop of Manizales in Columbia. I have come with a group of pilgrims in which there are 4 priests and 52 of the faithful. After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land we decided to visit this region, and especially this shrine. We are on the way to Rome where I have to receive the archbishop's crosier on June 29th. This is the first time that I am coming to this place. Here I feel the presence of God. It is the same presence that I felt also in other Marian shrines, like those from my homeland Columbia, as also in those from other holy places like in Fatima, Lourdes and Loretto. I feel the grace that God is granting to his faithful through the intercession of His Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary. I an awful lot of children, young people, adults and the elderly that are coming to pray to the Virgin Mary. They surrender to her their needs and their problems with the certainty that with her intercession they can come to the Lord.
I have not gotten acquainted with the whole Medjugorje message. Certainly the Virgin Mary is calling us to listen to the Lord. She speaks to us of peace and conversion, and that is something God has always required of man and that he continues to find through the means of the Church. Our Lady seeks reconciliation and it would be well for us to respond positively to that call. Through the Virgin Mary the Lord is again looking for us to convert and to be carriers of peace."
16th ANNIVERSARY OF OUR LADY'S APPARITIONS IN THE PARISH OF MEDJUGORJE
Three church dignitaries came for the 16th anniversary of Our Lady's apparitions in Medjugorje: the retired Archbishop of Split, Dr. Frane Franic, from Italy the titular bishop of Rusado, Paolo Hnilica S.J., and the archbishop of Manizales in Columbia, Fabio Betancur Tirado who is on his way to Rome for a meeting with Pope John Paul II. He joined in mass with the pilgrims and gave witness to his own conviction in Our Lady's presence in the parish of Medjugorje.
At the end of May Msgr. Damian Kyaruzi, a newly named bishop in Tanzania, visited Medjugorje. On his journey to Rome where he will be consecrated bishop, he visited Medjugorje. This is what he said on the occasions: "I am a priest of the diocese of Bukoba in Tanzania. Till now I have the Vicar General in my diocese and now I am named as bishop of the diocese of Sumbawanga. I am already a priest for 29 years. My episcopal consecration will be on the anniversary of my own priesthood ordination, June 29, 1997. I am in Medjugorje for the first time. I came here to pray before my episcopal consecration. Here I found a place and people who pray a lot in Church, on Podbrdo and Cross Mountain. I saw deep devotion on the mountains. I welcomed this experience because for me it means that people are ready to pray, when they are given the opportunity and when they are led well. But this is not only a place of payer, but a place where one can learn a lot. It is particularly important to me that I understood that we are all pilgrims. Pilgrims who come here discover the gift of life. God heals them here. They come back to God, they grasp the law of life and become messengers of peace. I want in my own ministry to tell people not to be afraid to accept life, even though I know it isn't easy. When we climb the Medjugorje mountains, we can understand those difficulties. That can be experienced especially on Cross Mountain. The lesson one gets on Cross Mountain says: One has to accept everything one encounters in life and complete one's assignment. You only have to look at and follow Jesus' way of the cross. I want all pilgrims here to accept their life pilgrimage with God and Mary."
In the second half of June the bishop of the diocese of Mbalmayo from Cameroon visited Medjugorje. His name is Msgr Adalbert Hdzana and this is what he said on the occasion: "I gladly visit the great Marian pilgrimage place. I have already been to Lourdes and Fatima twice. Here I feel completely fulfilled and am happy that I came. Here I feel that Medjugorje is the continuation of Fatima. Someone already said that before. But what I see here is the continuation of Fatima, because here I see the realization of the gospel in a way that corresponds to the man of today and to the situation of men. What is important is being proclaimed here: love, confidence in God. However, sin is opposed to that life that God offers us here. Everything Our Lady is telling us here is found in the Gospel and the means to which she call us are out of the gospel and the tradition of the Church. Here life is spoken of, but in the world death is being experienced. The sacraments are the channels through which we obtain divine life. And Our Lady is inviting us to receive the sacraments and to live them. The sacrament of reconciliation is especially at work here and the Eucharist is found at the center.
The manner in which all this is happening here is very simple, I like that, yet again that which is most important is being proclaimed. I believe, that in these kind of events the Church has to remain very reasonable. I can especially understand all the caution because the events here are still not finished. But here much good is happening and already for a rather long time and this must help us to understand what we are dealing with. What I have learned here, I think, will help me to go back more to pastoral work, as the Pope also told us when he said to us to do everything to prepare well for the 2000 year jubilee. What is especially on my heart here in Medjugorje, what I will tell everyone, is conversion and consecration. Our Lady is constantly telling us, free yourselves from sin and open yourselves to God's love. When I go back, I will proclaim again what I have heard and experienced here. That is what re-evangelization means. I invite one to take advantage of this time of grace that God is giving us here through Mary. May God bless you. I will pray for all of your and you pray for me and my homeland."
In May at the invitation of pilgrims and friends of Medjugorje Fr. Slavko visited several parishes in Croatia and Slovenia conveying Our Lady's message of peace and the spirit of the Medjugorje prayer program to the faithful in their local churches. A large number of the faithful participated in all the meetings and at one meeting in Slovenia Fr. Slavko met also with Archbishop Franc Rodeo. In an open conversation he asked him, do you know that many Slovenians are coming to Medjugorje and what is his position. He answered: "Once a bishop from Pescara asked the Pope what should be done with the people who are going to Medjugorje. The Pope answered with a question: 'And what are the people doing there?" The bishop answered: "They pray, they go to confession, they do penance!" The Pope answered briefly, "Well then let the people go there!" Fr. Slavko asked the archbishop if that were his position and his answer. With a pleasant smile he said, "Yes."
The Medjugorje Photomonograph which we mentioned in the last number of the Press Bulletin June 4, 1997 was also presented in Split. In the presence of a large number of the faithful and of people active in the cultural, religious and public life of that city the first one to speak about that book was Msgr. Dr. Frane Franic, retired Archbishop of Split-Makarska. Here is what he said on the occasion: "Our Lady's apparitions have to be seen as an intervention in human history from the other side that can only be understood in a long period of time. I have personally heard Our Lady's voice, but I have never seen her. In the Medjugorje fruits of prayer, fasting and brotherly love I see the signs of preparation for meeting with God. Our bishops with their Declaration of 1991 confirmed Medjugorje as a place of pilgrimage and prayer, and as such they recommended to the faithful what it has become on a world wide level."
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.
During the month of December 1996, the retired Archbishop of Split Mons. Frane Franic had his "diamond mass", celebrating 60 years in the priesthood. In the Con-Cathedral in Split, amongst the crowds of the faithful were the Croatian Papal-nunciate Giulio Einaudi, Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, Mons. Ante Juriæ, (the present Archbishop of Split) a representative of the President of the Croatian Republic and many Croatian bishops priests and nuns.
Some distinguished guests both from ecclesial and social spheres commented about the life and works of this brave witness to the faith during the most vicious communist persecutions. Dr. Jure Radic, Vice-president of the Croatian government (and deputy of the President), don Dante, an Italian priest and Dr. fr. Ljudevit Rupcic proclaimed Mons. Franic to be..." a courageous witness, who recognised the events of Medjugorje as the hand of God and pledged himself for it. His bravery was the reason for many attacks against him ,but Mons Franic, like in so many other similar situations followed the voice of his conscience"....
The bravery of his testimony helped many to accept the events of Medjugorje which opened up a path of conversion and peace for them.
Archbishop Franic himself, thanking everyone for everything, used the event to testify to his belief in Medjugorje's Queen of Peace. Those present, delighted at his words readily applauded him. Here we quote some of his talk..."Every priest should pray three hours a day, and every bishop four. Every retired bishop should pray five hours a day. I personally learnt how to pray at Medjugorje, with the Queen of Peace...I thank God that I was personally able to observe the development of this mystical theology and mystical phenomenon so closely. I recognise and accept the truth of Marys message at Medjugorje."
In these days we note the presence of an Archbishop; namely msgr. Philip Hannan, retired Archbishop of New Orleans. During his active service Msgr. Hannan had already started a home t.v. channel whose purpose was to bring their viewers and listeners in to the situations of the suffering and the afflicted people throughout the world; thereby communicating to the large number of people who worry about their suffering. Using this means he wishes to touch those belonging to the Christian world, and even those who are not Christian, so that we recognise Jesus in our neighbour who await help from us, their brothers and sisters. Archbishop Hannan, together with his t.v. crew visited Bosnia Hercegovina in these days. They stopped off at Tusla and at Sarajevo, where he had an appointment with Cardinal Vinko Pulic: The purpose of the visit was to televise, thereby acquainting the American public with the humanitarian activities undertaken by the various humanitarian organisations from the U.S.A., and the activity of the Ameican IFOR units in the accomplishment of lasting peace in this area. They left their inevitable journey to Medjugorje until the end of their tour. The Archbishop stayed a few days at the Shrine. During the course of his stay here he visited the childrens village. The suffering and pain of these children left a deep impression on him, so much so, that in tears, he said: "God himself touched those who built this." After this Archbishop Hannan visited the "Cenacle" community which is devoted to the healing of young people addicted to drugs.
For the third time now, the Nigerian archbishop Gabriel Gonsum Ganaka has visited Medjugorje. He came on a private pilgrimmage and this is what he had to say on that occasion:
"From the time that the faithful of my diocese started to come to Medjugorje, I felt an obligation to come and see what was happening here, and to feel the radiation of that strong prayer. I can still remember my first visit to Medjugorje, it left a deep impression on me. Our Lady's messages are simple, practical and they change your life. I know that the Church hasn't yet approved the apparitions and I will submit to her judgement. Pope Urban the eigth, said that it is always better to believe than not to believe in private revelations. When the Church then approves, you have gained. But while I am awaiting their decision I still speak about Medjugorje to many priests, nuns and lay people. I preached in 12 diocese and I always mentioned the apparitions at Medjugorje. I have acquisted some books and films so that people can become better acquainted with it's happenings. Here there is something truly special. The message has spread all over the world, something attracts people here. I have met people who pray the whole rosary daily. I know one person, who, since their visit to Medjugorje, has devoted himself to praying for priests....In my archdiocese, the message of Medjugorje has changed many people, even in the convents and monasteries, life has changed since they heard the message. But we must extend the message even further, and that's why I wish to know as much as posssible about the happenings today. Many groups have been set up to pray for peace just as Our Lady wished. If we look at the messages from Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje, we see how similar they are: peace, conversion and penance. All the messages are biblical and are very important. They have nothing contrary to the Bible. The priests from my diocese would love to come to Medjugore but it isn't always that simple. But it would be very important for them to be able to come, to see, and to experience Medjugorje.
Just as I wouldn't allow myself, so too I do not allow anyone else to judge without seeing. I myself as archbishop would encourage all those who have not yet come to do so, and not to listen to the gossip of others, or make judgements about people whom they do not know. Only then can you govern your own decision. Meeting the visionaries and the priests who work here, I see fruits which I esteem highly and which inspire me. I am very thankful that I can come and I will bear witness to Medjugorje. It's important that we all respond, then peace will come to all. I promise all pilgrims and freindsof Medjugorje my prayers and my blessing, and I intercede for all of them in prayer."
Franjo Franic is well known in the life of church and the Croatian people. His voice is always listened to with interest.
He became a Bishop in 1950. He participated in the second Vatican Council. As an Archbishop he directed the archdiocese of Split- Makarska (until 1988). It is the archdiocese which neighbours the one in which Medjugorje is to be found.
In an offficial journal of his archdiocese," The Herald of the Split-Makarska archdiocese" 1985, he concisely expressed his position about Medjugorje. He recalled his first visit to Medjugorje before Christmas in 1981. He had wanted to see with his own eyes, that which he had read and heard about. He was convinced of the supernatural origins of the apparitions of Our Lady in Medjugorje and he immediately began to compare them with Fatima. He said that Medjugorje throws great and new light on the prophesy of Fatima. In the same way it substantiates the teaching of the second Vatican Council about ecumenism.
Source: © Informativni Centar « Mir »-Medjugorje www.Medjugorje.hr