You won’t have any trouble finding negative news stories about Medjugorje, but you will rarely find anything positive (untarnished by negative additions) from the Catholic news media or Catholic Faith “Experts”. Please correct me if you’ve found otherwise; I’d be delighted.
So here are four items that you might not find via your usual sources:
Medjugorje (kath.net / DieTagespost)
By Stephan Baier / The Daily Post
(Google translation – not perfect, but unedited)
” To doubt that in Medjugorje grace currents flow, you have to close our eyes. For me, this is an evidence, in which the Church certainly can not ignore.”
DT: Your Eminence, why did you spend the year in Medjugorje?
Schoenborn: It is rather unusual for a cardinal goes on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. I was not so aware, but I found it in retrospect. I’ve heard that there were several cardinals and bishops, but usually in a very private form. Even my pilgrimage was very personal: a pleading, Dankwallfahrt to a place from which I’ve seen in 28 years, many impressive results. Therefore it was important to me to stay in person at this place that has become one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in the world, too. The first large prayer circle in Vienna, has gathered in the early 80s at the Dominicans. Dominicans we noticed that the church was full that they also held prayer evenings throughout the summer, that very many young people came and prayed with an impressive stamina.When I became a bishop, I have noticed how many of our younger priests are heavily influenced by Medjugorje, how this phenomenon plays on their personal path to the priesthood a role. A third phenomenon is the conversions. There are next to no Taizé meeting with young people that brings together so many young people such as the International Youth Festival. To reflect the global importance of the phenomenon.
It is striking in Medjugorje, the culture of confession.
Schoenborn: “I have heard even a half hours confession. Many who were not 20 or 30 years in the confession, they have rediscovered there. This rediscovery of the sacrament of penance goes through all the layers. When we all gather together, the question arises: What is the tree which bears such fruit? There is a theological grammar of the Apparitions. The Mother of God obviously has a “pastoral approach”.
Apparitions are a universal phenomenon. There is almost no country where there are no manifestations that are formative for this country and beyond.Without prejudging a definitive ruling church, I note that since 1981 have witnessed phenomena in Medjugorje, a strong similarity with other Marian apparitions. The question of why the phenomenon persists for so long, is another problem. In this extremely poor, arid region, but is characterized by a deep, authentic Catholic religion, children come into contact with these phenomena, and they have testified. As a basic feature that runs through many of the Apparitions: Even in Lourdes is it was a 14-year-old girl in an impossible place. Mary appears almost nowhere bishops, but almost always directed their messages also to the priests and bishops.
DT: What do you mean by “grammar” of the Apparitions?
Schoenborn: Apparitions have their own language: they are aimed at the small, secular views insignificant. There are always simple, never complicated messages, but they get to the heart of the Gospel and the Christian message. This one has a distinguishing factor: All messages are unusual suspect from the outset. That on the second day of appearances, the word “peace” was a central and Mary in Medjugorje, is revered as the “Queen of Peace”, is impressive. Ten years later, the First Balkan War breaks out. The basic message is prayer, and why the mother should not constantly remind us of God, is this message? The grammar of the Mother of God belongs to me also spoken to as “my children” without distinction of high or low, old or young.
DT: A definitive verdict of the church is still pending.
Schönborn: The official position of the Yugoslav Bishops’ Conference of 1991, which has been certified by the doctrinal congregation at least twice, is for me an ideal guideline and it is well to keep in mind. About the phenomena reflected the Magisterium of the Church is not in definitive way: “It is not clear that the phenomena are supernatural.” This wording leaves open: there can be supernatural or not. The church is proceeding deliberately and carefully so as not to prevent fruit, but also to guard against aberrations, which are always possible.
DT: Should the church for a final verdict to come as soon as the phenomena are completed?
Schoenborn: There are many Marian apparition sites, where there was no church very long sentence, but still held pilgrimages. Therefore, the second and third sentence of the Declaration of 1991 are so important, namely that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje are not possible. At the same time, however, stressed that the many pilgrims spiritual care should be given. This includes the Beichtdienst because Medjugorje has become one of the largest Beichtorte the world. I see this as a diocesan bishop and my specific responsibilities to the people who are looking at Medjugorje and spiritual impulses received. Medjugorje has developed its own momentum, which has undoubtedly received its initial impulse from the children who have notified the embassies of the Mother of God. Meanwhile, however, this phenomenon plays a minor role. What do the thousands of pilgrims who come to Medjugorje today? You pray! Every day they pray the whole Psalter, hold Eucharistic Adoration. There are no tourist attractions, but the pilgrims spend hours in prayer, and effort to climb under the Cross, praying the Kreuzberg, and the rosary, praying the Apparition Hill. People have an incredible desire to return – like Lourdes. I can only explain that the proximity of the Mother of God is good for the people. There is something comforting, brings help, Stärk end. I confess: I definitely want to return to Medjugorje! I know many people who feel this way. It is the Mother of God, but the best guide to her son.
DT: Is Medjugorje, regardless of the recognition of symptoms in any case a place of grace?
Schönborn: To doubt that in Medjugorje grace currents flow, we must close our eyes. For me, this is an evidence, in which the Church certainly can not ignore. It is obvious that happened here-like grace. As for the charismatic aspect, the locutions and words, I submit that the holy Sister Faustina over the years has had almost daily appearances of Jesus. This was thoroughly investigated by Rome, initially very critical, but subsequent tests have shown cut-and puncture resistance of the phenomena. In locutions and visions, the Church has always been very cautious, and that’s a good thing. The important thing is that the fruits are not hampered. I am particularly impressed by the large number of social works that have emerged from the momentum of Medjugorje: Around the Community Cenacolo, which has an incredible success for drug addicts to find the cure by a devout Christian life. Medjugorje has become a springboard for Cenacolo, because upon this place, the message of hope to the whole world spread. A second example is the maternal village, Father Slavko’s first for the women and rape victims of the cruel war founded.
DT: You mentioned the good fruits – conversions, vocations, confessions – and the contents of which are referred to the Gospel and do not contradict the doctrine. What can the Church still consider?
Schoenborn: Sure is an important element of the personal credibility of the witnesses. It may well be a sign of our times that the seer, all children are married and have families. I think we should investigate Medjugorje in the light of the Second Vatican Council: The famous “fidelium sensus” does not look so very extraordinary that, but the strengthening of faith in daily life. In the message of Medjugorje is always Christian, at the normal everyday life. What do you learn from the mother of God? Faith in everyday life! For me, Medjugorje is a school of the normal Christian life.
DT: They distinguish between the initial momentum and the other phenomena. Why?
Schönborn: The initial momentum has been set in motion. The messages that go on, play safe for the pilgrims who stay connected with Medjugorje, a major role. Without the initial momentum, there would be no Medjugorje. I do not want to speculate about the recognition. For me as a bishop is important that in the embassies is not something that contradicts the faith. That Mary is at this time as “Queen of Peace” is manifested, that is their signature. Similarly, the emphasis on the conversion, because there is peace with each other only when there is peace with God.
DT: Many people have changed their lives in and through Medjugorje. Is there something you want to do after this visit different?
Schoenborn, if it were so, I would not say it. But one thing I have become aware through the years of union with Lourdes: that we should be guided much more concrete by the mother of God. As Mary reached the hearts of men? We live in a country where the number of forms from the church beaten the second-largest “religious group”. Many of these people but have a longing for God. We see what happens to people who go to Lourdes and Medjugorje: since wounds are healed and hearts are breaking. Like Maria makes in our time? For me, it has become increasingly clear, be inspired by the pastoral care of Mary. The messages contain little moral suasion. But if the heart be moved by Mary and turn to God, then arrange things, then the “yes” comes to life out of an internal evidence. A converted to God hearts find the right way in the moral issues.
DT: Was voted your journey with the Holy See? Are you the Holy See to report on your impressions?
Schoenborn: “I’ve gone from very personal reasons to make this pilgrimage. I do not conceal my brothers against my attitude to Medjugorje, which has deepened. With many bishops I have talked about it and will continue to do so. This is also a part of the Church’s views and judgments. For many of the pilgrims who came to Medjugorje now on New Year’s Eve, it was a consolation that there was also a Cardinal.
Interview with Cardinal Schonborn in the Vercernji List Newspaper (Daily newspaper for Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina 01/04/2010):
“Medjugorje is again in the center of attention, church and public as well. Though the visit of Cardinal Shonborn is private, it did not leave anybody indifferent because he is the member of Congregation for Doctrine of Faith. We talked to Cardinal while he was visiting Medjugorje.
“We came here to be close to the Lord’s mother”, you said during the Christmas Eve Mass, Your Eminence. These words had a great echo. We would like you to explain them?”
Cardinal: “We cannot deny that pilgrims have been coming over here for the past 20 years, as we can not deny what they experience in Medjugorje and how close they feel to the Blessed Mother. This is my first visit, but since I’ve been a Bishop since 1991. I have simply noticed the fruits of Medjugorje.
Interviewer: “What kind of fruits are you talking about?”
Cardinal: “I will give you couple of examples: vocation calls for priesthood. Lots of our young priests have received their vocation call here, but not strictly in Medjugorje but because of Medjugorje. The second thing is conversions. I am impressed that that happens in every level of society, from noble families, industrials down to the common little people. Flying from Vienna, via Zagreb to Split I was asked by a security guard where I was going and I told him I was going to Medjugorje. All of sudden his face started shining and he told me that he had his conversion in Medjugorje as well. Couple of weeks ago on one small railway station one worker told me his story. His wife died of cancer and he was desperate and his friends brought him to Medjugorje. He has received the strong and living faith over here. The third evidence is the healings. A young man who was addicted to drugs told me that he was almost forced by his friends over here. He told me while the bus was entering to Medjugorje something happened with him. Especially he was healed immediately and all of us know how long that healing lasts. The fourth evidence is the prayer groups. I’ve known this Medjugorje Prayer Group from Vienna since the period when I wasn’t the Bishop. I’ve known them since 1980’s. To us Dominicans it was very meaningful that these people pray for hours and their church is always full. The Dominican churches in Vienna are rarely so full, on Thursday nights the church was always full. They stayed faithful to the prayer till today. Jesus said that the bad tree doesn’t bear any fruits. Which means: if the fruits are good than the tree is good as well.”
Interviewer: “For pilgrims Medjugorje is a miracle and they expect a message from the Holy See until Official Church would approve the supernatural events of Medjugorje. It has been speculated a period of time about the movements of Holy See. What do you know about this and what is your opinion about the demands to recognize Medjugorje?”
Cardinal: “I do not have detailed information about this matter and that is not my assignment. But I am standing to the statement made by Bishop’s Conference of Yugoslavia and Congregation for Doctrine of Faith of the Holy See. That statement for me has always been reasonable and smart. I will remind you about three statements made about Medjugorje. The first of all are phenomena. I am dogmatist and I was a professor of theological dogma. “Non constat de supernaturalitate.”- which means that the Church hasn’t given the final judgment about supernaturality of phenomena and hasn’t given any statements. So it has never denied or confirmed.”
Interviewer: “This sounds as diplomatic answer, what this really means in the practice?”
Cardinal: “It simply means that the Church hasn’t given its final judgment and decision. I am personally convinced that this is correct. While these phenomena are still going on, the Church is hardly going to give or make its final judgment and decision. These phenomena are the center of Medjugorje. It has started with the children who said that they saw Our Lady and the messages she gave through them. What has developed from that is second phenomena which will be studied by the church on the second level. From the very beginning a huge number of pilgrims have been coming to Medjugorje. The intensive prayer life has developed here and many humanitarian organizations have been born here.”
Interviewer: “The Church has divided the matter of Medjugorje from the pastoral work. But still a large number of pilgrims come over here. What position we should take about this matter?”
Cardinal: “The concrete ways of pilgrimages have been over here and that is a practical challenge for the church. That’s why the bishops from ex Yugoslavia said in 1991 that the official pilgrimages shouldn’t exist. I do not want and I cannot organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje in my diocese as we did to Rome or Holy Land. But the Bishops Conference or Rome have never forbidden to pilgrims to come to Medjugorje, which is the main part of the third statement. For us Bishops, for me this is very important. The believers must get the pastoral care. As the Archbishop I see my homework in that. If I, as a bishop, see that in my diocese hundreds, thousands of believers convert, pray, and are healed then I, as a Bishop, must take care that all of them get that pastoral care. That’s why I supported all these things as for example community of the “Oasis of Peace,” which was started because of Medjugorje. I think that all of this has influence on us bishops, especially those dioceses which pilgrims do come to Medjugorje and they need to get good pastoral care. So in all of those conversations I had with other bishops about Medjugorje I encouraged them to support their pilgrims.”
Interviewer: “You had a meeting with a visionary, you climbed to the Apparition Hill. What were you talking about?”
Cardinal: “I would say ironically that Our Lady did not choose the simple hills. I am fascinated with the coherence of Medjugorje with other Marian shrines, apparition sites. I always say that there is a grammar of Mary’s apparitions. That style has something special with Our Lady.”
Interviewer: “In what way is this connected?”
Cardinal: “There are 3 elements which are connected with this phenomenon. Almost always Our Lady appears to children. Those were not especially intelligent children or holy children but normal. Bernadette did not know how to write. She was 14 almost as children over here. Secondly, Mary gives the messages through the children. It is insulting for one bishop. Why Our Lady does not come to bishop’s house? Why does she come to the hill filled with stones or by the river? This is not practical. In Fatima she appeared in the bushes. She gives the messages through children because children are not complicated. The third element: it looks like that Our Lady has her own program. In Fatima she had appeared before Russian Revolution and she gave a message. When rationalism was on its highest level she appeared in Lourdes. She appeared in Yugoslavia in the moment when we did not have an idea that Yugoslavia would fall apart in the time when the Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox were living together. She appears with the name Queen of Peace. 10 years after that the first of 4 wars on Balkan Peninsula brakes out. And her first message was peace through conversion, prayer and this first message has its weight, strength, credibility. Maybe we could go further to Guadalupe, Mexico. When Europe started invasion of America, Our Lady appeared to one Indian who had to go to his bishop to tell him what to do. I think that theologians have to study the syntax of Mary’s apparitions and in that context to study the phenomena of Medjugorje.”
Interviewer: “It is prayed for peace in Medjugorje all the time but the political peace is not correct, the state is in problems and the Croats Catholics are in the worst position. What would you suggest to the International Community which is run now in this country by your co-citizen Valentin Inzko?”
Cardinal: “ The problem over here is that too many countries are involved in this such a small country which that way cannot over come these problems. The long lasting peace can be formed only if everything is just for everybody. This is a challenge for European policy. I am happy that Valentin Inxko is now in charge of Bosnia and Herzegovina and I expect that he gets a bigger support from European community. I am sure that (this) what is going on Medjugorje supports that peace. And people from all over the world do come to this small village Herzegovina which has never been known in the world, if I want to speak ironically. Look, how many Koreans come to Medjugorje! This is a hope that these people will be apostles of peace in their countries, peace which comes from Medjugorje. If it is prayed for peace in the world on one place, than that is a special blessing for one country. And Our Lady respects all three religions. Orthodox believers honor Our Lady, Islam doesn’t respect any other person that much, but Mary. For Croats Catholics who are minority in this country the apparitions among them are the great comfort.”
Cardinal Dr Christopher Schönborn came to Medjugorje on Monday, December 28, 2009 on his private visit and stayed until January 2, 2010. During his stay in Medjugorje, he gave couple of statements to the press members. In his conversation with Max Domej, a representative of Austrian media, the cardinal was asked what has made him come to Medjugorje. Amongst other things he said:
“I know about Medjugorje for many years, not personally because I have never been here before, but in our Diocese and even farther, I do experience fruits of Medjugorje. I always used 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.
Speaking, furthermore, about Medjugorje in the Church, the Cardinal added: “Supreme authority in the Church is the Holy See, the 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 the bishops from Yugoslavia once said, and that undoubtedly is applicable in Medjugorje. 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 Medjugorje within those guidelines. In that sense, my visit is not something that is unusual at all. The 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 the 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 the Church made its decision about that; its final decision. Sooner or later that will take place here as well, but until then we leave the 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 Medjugorje. 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. The 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 the statement of Yugoslavian Bishops, that the faithful journeying to Medjugorje 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 in that way, Medjugorje can continue well on their journey, with full trust that the Church, Mother and Teacher, in this case, is going to continue to monitor their journey. I would advise for patience. The Mother of God is so patient with us that for nearly 29 years here, in a very direct way, she is showing Her closeness and care for the parish of Medjugorje 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!”
Transcript of Cardinal Schönborn’s homily given during the Vigil Mass at Medjugorje celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
Dear brothers and sisters here in the church and on the squares in front of the church, and in the yellow hall… We are all conscious of the fact that it is a big privilege to not have to celebrate the New Year with champagne. (laughter) Maybe later. (laughter and applause)
But now we are allowed to celebrate the beginning of the New Year with Mary and Joseph and with the child that is lying in the manger and with the shepherds. These days, we have all come to Medjugorje to be especially close to the Mother of the Lord. To be more exact, we have to say that we have come here because we know that the Mother of the Lord wants to be close to us. With her, we want to begin the New Year. And the first thing that moves me when I think about the manger and the shepherds is that there were no angels present. Here there is an angel at the nativity set (points), but in the gospel there are no angels there. They were on the hills with the shepherds. An entire host of angels. But Mary and Joseph only heard about it. The shepherds told them. We also didn’t see the Gospa. But there are people here who told about it. And we trust that the Mother of God really is close to us.
Belief comes from hearing. And it impresses me that first, in the gospel of today, there is talk about hearing. We have to listen to the good news first. We have two ears, two eyes, and only one mouth. That means we have to listen much, watch much, and then talk also. And what are we supposed to say? We are supposed to report what we have seen and heard. The world needs a new evangelization and that is only possible through people for whom it is impossible to keep silent about what they have seen and heard.
We all have received the faith. And through baptism we all have received the task to pass on the faith. The shepherds related what they were told. And from there it went on. The gospel, the good news was told and those who told it were believable. Those who heard also saw that the word and life harmonize; that what the witnesses saw is also true in their life.
How can we be witnesses of the good news? First, by looking to Mary. Mary kept all that happened in her heart and pondered it. Brothers and sisters, what we need most in this time is prayer. I’m saying this with a sadness of some sorts. I know that I’m not praying enough. I know that prayer is life. Without the living relationship with God our life becomes dry end empty.
What does the Mother of God tell us all the time? Pray. Make yourself time for prayer. Is that a good resolution for the New Year? For us priests and deacons? For us all? Time for prayer – it gives so much strength and so much joy; so much clarity. Let us ask Mary, that she helps us to pray more. When we pray our word is also filled with life. And then our testimony is credible.
I want to tell you something about what the apostle Paul told us. The Year of Paul is already over, we are now in the Year of Priests. But the word of the apostle Paul was so strong because it was filled with life. In the reading of today he talks about God sending his Son so that we can become sons – the daughters are not excluded here. Daughters and sons are meant together. But Paul says we are called to become sons – not slaves. Like Jesus is Son of God we are supposed to be allowed to call God, Father. In the beginning of this year the apostle Paul tells us: You are sons and not slaves.
I believe Medjugorje is a place where a lot of people confess. Confession is deliverance from the slavery of sin. Nothing makes us less free than sin. God wants us as sons: Freedom of the children of God. And for that he gifted us with the sacrament of reconciliation. We are to have a new relationship with God, to be allowed to call him Abba. Jesus invited us to that in a way that we trust him, that we trust God. There is so much fear of God in us .
“Jesus, I trust in you.” (in Croatian) I can also speak Polish (laughter). Jesu Ufam Tobie. Jesus, I trust in you. Pope John Paul II left us this message: Trust in the mercy of God. Trust in the mercy of Jesus. Trust can be heroic sometimes, if life becomes difficult. If a marriage becomes a burden, if an illness oppresses us, if we don’t know what becomes of our work – then to say Jesu Ufam Tobie – that can be heroic. Trust – that really is an act of faith. And again we look to Mary. Who has made and gave this act of trust, of faith, more than Mary? Jesu Ufam Tobie. That is to be our program in the coming year.
It is almost midnight and the fireworks are cracking outside. But we are not cracking, we are praying. We are not cracking, but we are singing! And a last word: The shepherds returned and praised God, praised him for what they heard and seen. We, too, will return home. In order that we can become witnesses of the gospel, we have to praise God first. The shepherds praised God for what they have seen and heard. I hope that we can all drive home, travel home after these days here, and praise God for what we have seen and heard. Then people will also believe us when we tell. Then our word will be credible.
Now it is almost midnight. It is exactly the right moment to profess our faith. With this faith we are going into the New Year. God bless this year.