Chapter 16

Medjugorje, Yugoslavia

Chapter 16

“I have come to tell the world that God exists, He is the fullness of life and, to enjoy that fullness, you must return to God…I am the Blessed Virgin Mary…I am your Mother, the Queen of Peace…God has chosen each one of you to use you in a great plan for the salvation of mankind.”

Eight years after Our Lady appeared in Akita, she appeared to several children in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, a small mountainous village in the region of Bosnia-Herzegovina, It was June 24, 1981, the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Late that afternoon, two teenagers, Ivanka Ivankovic, 15, and Mirjana Dragicevic, 16, decided to go for a walk.

The Lady

As they passed Mount Podbrdo, a large hill behind her village, Ivanka noticed a light. Focusing her eyes, she could barely make out a figure shining with light and standing just above the ground. It was a good distance away, about 200 yards, and as she continued to look, speechless, their conversation all but forgotten as the figure seemed to form the shape of a young woman.

Although Ivanka was not at all sure, she exclaimed to her friend: “Mirjana, look. There is Our Lady!” Mirjana thought Ivanka was joking so she didn’t even bother to look where her friend was pointing. “Come on,” Mirjana said, mockingly, “would Our Lady appear to us?”

Convinced, Ivanka said no more and they walked on toward home. Both were extremely frightened: Ivanka, by what she had seen and, Mirjana, by the look on Ivanka’s face, and her claim that she saw the Blessed Mother!

As they approached the houses in the village, they ran into Milka – the 12 year old sister of Marija Pavlovic – who asked for their help in getting her flock of sheep home. They agreed but this meant the girls would have to pass by the place where they had seen the figure shining with light. Arriving at the spot a little after 6 p.m., the three girls now clearly saw the figure. In subsequent apparitions they would all kneel down…

The Awakening

I knew absolutely nothing about Mary’s appearances in Medjugorje until 1985 when I moved permanently to the coastal area of South Carolina. One day, as I was leaving St. Michael’s church in Murrells Inlet – a quaint fishing village south of Myrtle Beach – I happened upon the reprint of a newspaper article Wayne Weible had written on December 4, 1985, describing the appearances of Our Lady in Yugoslavia.

Several years later I had an opportunity to attend a presentation Wayne gave at a church in Georgetown, South Carolina. Accompanying him was Milka Pavlovic, the young girl who saw Our Lady on the first day. She described her experience: it seems that inasmuch as Milka had chores to do, her mother sent her older sister, Marija, 16, in her place on the following days.

As a result, Milka never saw Our Lady again; however, she appeared to handle that loss quite well. Their young friend, Milka Pavlovic, would later disclose: “They wanted to sneak a smoke.”  Her statement will be clarified in an ensuing chapter.

The Trip

I moved to central Florida several years later and, by chance, met Wayne again at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, a newly constructed shrine honoring Our Lady near Disney World. At the end of his talk, an announcement was made that several people were planning to visit Medjugorje in May, 1990 to see for themselves what was occurring.

Inasmuch as FFr. F. Joseph Harter. F. Joseph Harte, Rector of the shrine, announced he was going to be the spiritual director for the trip, I decided to join them. I invited all my children to go with us; however, Loretta, the eldest daughter, was the only one whose schedule would permit it.

The Peace

The trip was most interesting. We experienced many wonderful things both in Medjugorje and upon our return. We gained an extremely refreshing insight into Our Lady’s love and concern for each one of us. At this time I am obliged to mention the peace one begins to feel about the second day of their visit to Medjugorje.

Everyone I talked to stated they had a feeling of love for everyone else, followed by an inner peace they had not experienced at home. Several cried publicly when it was time to leave; they knew that extraordinary love was not what awaited them at home.

We were no different than the others; many of our rosaries turned to a golden color. Several of us watched in absolute fascination as the beads on the rosary that belonged to Mary Towneley began to blink just like Christmas tree lights. One bead would light up, then, go out and turn to a golden color, only to be followed by the next bead in turn until all the beads were a beautiful golden color.

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The War

Yugoslavia consists of six republics and two autonomous regions: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia, which are now independent nations. The provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo make up the rest of the country.

Unfortunately a terrible, brutal war engulfed Yugoslavia shortly after our return to the United States. It occurred during the process of their declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. Two of the driving factions were the religious differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians, and Muslims; also, reparation due for the previous atrocities committed during the Nazi occupation.

The war lasted about five years and horrible things were done to the population, so severe that it was reminiscent of the horrendous concentration camps that existed in World War II. More than 200,000 people were killed. In addition to the wounded, we’ll never know how many were displaced, some never to see their children or families again.

The bombing and brutal slaying of the civilian population eventually became so intolerable that the United States intervened and a treaty was negotiated with NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]. Thus the war was contained and formally ended when the leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia signed the Dayton Agreement on December 14, 1995.

Medjugorje remains a place of peace and profound spirituality. Over thirty million people have visited there since and returned home safely and spiritually renewed. I had the opportunity to visit there again in May, 1998. Touring a number of the surrounding areas in that country was quite distressing! Some of the buildings didn’t exist, having been blown completely off the map.

Yet, despite the recent war throughout the area, only one bomb fell in Medjugorje, fortunately it didn’t explode. On the more pleasant side I found it refreshing that, in the village of Medjugorje itself, the peace I experienced during my first visit returned as before.

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Earlier, while traveling on the bus from the airport to Medjugorje well after midnight, I had time to reflect on a favor I would like to receive from Our Lady. This is sometimes granted to those on a pilgrimage. I thought about Bernadette who, when asked if she wished to return to Lourdes in the hope of a cure of her illness, replied, “No, it is not for me!” So, taking a cue from her, I said quietly to myself: “No, nothing for me, thank you.”

The Sun

Yet. three days later, I was privileged to see a rather unusual event involving the sun in Medjugorje. I was returning St. James church from St. James church to my residence. It was a perfectly clear, cloudless day, about three o’clock in the afternoon. I was alone, yet I distinctly heard a voice to my right, strongly urging me to “Look at the sun!”

I thought this a bit odd, considering I would have to turn away from where the voice emanated in order to see the sun on my left. Then, remembering my earlier decision on the bus, I said out loud to myself: ‘No, that is not for me!’

However, that command was repeated a second time, quite insistently this time: “Look at the sun!” At that point I could not refuse the command; I turned to my right and looked up into the sky directly at the sun, which I could plainly see without blinking.

The Painting

I watched in absolute fascination as a color was slowly painted from right to left, in the shape of an arc, directly above the sun. It was as if some invisible hand was using a huge roller brush, except neither hand nor brush could be seen. The painted area was about two-thirds the size of the sun, the bottom of which was one-third of the diameter above the sun.

It was the most gorgeous color of blue that I have ever seen. It was a shade darker than the sky and the only way I can describe that color is to say: I loved that color. I could not imagine that any color could be so beautiful.

After about three seconds the blue disappeared. This was followed in the same manner by a striking hue of yellow, then red. As soon Sunas one color disappeared the next one was painted, one after the other. It was just amazing! I haven’t read of anyone reporting this specific phenomenon before. If you know of anyone who has experienced it, I would certainly like to hear from them.

It should be noted that I can stare at the sun here without difficulty and, to this day, can do so without damage to the retinas. In this area the sun is quite different than in Medjugorje for within several seconds, a grayish transparent disk literally jumps out in front of the sun to protect my eyes.

I have no idea where this disk comes from; in fact, whenever I ask my ophthalmologist he just looks at me quizzically! Neither of us understands how this can occur.

A word of caution: You can cause serious, permanent damage to the retinas of your eyes if you attempt to do this! If you must look at the sun, never do it for more than a split second; then, try to read a license plate number or newspaper print. If there is a dark or blurred spot on the print, do not look at the sun again or you will do irreparable damage to your eyes.

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During my second visit I met a very courteous, young lady from Nova Scotia. The first thing she told me was to expect a feeling of love, which I would enjoy on about the second day. Most everyone experiences this and, true to form, there was a distinct change in how I felt emotionally.

I felt as though I was in love with everyone, much as one feels upon returning home after a strenuous visit abroad, only in this case their true home was in Medjugorje, a doorway into Heaven.

This love for Mary, for God and for everyone permeated throughout the entire time there. Fr. Jozo, the pastor, clarified it when he said: “As Christians, we are taught to love God; when one goes to Medjugorje, one falls in love with Him!”

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This, then, is the story of Medjugorje. Much of it is garnered from interviews with the children and from web sites (e.g. Medjugorje.org) and books written in an attempt to describe what is actually occurring there. It is quite voluminous compared to other apparition sites. A number of the web sites permit reprinting the basic story of the first nine days. 

The Story

Early in the evening of June 24, 1981, Mirjana and Ivanka went to Vicka Ivankovic’s house to invite her to join them for a walk. Because Vicka, aged 17, was resting, her mother said she would give her the message to join them later.

As soon as Vicka awoke she went out to find them and, on reaching the road, noticed they were waving with their hands, calling for her to come join them. When she got there, Mirjana said: “Look up there, the Madonna!” Vicka said: “What do you mean, the Madonna? What is the matter with you?”

Vicka did not look; she didn’t even take the time to bother to look. Vicka was wearing slippers, but kicked them off and ran barefooted toward the village. On her way, she met Ivan Dravicevic, 16, and Ivan Ivankovic, 20.

She said: “Ivan, the Madonna. They said that the Madonna has appeared up there. Let’s go there, you and me. I’m afraid.” Ivan said: “Of course we’ll go, but why are you afraid?” Vicka thought: “He’s not afraid.”

When they got there, she turned toward Ivan to ask, “Do you see any-thing?” However, Ivan Dravicevic was gone; he had taken off on a dead run for home, losing his shoes in the process!

So, she turned to Ivan Ivankovic: “Do you see anything?” He replied: “I see something completely white, turning.” Milka was there and Vicka asked her if she saw anything. She said: “I see the Madonna.”

Vicka thought: “When I went up there the first time, I stood a little distance from them. I was afraid. But when I went the second time, I said to myself: If they are not running away, I will not run away either.”

It was after 6:30 in the evening, raining a little and beginning to get dark. Vicka would later remark: “I saw it and what I saw was very white. I saw a gown, dark hair. All the time, she was covering and uncovering something she held in her left hand.”

Then, Vicka added: “I was not able to see what else she was doing, but it looked like she was showing something. Then, she called to us to come closer…but who was going to get any closer? We were saying to each other: ‘She is calling us, but who is going to go?’”

Later, recounting their experiences to family and friends, Vicka noted, “There was real commotion. Some perhaps believed, some wondered, some explained it away as some kind of flying saucer and the like. Why, everything conceivable was said.” Later, she added, “How could they be expected to believe us? In their place, I wouldn’t have believed us either.”

Mirjana’s experience was similar: “There was incredible light. The Blessed Mother held baby Jesus in Her arms, covering and uncovering Him as she called to us. It was overwhelming! We are from a small village, not like young people from America or Europe. We have never been anywhere away from home. Home, school, family: this is our life.”

When asked how she knew it was the Madonna, Mirjana replied, “My whole being knew without a doubt that this Lady of unexplainable beauty was the Mother of God. That is why I had such fear.” In fact, during the first days of the apparitions, both Mirjana and Ivanka fainted many times. When asked why, Mirjana said, “I was quite overwhelmed to be in the holy presence of the Mother of God.”

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The next day, the children were expected to be up at dawn to help harvest the leaves from the large tobacco plants in their fields, so, they all went to bed. However, sleep did not come easily to those who had seen the vision. The children spent the next day working in the fields and, as they finished their work a little earlier than usual, four of them decided to see if Our Lady would return.

They were Ivanka, Mirjana, Vicka and Ivan Dragicevic. Mirjana said, “I felt in my heart that I must go back. Interestingly, the others felt the same way too. We didn’t plan it. We just all, about the same time, felt an immense desire to go back to that place.”

Inasmuch as all four of the children felt drawn back to the spot, Vicka ran to get her friends, Marija, 16, and Jakov Colo, who was only 10. Marija had previously told Vicka, “If you see the Madonna, I would just like to be there. I do not have to see her.” Jakov had also told Mirjana that: “He, too, would want to see her more than anything else in the world.”

Mirjana stated they heard the Blessed Mother calling to them to come up the mountain, “She waved to us. We were at the foot of the hill. She was calling us to come to her. The Madonna called to us to go up on the hill, and we went. When you look up from the bottom of the hill, it looks close, but it is not. We ran quickly up the hill. It was not like walking on the ground. Nor did we look for the path. We simply ran toward her.

In five minutes we were on the hill, as if something had pulled us through the air. I was afraid. I also was barefoot, but no thorns had scratched me. When we were about seven feet away from the Madonna, we felt as if we were thrown to our knees. Jakov was thrown kneeling into a thorny bush, and I thought he would be injured, but he came out of it without a scratch.” Then I asked: “Marija, do you see the Madonna?” She said: “I see something white; it is getting clearer.” Later, Marija saw her just like the rest of us.

The children say Our Lady looks about nineteen years old and is extremely beautiful with dark hair and blue eyes; she wears a silvery gray gown, a white veil and crown of stars. She appears in a glowing light, floating on a cloud, and is often accompanied by angels. They say it is impossible to truly describe her beauty; there is nothing so beautiful here on earth. In complete awe the children asked the Lady who she was and why she had come to them.

She replied, “Dear children, I am the Blessed Virgin Mary…I am your Mother, the Queen of Peace…I love you…I come on a mission from God the Father…God has chosen each one of you to use you in a great plan for the salvation of mankind. I wish to be with you to reconcile the world through prayer, fasting, faith, conversion and peace.”

Mirjana complained to Mary: “Dear Madonna, they will not believe us when we go home. They will tell us that we are crazy” but Our Lady just smiled. We were on the hill for ten to fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, some people had come up to join us. When we were about to leave, the Madonna seemed to be hovering in the air, and we didn’t know what to say. Then, she said to us: ”Go in God’s peace.”

Our heads were all turned in the direction that she was leaving, all in the same direction. No one said anything, but everyone was frightened. Mirjana said: “When we were on the hill, praying with the Madonna on the second day, we prayed seven Our Fathers. We were praying because we did not know what else to do. We were crying a little and praying a little. She told us to pray seven each Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and the Credo.”

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Those who followed the six children up the hill that day were just dumbfounded. They could not believe the speed with which they saw the children climb the hill as they couldn’t keep up with them. Mirjana’s uncle, who was one of the adults present that day, stated: “It takes at least twelve minutes to get up there, yet they did it in two. It scared me to death.”

The apparition lasted almost 15 minutes and, coming down the hill, all the visionaries were weeping. They were both moved and frightened by their experience. Marinko Ivankovic, 40, knew the children well, and knew them to be good girls. He was shaken by the story and decided that, if the children returned to the hill, he would keep a close watch on them.

However, he arrived at the wrong time, and was there only to see the children, who were frightened and upset, coming down from the mountain. He said, “Ivanka was sobbing, terribly upset. I ran to her and asked what the matter was.

“She told me all that had passed between her and the apparition. I tried to tell her that if the vision had said her mother was well and happy, then, she should be laughing, not crying. But she was inconsolable.”

Marinko felt that the parish priests should be informed and involved in these occurrences, especially if some evil power was at work here. However, to his dismay, the pastor, Fr. Jozo Zovko, was not in the village; the assistant pastor, Fr. Culvalo, wanted nothing to do with the matter. Marinko then took it upon himself to help and watch over the children. And, as he spoke to them, he began to believe their story.

The six children who went up the hill that day became the permanent group of visionaries. June the 25th then became the anniversary of the apparitions. At Mary’s specific request that date was eventually named the “Feast of Our Lady, Queen of Peace.”

Each child is asked to avidly pray and fast and to relate her messages to the world. They meet daily with pilgrims in Medjugorje, and in foreign lands, relating her impassioned call to peace, conversion and sacrifice, as she said: “Children…convert, pray, fast, be reconciled.”

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As of this writing, Our Lady has given all ten secrets to Mirjana, Ivanka and Jakov; Marija, Vicka, and Ivan have each received nine secrets. When all have received the ten secrets, Our Lady will stop appearing there. Mary has chosen Mirjana to reveal the secrets.

Ten days before each one will occur she will tell Father Petar Ljubicic, a Franciscan. After praying and fasting, he has the option of telling the secret to the world three days before it happens.

Our Lady also promised that a permanent sign would be left at the spot of her first apparition in Medjugorje. On the 25th of each month, Our Lady gives a message to Marija for the world. Maria writes the message down for the priest at St. James to translate so it can be relayed to the world. 

Over twenty-five million pilgrims of all denominations – including cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns, ministers and rabbis – have visited this tiny village. All have been moved by Mary’s motherly love. She appears daily, offering hope and peace to her children in this deeply troubled world.

Our Lady said: “I invite you to decide again to love God above all else. In this time, when due to the spirit of consumerism, one forgets what it means to love and to cherish true values. I invite you again, little children, to put God in the first place in your life. Do not let Satan attract you through material things but, little children, decide for God who is freedom and love.” 

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 Thriftiness is essential to life in Medjugorje, even while tending the sheep in the 1980s and 1990s. At the same time a woman is watching them she works the bundle of sheep’s wool into a ball of yarn, making sweaters and a myriad of other items. After Our Lady came, prayer increased, as did the fervor with which one prayed.

Marinko Ivankovic, already committed to supporting, defending, and protecting the children in any way he could, met them at the bottom of the hill the evening of the 26th; he had a bottle of holy water. Holy water and blessed salt were commonly used to bless the houses to protect against the influence of evil in these Catholic Croatian homes.

Vicka once said a favorite expression of her grandmother she had heard often when growing up: “He is fearful like the devil is of holy water!” Some of the older women told the visionaries to sprinkle the apparition with the water to see if it would flee.

On the third day, there were several thousand people in attendance. At that time, Our Lady began to use a different means to attract the visionaries’ attention. A very brilliant light would flash three times, announcing Mary’s arrival. As soon as they see the light, the children began bounding up the mountain, telling Marinko exactly where they were headed so he could keep up with them.

They were then followed by a multitude of children and adults. Vicka stated that, “We ran forward as though on wings. The place is all thorn and stone; it’s awful steep, but we flew like birds. We just flew: we, and the people.”

There was a great deal of excitement and fear among the people gathered for, whenever that light flashed, all those present were able to see it. This time, Our Lady led the visionaries much higher up the mountain than on the previous occasions, about 300 meters higher than previously [about four city blocks].

When they got there, the crowd saw the six children suddenly stop and, simultaneously, fall onto their knees in front of an old wooden cross. Marinko stated, “I had taken the holy water from my house, to sprinkle it around the vision, in order to see what she is: either the Madonna or the devil. However, after we climbed up the hill, we knelt down and I gave the holy water for Vicka to sprinkle.”

Vicka said: “I sprinkled her and, in full voice, said: ‘If you are the Virgin, remain with us, if you are not, depart from us.’ I came quite close and didn’t spare the water.” Vicka then stated that Our Lady smiled. “It seemed to me that she was pleased as she responded: ‘I have come because there are many true believers here. I wish to be with you to convert and to reconcile the whole world.’”

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The children noticed that following the brilliant light, and after the third flash, they could all meet Our Lady at the same spot. Mirjana asked the Lady: “Who are you?  ‘I am the Blessed Virgin Mary.’  ‘Why are you appearing to us; we are no better than others?  ‘I do not necessarily choose the best.’ Will you come back? ‘Yes, to the same place as yesterday.’” They asked her, “Is there life on other planets?” Our Lady responded: “That is not for you to know now.”

Marija began descending alone and was half way down when she saw the Virgin again. Our Lady was crying and, behind her, there was a bare wooden cross. Mary said: “Peace, Peace, Peace! Be reconciled! Only Peace. Make your peace with God and among yourselves. For that, it is necessary to believe, to pray, to fast, and to go to confession.”

Vicka related: “Marija said the Virgin was very sad, and that she spoke to her through tears. Marija was very frightened. She was unable to stand on her feet. We spotted her and helped her until she got her wits about her. And, slowly we managed to get home.”

Marija said: “It was an overwhelming experience. I saw the Madonna weeping, and the sight drove me to commit myself totally to her request. She had come to inspire all of us to search for peace: peace in our own hearts; peace within our families; peace in the world.”

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On June 27, 1981, a series of new trials began for the six children and their families. That afternoon the police picked the children up for questioning and took them to the police station in nearby Citluk; however, the children never wavered in their testimony. They had seen the Virgin Mary up on Mount Podbrdo.

In an attempt to have them labeled mentally unfit, they were sent to the doctor on duty to be examined. Ivan was the first to be called in; an entire hour passed before the doctor came out to call the next one.

By this time it was getting late in the afternoon and, due to Vicka’s insistence, the doctor released them; he stated later that the children were normal, healthy and well balanced. It was now 6 p.m. and, by 6:30, the other five children were already at the foot of the hill, intent on ascending it. Mirjana, Ivanka, and Vicka began going up together, while Marija and Jakov waited down below, looking up towards the hill. Suddenly, Marija saw a light.

Suddenly, Marija saw a light, her face flushed to a scarlet hue and she said: ‘Look! Look! Look!’  Jakov said nothing, but together they ran ahead at what seemed to be a superhuman speed. Marija was wearing a white blouse and red skirt, so I could see her distinctly as she ran, almost seeming to fly. It was impossible to keep up with her.

Reaching the top, Marija found herself standing in front of Our Lady, alone without the other visionaries. But, then, the Blessed Mother disappeared, leaving Marija with a puzzled look on her face. Jakov, who had not seen the light, joined the other three visionaries and Marija soon discovered them as well.

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A Franciscan priest who was walking with them reported the following: “Like the clouds that enveloped Moses on Mt. Sinai, when he was given the Law, Podbrdo [Apparition Hill] is the spot God chose to send Our Lady for the first time to lead man back to the faith and back to the Ten Commandments, the spot He has chosen to leave a lasting sign which will prove to the world the truth of the apparitions.”

It was not such an easy task for the visionaries to find each other on the hill as every day, the number of people present for the apparition increased. In fact, as the apparitions continued, the children were often separated from each other; however, when the light flashed announcing Our Lady’s arrival, the six came together no matter where they were on the hill, led by the light.

To the thousands on the hillside this gave clear validity to the children’s testimony; otherwise, it would be impossible to find each other in such crowds that were gathered there.

That day on the mountain, the children asked Mary several questions. Jakov wanted to know what the Virgin expected of the Franciscans in Medjugorje. Our Lady responded: “Have them persevere in the faith and protect the faith of the people.”

The children asked Mary to leave a sign for the people; however, she told them: “My angels, do not be afraid of injustices. They have always existed.” Also, the visionaries wanted to know: “How must we pray?” Our Lady responded: “Continue to recite The Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be seven times, but also add the Creed.”

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This was an important apparition for those who were concerned that the children were making the whole story up. Father Joseph Pelletier, AA, author of The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje, spoke to this point: “The first sign was the way in which Our Lady appeared on this fourth day.

It was completely different from the manner in which the apparition had occurred previously. It was so complicated and involved that it would seem to surpass the capacity of the young people to have thought it up by them.

Marija broke away from Jakov and raced up the mountain alone. Our Lady appeared to her alone at a different place than before and, then, mysteriously disappeared. When Our Lady appeared to the five seers together, the people saw the light, which immediately preceded Her coming.

During this apparition, she disappeared again to the five as they returned home and finally, she appeared to Ivan alone, it was her sixth appearance in that single day. Many people felt that the pattern of what happened proved the apparitions were not under the control of the seers.

In this regard, the apparition to the five seers on their way home was particularly impressive. Together, they all pulled away from the people who were supporting them and, together, they suddenly saw Our Lady.”

After several days of apparitions, Vicka’s mother became so distraught that she sat outside Father Jozo’s office as the children were being questioned. Father Tomislav Pervan was present in the waiting room with her and, in her anxiety, she was crying.

Father, please try to get this crazy thing out of their minds. I cannot take it anymore! I have seven other children at home…and Grandma…and my husband is in Germany. And now all these police around the house and all that is happening and all this commotion around the house…and people gathering here. I cannot stand it. I cannot carry it anymore!” But Vicka just talked to her mother and me, and the pastor, and all who were present there, saying: “But mama, what can I say? I am seeing the Blessed Mother.”

By June 30, 1981, as the number in the crowds continued to swell, the police became more and more concerned. The Communist government thought the people were moving the people toward a revolution. The local authorities were getting pressure from both Belgrade and Sarajevo to stop what they thought might lead to sedition. Their plan was to stop the gatherings on the hillside so orders were sent out to the villagers to stop going up the mountain. With those orders came threats! They forced some of the villagers to block everyone going up, stating that if they failed to do so their homes and fields would be confiscated.

In a Communist country the greatest threat to a family’s existence is the loss of one’s home and land. There is no welfare so you and your family starved. Therefore some villagers stood by with guns and pitchforks, blocking the entrance to the mountain; yet, others refused to allow threats to separate them from the apparitions of Our Lady. They were placed in a very difficult position by having to make a choice.

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The Communists also hatched a plan to keep the children off the mountain. They arranged for two social workers known by the visionaries and their families, young women almost the same age as the older children, to take them on an afternoon excursion. The children considered it a relief to get away for a while, so all except Ivan agreed to go.

The two women then drove five of the seers through the local region. It eventually became apparent to them that they had been tricked. The social workers prevented the children from getting back in time in order to climb the hill in time for the apparition. When they saw the hill, the visionaries asked the women to stop the car; however, their request was ignored.Vicka stated, “We already realized while on the road that we made a mistake in going for the outing because it seemed to us that they just took us so that we might not be present for the Virgin.

They were somewhat reluctant to stop. They pretended not to hear us but, when we said we would jump out of the car if they didn’t stop, they stopped. We then got out and went off the road a bit.”

In an interview with Fr. Jozo later that evening, Ivanka told what happened next. “First, we prayed our usual prayers. Then, not thinking about what I was doing, I looked up the hill. I saw a light and the light was coming towards us. On the hillside where the people were, everything was bathed in that light. Those two social workers who drove them on the trip saw this also. I said: ‘Do you see the light?’ They said: ‘We see it.’

“I looked at the light all the time. Then, we knelt and sang. Mirjana asked Our Lady if she was displeased that they had left the hill and gone to the other place; however, she said that she didn’t mind. Mirjana said we asked Our Lady if she would mind if we do not go to the hill anymore and go to the church instead. Somehow, she seemed undecided when we asked her this. Even so, she said that she would not mind. Ivanka added that the apparitions would be at the same time.”

The visionaries asked the two social workers to bring them to the parish office after the apparition because they were afraid to go to the hill after having disappointed the thousands who waited for them that evening. The police had warned them not to go back to the hill as well. The children said: “A large crowd gathered on Mt. Podbrdo. They waited for us and the Virgin, and neither we nor the Virgin were there.

The poor people! They wait and wait, but nothing. All kinds of rumors went around that we ran off somewhere, that they took us off to jail.” It was then that they decided to go to Father Jozo who, upon learning they had not been on the mountain that night, began to question them individually until nearly nine o’clock at night.

Arriving at home, they learned that their parents had been terribly upset, wondering what had happened to their children: if they had been taken by the police or if they had gotten into an accident. They imagined everything possible. News came to them late that night that Marinko had been arrested.

Inasmuch as he was accused and suffering because of them, the children tried to find him but were unsuccessful. They protested his arrest at the police station, saying: “Arrest us if you want…but leave Marinko alone.” The outcome of this very long, agonizing day was that the apparitions would begin taking place in the Church.

The government authorities stated they would be happy to have the crowds off the mountains, saying: “They can pray all day long, and all night too if they want, as long as they don’t do it on the hill. The law makes no provision for worshiping on a hill.” This statement was made by the Chairman of the League of Communists in Citluk.

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Then, on July 1, 1981, a new threat was leveled at the children. The Secret Security police made an announcement to the villagers that the children were banned from both the hill and the Church. This pronouncement was made in a meeting held in the Medjugorje School after a summons went out to all the villagers. What if they refused? The parents were threatened that if they did not cooperate, a rumor would be spread that the children are mentally unfit, then, they would have no possibility of a future education.

Furthermore, they would face defamation of themselves and families. However, despite these threats, the parents deferred to their children. Someone came to Vicka’s mother and said, “Zlota, let the children go no more to the church; let the children give that up. It is going to be difficult for you.” Zlota answered, “I will see. I do not know. Who can order a child what to do?”

Shortly afterward, in the middle of the day the police came to find the children, to try to stop them after the two women had failed [to do so]. They asked throughout the village where the children were. They wanted to remove them from the hill and from the people. The people responded in various ways: “in the fields, in the village, here, there.” Even so, a police van pulled up the next day apparently with the same plan, which is to keep the children from going to the hill.

At first, the police officers were content to watch from their car but, as the time of the apparition got closer, they forced the children into the van. Fortunately, Jakov’s mother was able to drag her son out before the doors closed; however, Marija, Vicka, and Ivanka remained in the van. The police drove them past the hill and the Church. Meanwhile, the trio was beating their fists on the windows and, finally, they stopped.

Yet, even in the midst of all this commotion, Our Lady appeared to the children. Marija said, “We felt quite strong. Our Lady helped us through. Somehow, the more problems we had, the better we coped. We spent all day talking to pilgrims, and every evening praying so, at most, we got two or three hours of sleep. Yet, in those days, we seemed to be living under a special grace.”

The two social workers who had participated in the previous day’s charade were greatly moved by the apparition they had witnessed. They ended up resigning their position with the government; they had a change of heart and became believers. Fr. Jozo continued: “The two social workers who had experienced the events at Cerno resigned because of their own experience, [so] the police came to intervene directly.”

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  The next day, trying to escape the oppression of the police, the six children, who knew they were being sought, slipped out of their homes and were running from the village through the vineyards, toward the church. In the process of escaping, they even changed their clothes in order to change their appearance. It was like playing a game of hide and go seek.

On July, 2nd, the police continued their daily harassment of the children, this time showing up near their homes around noontime. The children, realizing what the police meant to do, slipped out of their houses in an effort to elude them. Vicka told Fr. Bubalo: “We really didn’t know where to hide.

“In the end we went towards the church, not by way of the road, but through our tobacco fields and vineyards so that they wouldn’t spot us. The church was locked. Oh, God, where can we go now?”

Meanwhile, Fr. Jozo was alone in the church. He was in deep anguish over the situation in his parish and, at this moment, crying out to God to understand what he must do. He recalled: “I was in anguish because of all the events.”

“It was at this time that something began to happen inside me, which led me to become more than just a listener to the children’s reports. People from the government service were brought in to put a stop to the events. Those who were believers did not do it happily.

“While all this was going on, I was in the church praying, feeling great responsibility in front of God, as pastor. The people were asking questions and I had to say something to the people, to the priests and the sisters. In a way, I felt like Moses before the Red Sea.

“I knew that I could speak only to God. No man could have answered my need. I prayed, ‘God, I know you talked to Abraham, to Moses and to others. Now there are thousands of people here these days. Tell me where the river is going. I do not know where the mouth of that river is, nor what its source is.’

“No one was in the church with me at that moment. And then, something happened that, for me, was important and decisive. It was both a turning point and a moment of revelation. While I was praying I heard a voice say, ‘Come out and protect the children!’”

“As I was leaving the church through the middle door, with my foot still in the air and the door handle in my hand, the children ran toward me from the left side of the church, escaping from the police. They told me, ‘The police are chasing us. Hide us.’

“They had gathered around me and were crying. Ana, Vicka’s sister, was with them sharing their fate. I embraced the children and took them to the rectory. I locked them in an unoccupied room of the house. Soon, the police came. They asked me, ‘Did you see the children?’ I answered: ‘I did.’”

Although the doors were locked, Fr. Jozo, responding to the voice he heard while praying, let the children in just as the police came running past. “I left my Bible and breviary, genuflected and, with no further thought or delay, left the church.”

“The police kept running very fast toward the village of Bijakovici to catch them. After the police left, I went to talk with the children. I asked them to stay in the rectory so they would not be caught. Shortly afterward, the Madonna came to them in the room. Later there were seven visions in that same room. The children wouldn’t go up on the hill for the third day in a row, but the crowds of people still came.”

Fr. Jozo brought the six children into the church and to the sanctuary behind the altar. So, from that day on, the people began to gather at the church to pray the rosary at 5 p.m. with the Mass following at 6 p.m. The Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be were recited seven times.

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On the evening of July 11, 1981, people gathered in the church at about 5:00 pm and began to pray the rosary together. At a certain time during the rosary Fr. Jozo began to sing with great joy: “How wonderful, wonderful, wonderful you are, Our Lady!”  It was as though he was personally singing to someone in the church.

At 6:00 pm, he began the celebration of Mass. During his homily, he spoke about Moses “leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, granting them signs throughout their forty year journey.” He added, “Mary was the first believer who completely obeyed God and His call…Mary, as the first Christian, is here today with me, your priest, and with you as faithful Christians…”

He ended his homily with an invitation: ”I beg you to start fasting, to fast tomorrow, to fast the day after tomorrow, taking only bread and water, so that God may reveal Himself to us and tell us what we are to do. There is no Heaven so closed that prayer, fasting, and penance may not find a way into it.”

Soon afterward, one of the Franciscans who spoke to Fr. Jozo following Mass announced to the crowd that, indeed, “Fr. Jozo had seen the Virgin during the rosary.” Three other men, eye-witnesses, would later verify this event.

Fr. Jozo noted, “I wouldn’t have believed the church could hold so many people. I was scarcely able to push my way through to the altar and when I got there and began to say Mass, I had no room to lift my arms to give a blessing.” He added: “That mass of people responded to my request with great exclamation, full of faith, saying, ‘We will.” 1

Later, Fr. Jozo would add, “My motives in having Mass together with the apparitions, were based on the value of Mass…In that Mass, I wanted the people to cease being spectators and become participants in the events.” Unfortunately, that sermon would cause serious repercussions for him!

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During the ensuing days, the visionaries continued to be harassed by the police. This prevented them from being at the church every evening; yet, in spite of this, whenever the children were there, the apparition would usually occur during the recitation of the rosary just prior to Mass.

In his first meeting with the visionaries, Fr. Jozo had questioned them about their knowledge of other apparitions. Mirjana stated, “I’d never heard of any other apparitions. I didn’t know about Fátima or Lourdes. I suppose I’d never been interested in that kind of thing. In those days I only went to church when I had to.”

Fr. Jozo then handed them a book entitled The Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin. They were fascinated when they read the story about Bernadette, the child who had seen Our Lady in Lourdes, France in 1858.

After the first nine days, Our Lady appeared to the children every day in Bosnia-Herzegovina – usually in the evening – with messages about the means to achieve peace: “in our hearts, in our homes, and in the world.” Those first days changed the direction of the children and how they view the world. Her overall messages are of peace in order to reconcile ourselves with each other and, especially, with God.

She says she has come to bring the world back to her Son. She advises us to pray, attend Mass frequently, go to confession at least once a month, fast on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays, and recite all fifteen decades of the rosary every day.

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We are still unable to fully grasp the magnitude of the messages received in Medjugorje. One day the children asked Our Lady how many more days she would appear. She answered: “As long as you wish.” Another time, Marija and several of the seers asked Our Lady how long she was going to appear to them. Our Lady responded: “Have I begun to bore you?”  They never asked her that again.

Note well, however, that there is a distinct change in the tone of Our Lady’s messages. In Lourdes, she asked for “Penance”; at Fátima she asked for prayers and sacrifices: “Pray for sinners for many souls go to Hell because there is no one to pray and offer sacrifices for them.”  Now, in Medjugorje, she advises us: “This time is for you; be converted now because, after the sign appears, there will be little time for anyone to convert.”  

The sign” will appear during the unfolding of the third secret. And, in what may likely be the climax of all these 185 years, she tells us for the first time that it will no longer be necessary for her to appear again, firmly stating on May 22, 1982: “I have come to call the world to conversion for the last time.”  Then, the Virgin told Mirjana, ”Later, I will never again appear on Earth in this way.”

The children are adults now. They are all married and busy raising their own families. Each of the children will ultimately receive all the secrets, although somewhat different from the other seers. The visionaries say the ten secrets will remain secret until an appointed time. They know the day the messages may be revealed. They concern future chastisements.

Mary told them that, as the third event transpires, a visible sign would be left at Mt. Podbrdo, the place of her first apparition, so that all will believe. Perhaps this visible sign will be similar to those predicted to occur in Akita and Garabandal. Once all the visionaries receive their ten secrets Our Lady will no longer appear in Medjugorje.

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Mirjana was especially chosen by Mary to reveal all ten of the secrets given to her as these pertain to the world. With Mary’s approval, she has chosen Fr. Petar, a Franciscan priest, to announce them. Ten days before each event is predicted to occur, the priest will receive a parchment from Mirjana which he will not be able to understand. However, after a number of days spent praying and fasting, he will be able to understand that specific secret.

Then, three days before each event is scheduled to occur, Fr. Petar may reveal that secret to the world. Whether he decides to do that or not is his choice! Each of the seers was given a specific mission: Mirjana’s is for unbelievers; Jakov and Vicka’s is for sick people; Ivan’s is for the youth and priests; Ivanka’s is for families; Marija’s is for nuns and the souls in Purgatory.

On May 12, 1998, in Medjugorje, I managed to videotape a half-hour interview with Mirjana. During it, Mirjana said she advised Fr. Petar of the scenario: “I’m going to tell him and he is supposed to let everybody know. So, he doesn’t have [the] opportunity to choose whether to publish or not to publish the secrets. The secrets must be published!”

When asked for clarification about the means for revealing the secrets, she said: “I am supposed to let Fr. Petar know and three days before, Petar [knowing what] is going to be happening, will be published for the world. So, please, don’t ask me anything else about the secrets because secrets are secret.”

She went on to frequently mention the words: Believers and unbelievers, stating at one point: “All the problems in the world come from unbelievers! Our Lady always says: ‘Don’t talk about the secrets: Pray!’”

The following excerpt is from an article written by Fr. Petar: “Concerning the secrets, Mirjana herself states that she thinks the day of their fulfillment is nearing. And lately, Our Lady calls her to a specific program of how she should pray and live. God has announced to us that He will send signs of preliminary warning. He wishes to show clearly that He is forever Master of the world. God will send us some early signs and, then, He will give us a permanent sign.

“Mirjana says that when the signs appear many people will be converted: many who doubted until now and who deliberated about whether the event in Medjugorje came from God or from some other source. It will be clear to everyone who is open to the Spirit of God that God is indeed here and dwells among us.”

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“Concerning us specifically, of course we’d like to know when all of this will take place. I believe that curiosity can best be satisfied by fasting and prayer, and people who do so don’t need to be afraid. Everything will turn out right. I don’t know what misfortunes and catastrophes will come and, naturally, I don’t know what will happen to us. I know only this: Without God’s wisdom, nothing will happen to us.

“Everyone can receive what he needs to fulfill God’s plan in his life. I believe that from this, we can conclude that God loves us today, too. I see positive proof of this in the fact that God is sending His Mother to us and that He has already given us many signs.

“There are many witnesses who have meditated about this and have been converted. They are the people who began to fast and pray. I believe these are signs and that they are more significant than physical signs. Material signs can be momentarily impressive, but the joy and happiness which one experiences in the soul remains and is not easily forgotten. That’s the treasure we carry in our hearts.”

“Shortly after Mirjana’s visions ceased I was informed by the other visionaries that she had chosen me as the priest of her confidence. At that time I thought I was too far away from Medjugorje. I was a priest in another community and there was no indication that I would be moved to Medjugorje. Mirjana, who moved in the meantime to Sarajevo to continue her studies, told me that God will put everything in its place.

“Mirjana asked Our Lady whether she had acted correctly, and Our Lady told her that everything would happen at the proper time. Indeed, since the fall of 1985, I’ve been in Medjugorje for more than a year.

“Mirjana told me that Our Lady comes more often lately and that she hears her voice at a predetermined time. She said Our Lady is preparing her for the fulfillment of the secrets. Our Lady wants everything to develop in [a proper] order. She gave Mirjana something similar to paper, which contains information about the individual secrets. Ten days before, she’ll know what will happen.

   “Three days before a secret is revealed, it will be announced to the people so they’ll know exactly what, where, how, what time, and for how long it will take place. The first two secrets will come as advance warnings and as proof that Our Lady was here in Medjugorje.

    “The third secret will be a visible sign. This third secret is the same for all the visionaries. No one knows how many secrets are the same for all of them. As far as the visible sign is concerned, the exact information will be received three days in advance. All of us have to prepare for this with prayer and fasting.”

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On December 2, 1983, Fr. Vlasic, the pastor of St. James, sent a letter to Pope John Paul II, stating: “Mirjana had an apparition in 1982 wherein the Blessed Virgin told her: ‘…you must realize that Satan exists. One day he appeared before the throne of God and asked permission to submit the Church to a period of trial. God gave him permission to try the Church for one century.

“This century is under the power of the devil; but when the secrets confided to you come to pass, his power will be destroyed. Even now he is beginning to lose his power and has become aggressive. He is destroying marriages, creating divisions among priests, and is responsible for obsessions and murder. You must protect yourselves against these things through fasting and prayer, especially community prayer.’”

The Bible is replete with scripture concerning Our Lady and Satan: “Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, Earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time. Then the dragon [Satan] became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus” (Rev. 12:10-12,17).

According to Marian theologians who have studied these apparitions, this message of Mirjana may shed light on the vision Pope Leo XIII had. It was after having an apocalyptic vision of the future of the Church that Leo XIII introduced the prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel, which priests and laity recited after Mass up until the close of the Second Vatican Council. They say that the century of trials foreseen by Leo XIII is about to end.

At the request of the Parish Office in Medjugorje, professional examinations were performed by scientists from Italy, France, and Slovenia. Their tests concluded: “The scientific tests permit us to ascertain that the visionaries are not manipulated, are not acting and that the state of ecstasy does not alter in any way their ‘normal’ daily behavior.”

The Church has an obligation to care for all its members, whether residents or visitors, without giving approval of the apparitions. In June of 1986, in response to twelve Italian bishops seeking pastoral advice on whether people should make pilgrimages to Medjugorje, Pope John Paul II said: “Let the people go to Medjugorje if they convert, pray, confess, do penance and fast.”

In 1987, Alfred H. Kingon, the American Ambassador to the European Community under President Reagan, went to Medjugorje on a personal visit. Kingon was so impressed that he sent Reagan a personal two-and-a-half page summary. Then, at his request, Marija gave him a letter for President Reagan which he personally delivered to the White House:

“Dear President Reagan, The Blessed Mother appears every day in this small village of Medjugorje in Yugoslavia. She sends us a message of peace. We know that you do your best to improve the peace in the world, and we remember you every day in our prayers. We want you to know that you can count on our prayers and sacrifices. In this way, we want to help you in your difficult task.

“Our Holy Mother said that, with prayers and fasting, even wars can be avoided. May this message help you and [may] Mary’s daily appearances be a sign to you also that God loves His people. United in prayer, in the hearts of Jesus and Mary [The Queen of Peace], we express to you our love, and greet you with Peace. – Marija Pavlovic”

Reagan received Marija’s letter shortly before meeting with Gorbachev for the 1987 Nuclear Arms Summit; Kingon stated that President Reagan was visibly moved when he read it, saying, “Now, with a new spirit, I am going to the meeting with Mr. Gorbachev.” I distinctly recall the president entering that meeting with a broad grin on his face, waving a paper in his left hand, saying to a nearby television news team: “We have God on our side now!”

This was just before his meeting with Gorbachev for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty summit held in Washington. It concerned a 1987 agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, finalized and signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on December 8, 1987, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was ratified by the United States Senate on May 27, 1988, becoming effective the following June 1st.

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Kingon said that Reagan responded so favorably that he asked his secretary to contact Marija Pavlovic. Although she tried several times, the telephone service to the village was abysmal and Reagan was unable to reach her. Finally, on December 8, Kingon was able to connect with Marija by phone and told her how much the President appreciated her letter.

Then, on Christmas Day, 1987, Marija received a picture from President Reagan with the message: “To Marija Pavlovic—with my heartfelt thanks and every good wish. God Bless You. Sincerely, Ronald Reagan.”

At the request of Ambassador Kingon, Marija wrote a similar letter for Gorbachev, informing him of Our Lady’s messages of peace from Medjugorje. Kingon added a condensed version of the events in Medjugorje into a one page letter; then, translated into Russian, they were presented to him in Moscow. Kingon stated: “There was no answer from Gorbachev, but it was indicated that he received it.”

Kingon strongly believes there is “something of great import going on” in Medjugorje, stating it was his belief that “the whole world is going to change.” Later, during a talk at the University of Notre Dame in 1992, Kingon stated: “Our Lady is now coming for all her children on Earth, in preparation for a major turning point in the affairs of men.”

One of government’s prime functions is to maintain law and order among its populace. Conflicts in religious matters such as occurred in Lourdes and Fátima between the government and the believers has always existed at the site of apparitions graced by Our Lady. This often produces anxiety on the people and, especially, the government.

This is obviously true within the Communist countries where there is always great concern about being overthrown by mob rule; hence, an outside gathering of more than a few people could be considered seditious.

In order to maintain peace with the citizens, religious freedom in Yugoslavia was permitted, albeit barely tolerated by the government. Religious gatherings were only allowed inside the church buildings; any type of public gatherings outdoors was closely monitored.

In 1948, Josip Tito, the President of Yugoslavia, managed to negotiate an unusual treaty known as the Tito-Stalin Split while still remaining allied to the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin, the Premier of the Soviet Union, honored that treaty until his death in February, 1953, but he swore he would never again allow any country with such freedoms to exist within the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.

On August 17, 1981, Fr. Jozo Zovko, the pastor of St. James’ church, was arrested. He was charged with the crime of sedition, which could carry the death penalty. The sermon he gave on July 11, 1981 about Moses, and the enthusiastic response of the people, sounded subversive to the government. He was convicted of sedition four days later and sentenced to three-and-a-half years of hard labor. Fortunately, due to public notoriety, he was released after only one-and-a-half years.

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I was fortunate to be with a small group that attended one of his rather guarded talks near Medjugorje after his release. He stated that every priest should have to endure some time in jail, claiming it humbles oneself. He also suggested that priests should spend much time in a confessional box, preferably in the heat of summer, sans air conditioning.

He was eventually sent to Austria and, in November, 2011, relocated in Croatia where he has all the faculties of a priest; however, he will not give interviews or talks in public about the apparitions or Mary’s messages in Medjugorje until the Vatican Commission has finished its work.

Politics was not confined to the government alone; it existed within the three major religions of the area: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Islam, whose representatives often went against each other. Their history is full of atrocities committed by both sides during both the Nazi and Russian occupations.

Predictably, a few days after the apparitions began, the Communist government decided to persecute the children, believing that they were anti-socialist nationalists and hostile to the Communist Party. The police took the children by force to the Mostar mental facility, to a morgue, and to various other places intended to scare the children into confessing the staging of lies to subvert the government.

At one point, the police, believing Vicka was the leader of the children and the mastermind behind the hoax, even held a gun to her head. They also proceeded to harass the parents of the children as well, taking them into custody and ordering them to forbid their children from going to the church.

Additionally, there was some friction within the Catholic hierarchy. Bishop Pavao Žanić of the Diocese of Mostar, in whose district Medjugorje is located, visited Medjugorje numerous times in 1981. He was initially sympathetic to the apparitions and, on July 25, 1981, the same day he interviewed the children, stated in a homily during Mass:

“Six simple children like these would have told all in half an hour if anybody had been manipulating them. I assure you that none of the priests has done any such thing. The accusation is insulting and must be firmly rejected. Furthermore, I am convinced the children are not lying. They are saying what they most profoundly believe. “One thing is certain; something has stirred in people’s hearts. Confession, prayer, reconciliation between enemies: that is a most positive step forward.”

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Due to his positive stance about the apparitions, Žanić was then summoned to Sarajevo by the Communist State Police. During the interrogation about his involvement in Medjugorje, they threatened him with imprisonment – just as they did to Fr. Jozo – if he did not stop supporting the apparitions. Realizing the seriousness of this new dilemma, Žanić decided his own parish priests should resume control of the churches; hopefully, this would satisfy all parties involved.

So the bishop then told the Franciscans to vacate the premises as they were no longer needed! Yet, consider the residents’ reactions. The Franciscans were greatly favored by the local population because they remained living with the people – serving them during both the Nazi and Russian occupations – whereas the parish priests vacated the area.

As a result two of the younger Franciscan priests, Fr. Ivica Vego and Fr. Ivan Prusina – finding themselves in a quandary – visited Medjugorje in early 1982. The local townspeople were sympathetic to the two priests and without thinking of the consequences encouraged them to approach the children to ask Our Lady for counsel.

Apparently the Lady instructed them to relay the following message: “The Gospa [Our Lady] wants it said to the bishop that he has made a premature decision. Let him reflect again, and listen well to both parties. He must be just and patient. She says that both priests are not guilty.” Once Žanić was informed of this he decided to rule unfavorably against the apparitions.

Žanić stated: “Our Lady could never disagree with what the bishop said!” According to the bishop, Our Lady basically said: “Perhaps the bishop was hasty [harsh] in his decision!”
As a result of Our Lady’s response, and the earlier threats by the police in Sarajevo, Bishop Žanić developed a negative judgment about the veracity of Our Lady’s appearances in Medjugorje. Thereafter, he concluded the apparitions had to be fraudulent, possibly a political move fostered by the Franciscans in order to remain in the parishes.

So, now, in the very place chosen by Our Lady to bring peace to the world – especially behind the iron curtain – a battle festered between certain elements within the Church. When Fr. Rene Laurentin, asked the bishop why he decided on this course of action, the bishop told him that this Lady “has been speaking against the bishop.”

Writing to bishop Žanić in 1984, Fr. Laurentin asked him why he willfully ignored the results of the scientific experiments performed on the children, which proved that they were neither hallucinating nor pathological.

Žanić responded: “The word hallucination is too flattering for what goes on in that apparition room. There are witnesses to testify that there are no ecstasies, no hallucinations, but simply parrot-like performances of a comic show. Therefore, I declare the word ‘hallucination’ too generous a description for such wicked play-acting. It will all blow up in your face sooner or later and, then, your precious encephalograms and cardiograms, and all your scientific apparatus will sink without trace.”

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After reading Bishop Žanić’s December, 1984 unofficial decree, Hans Cardinal Urs von Balthasar responded with the following: “My Lord, what a sorry document you have sent throughout the world! I have been deeply pained to see the episcopal office degraded in this manner. Instead of biding your time, as you were recommended to do by higher authority, you fulminate and hurl thunderbolts like Jupiter. While you denigrate renowned people who are innocent, deserving of your respect and protection, you bring out accusations that have been refuted a hundred times over.”

Later, in 1986, Bishop Žanić submitted a negative decision to Cardinal Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith. However, instead of accepting the negative decision of the bishop, Cardinal Ratzinger dissolved the bishop’s Commission. He then convened a new Commission of all the Yugoslavian Bishops in the region.

Eventually, the standoff became so intolerable that the Vatican took the matter completely out of the hands of the local ordinary and asked the bishop to refrain from making any future public statements about the matter.

According to Bishop Žanić, in 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger told him forth-right: “No, you are going to dissolve your diocesan commission. The verdict is transferred to the Bishops Conference.”

On April 10, 1991, the Yugoslavian Episcopal Conference made a declaration regarding Medjugorje. Known as the Declaration of the ex-Yugoslavian Bishops Conference, the bishops therein stated the following: “There is no proof that the events in Medjugorje are supernatural.” Importantly, however, they concluded that pilgrims can go to Medjugorje, and they are to be tended to in a pastoral manner.

The Yugoslavian Bishops Conference voted to classify Medjugorje in one of three ways; 1) certain of supernatural origin, 2) not yet certain of supernatural origin, 3) certain of no supernatural origin. The conference rejected the 3rd classification by a vote of 19 to 1, and after much deliberation between the 1st and 2nd classification, decided that Medjugorje cannot yet be confirmed supernatural, but also expresses its favorability to the apparitions.

“We, the bishops, after three years of examination by the Commission, have declared Medjugorje a place of prayer and a Marian sanctuary. This means that we are not opposed to people coming on pilgrimage to Medjugorje to venerate the Mother of God there, in conformity with the teaching and faith of the universal Church. As to the supernaturalism of the apparitions, we have declared: ‘Up to this moment, we cannot affirm it. We leave it for later. The Church is not in a hurry.’”

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In 1991, the new bishop, Peric, voiced his disagreement with the progress of the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference, stating; “My conviction and my position is not only ‘non constat de supernaturalitate’, but likewise, ‘constat de non supernaturalitate’ of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje.”

Cardinal Ratzinger [later, Pope Benedict XVI], prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, quoted the Yugoslavian Bishops as stating the following; “We want to be concerned that this place, which has become a place of prayer and faith, remain and come to be even more in the most interior unity with the entire Church.”

On July 20, 1992, in the midst of the Bosnian war, Pope John Paul II welcomed Fr. Jozo to the Vatican. He told him: “Busy yourself with Medjugorje, look after Medjugorje, don`t tire. Persevere, be strong, I am with you; protect Medjugorje! Protect Our Lady’s messages!”

Finally, in 1993, Bishop Peric, the successor to Bishop Žanić, conceded to the findings of the Yugoslavian bishop’s conference, stating: “Medjugorje is officially accepted as a place of prayer and pilgrimage.”

Interestingly, in that same year, the two Franciscan priests who were unjustly expelled from the order in 1981 received a complete vindication from Rome. After the case was elevated to the Apostolic Signatura, the Tribunal responded definitively by declaring that Bishop Žanić’s expulsion and laicization of those priests was hereby revoked. Both priests were then permitted to return to their community in good standing. Unfortunately, Ivica Vego was unable to continue his vocation as a priest for he had married in the interim.

In 1996, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a Vatican spokesman, was asked about people going to Medjugorje: “Has the Vatican said no?” He an-swered: “No. You cannot say people cannot go there until it has been proven false. This has not been said, so anyone can go if they want. When Catholic faithful go anywhere, they are entitled to spiritual care, so the Church does not forbid priests to accompany lay-organized trips to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

In 1998, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded in a letter of inquiry from Bishop Gilbert Aubry on the status of Medjugorje. He reiterates the Church’s position by stating:
   1) he defers all authority to the 1991 Bishop’s Conference;
   2) the bishop’s opinion is merely his own opinion, and should   not be considered the judgment of the Church;
   3) private pilgrimages are permitted “so long as they are not regarded as an authentication of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.”

On August 24, 2002, Pope John Paul II sent a letter of thanks to Fr. Jozo, “I grant from the heart a particular blessing to Father Jozo Zovko, OFM, and I invoke a new outpouring of graces and heavenly favors, and the continuous protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

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In the same year, the Pope elevated Sister Emmanuel’s community to full recognition. She is the same woman who Bishop Žanić condemned and said that as she was not a nun, that she had no right to call herself, Sister.

By July, 2006, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, of Bosnia and Herzegovina, announced that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican was establishing a Commission to carefully study the events in Medjugorje. In 2008, Cardinal Bertone of the Congregation of the Defense of the Faith wrote: “Bishop Peric’s statement expresses a personal opinion of his own. It is not a definitive official judgment on the part of the Church.”

The Church defers to the Zadar statement [previously] issued on April 10, 1991 by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia. The statement leaves the door open to further investigations of the affair. So the process of verification needs to move forward.

On April 13, 2010, the Holy See formed a new Commission to investigate the alleged apparitions in Medjugorje. The stated objective of this Commission is principally of a technical matter; to disseminate and publicize the details of the 1991 Yugoslavian Bishops Conference which, as we have also seen, had a positive view of the events.

On January, 20, 2014, the Holy See announced that the commission charged with investigating the alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje has completed its task, and will be submitting its findings to the Vatican’s doctrine office.

Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirmed on January, the 18th, that the international commission investigating the supposed apparitions had held its final meeting the prior day, and will submit its final report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, emeritus vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, the commission was created by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2010, and was composed of an international panel of bishops, cardinals, theologians, and various experts who have undertaken a detailed study of the reports of the reported Marian apparitions. The commissions were established to further investigate “certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje.”

The Vatican commission completed its investigation of Medjugorje in 2014 and submitted its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The judgment awaits final approval from Pope Francis.

It is my understanding this is the first time that the Church has undertaken such a step. It would obviously appear they are quite open to the events and waiting to see what transpires. The Church is in no hurry to prematurely dismiss what may well turn out to be the greatest apparitions of Our Lady in the history of mankind!

Yet, in fairness to Bishop Žanić, it must be understood that he has a genuine love for Our Lady and, at the same time, was trying to resolve the conflicts he had with the Franciscan priests and the children in Medjugorje. He is convinced he is going about it in the correct manner, yet, without all the facts, one cannot fault him for his approach in an attempt to clarify the matter. Actually, there are several contentious facts regarding what was said.

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Now, I am well aware that the phrase noted earlier “…to sneak a smoke” may appear to be an odd way to begin the description of any apparition; yet, it has a sense of reality to which we aren’t often privy.

I included Milka’s words: “…to sneak a smoke” because this incident would cause some concern during the later investigation of the validity of the apparitions. This was definitely confirmed during a transcript of the tape the local bishop eventually released. It stated: “The first one was Mirjana: ‘We went to look for our sheep when at once…’

The associate pastor in the parish interrupted and told me [Žanić] that they actually went out to smoke, which they hid from their parents. ‘Wait a minute, Mirjana, you’re under oath. Did you go out to look for your sheep?’ She put her hand over her mouth and added: ‘Forgive me, we went out to smoke.’”

Not all those chosen by Our Lady lead saintly lives; after all, people are human and human beings make mistakes. Additionally, one must remember that not everything a visionary says is the absolute truth. They are quite normal people, often subject to misunderstanding and error in their remembrance of everything that transpired. There are times when the meanings of the words are lost: there could be a faulty translation and this may occur in a relatively short period of time.

We must also differentiate between the words of Our Lady and personal words of the seers. It is better to give credence to Mary’s messages than personal ones. Regardless, some individuals just cannot bring themselves to believe in apparitions, even those of Our Lady of Lourdes; yet, the Church considers Bernadette’s behavior to be the ideal in attempting to ascertain the veracity of other apparitions.

Unfortunately, ideals are not always the rule and we shall always have the skeptics among us. One should not easily discount that which Our Lady is telling us. If Mary is truly appearing there, no action by any of the detractors will change the eventual outcome.

This is not the first time we have been warned about our present day predicament. Our Lady will not rest until her message is made known throughout the world. She said to Ivanka: “No pain, no suffering is too great in order for my messages to reach each one of you.”

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Meanwhile, inasmuch as none of the messages in Medjugorje are contrary to Church teaching, we would do well to continue to listen to them and act accordingly. Surely, if these truly constitute Our Lady’s last appearance on Earth, then, we should take an extraordinary amount of time to hear her out.

There may well be no alternatives after this! And regardless of the final outcome of the events in Medjugorje, whether it is approved or condemned, one must realize it would have little effect on the mission Mary is pursuing. One of the reasons Mary is taking so much time is to remind the faithful, and especially those who do not believe, what they must do in order to obtain eternal life in Heaven. Mary stated quite clearly that “…those in Heaven know they have earned it.”

St. Paul, strongly advises us, “…I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27). How, then, can anyone assume they are saved until the final chapter of their life has played out on this Earth?

Mother Teresa stated: “I am grateful to Our Lady of Medjugorje. I know that many people go there and are converted. I thank God for leading us during these times this way.”

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“Dear children, you know that for your sake I have remained a long time so I might teach you how to make progress on the way of holiness. Therefore, dear children, pray without ceasing and live the messages which I am giving you for I am doing it with great love toward God and toward you. Thank you for having responded to my call.” – January 1, 1987

“Dear children, I want you to comprehend that God has chosen each one of you, in order to use you in His great plan for the salvation of mankind. You are not able to comprehend how great your role is in God’s design. Therefore, dear children, pray, so that in prayer you may be able to comprehend what God’s plan is in your regard. I am with you in order that you may be able to bring it about in all its fullness.“ – January 25, 1987

“Dear children, Satan is very strong and, therefore, I ask you to dedicate your prayers to me so that those who are under his influence can be saved. Give witness by your life. Sacrifice your lives for the salvation of the world. I am with you, and I am grateful to you, but in Heaven you will receive the Father’s reward which He has promised to you.

“Therefore, dear children, do not be afraid. If you pray, Satan cannot injure you even a little bit because you are God’s children and He is watching over you. Pray and let the rosary always be in your hand as a sign to Satan that you belong to me. Thank you for having responded to my call.” – February 25, 1988

“Dear children! Today I invite you to become missionaries of my messages, which I am giving here through this place that is dear to me. God has allowed me to stay this long with you and therefore, little children, I invite you to live with love the messages I give and to transmit them to the whole world, so that a river of love flows to people who are full of hatred and without peace. I invite you, little children, to become peace where there is no peace and light where there is darkness, so that each heart accepts the light and the way of salvation.” – February 25, 1995

“Comprehend, little children, that you are today the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.” – October 25, 1996

“Dear children! Today I call you to be my extended hands in this world that puts God in the last place. You, little children, put God in the first place in your life. God will bless you and give you strength to witness Him, the God of love and peace. I am with you and intercede for all of you. Little children, do not forget that I love you with a tender love.” – February 25, 2005

“Dear children, as a mother, I am joyful to be among you because I desire to speak anew about the words of my Son and of His love. I hope that you will accept me with the heart, because the words of my Son and His love are the only light and hope in the darkness of today. This is the only truth and you who will accept and live it will have pure and humble hearts. My Son loves those who are pure and humble. Pure and humble hearts bring to life the words of my Son, they live them, they spread them and they make it possible for everyone to hear them. The words of my Son bring back life to those who listen to them. The words of my Son bring back love and hope. Therefore, my beloved apostles, my children, live the words of my Son. Love each other as He loved you. Love each other in His name, in memory of Him. The Church is advancing and growing because of those who listen to the words of my Son; because of those who love; because of those who suffer and endure in silence and in the hope of final redemption. Therefore, my beloved children, may the words of my Son and His love be the first and the last thought of your day. Thank you.” – January 02, 2016

Epilogue, Medjugorje

Sr. Lúcia, the one survivor of the apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, wrote several books describing the events in great detail. In a similar manner, Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo – one of the visionaries from Medjugorje – wrote a superb book about her experiences that began on June 24, 1981, and are ongoing.

MY HEART WILL TRIUMPH is the story of Medjugorje as seen through Mirjana’s own eyes: the same eyes that, according to her testimony, gaze upon the most revered woman in history. Published on August 15, 2016, the Feast of the Assumption, it delves into both the exquisite pleasure and the extreme difficulties she encountered during the thirty-five years since the events in Medjugorje began.

Mirjana was only 16 years old when she and five other children saw a mysterious young woman on Mt. Podbrdo, a remote hillside in the village of Medjugorje, a small village in Yugoslavia. The lady, who possessed a beauty and grace that seemed to come from beyond, identified herself as the Virgin Mary. 1

The apparitions that began on that late afternoon would dramatically change Mirjana’s life and the lives of countless people around the world. The apparitions have continued for over 35 years and millions of pilgrims still travel to Medjugorje every year. Her claims, however, contradicted the atheistic ideologies of the Communist government and, at only sixteen years of age, she was branded an enemy of the state! Although they persecuted her severely, she never denied what she saw.

The messages given by Mary are a call for mankind to return to God. Mirjana said the Virgin has entrusted her with ten secrets that she will reveal to the world in her lifetime, secrets that foretell the future of the world. She hints at a timeline: “At this moment we are living in a time of grace; after this will come the time of the secrets, and the time of her triumph!”

No series of apparitions have continued as long as those in Medjugorje, nor have so many prophetic secrets been given. She implores people not to ignore “the signs of the time.” It is obvious that Our Lady truly wishes to help us while, at the same time, she implies that the remaining time is short: “I have come to call the world to conversion for the last time!” The Virgin then told Mirjana, “Later, I will never again appear on Earth in this way.”

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1- My Heart Will Triumph by Dragicevic-Soldo, Mirjana, Cocoa, Fl, CatholicShop Publishing, 2016

 

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1 – Thus ends the description of the first nine days of Our Lady’s appearances in Medjugorje. – courtesy of www. medjugorje.org.

Appearances of the Mother of God and salvation of mankind