Medjugorje: towards recognition
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN APPARITIONS
Medjugorje: towards recognition
ON February 21, 2020, the newspaper La Croix published an article with a disturbing headline: Medjugorje, a Vatican Commission Is Reported to Have Recognised the Apparitions. The author, Nicolas Senèze, indicated that “a report submitted to the Pope in 2014, and which has remained secret since then, suggested that the first seven apparitions of Medjugorje be recognised, while remaining very reserved about the phenomena that are purported to have occurred there afterwards.” The journalist draws this information from a book by the Italian journalist Saverio Gaeta which the Italian publisher San Paolo has just brought out under the title The Medjugorje Dossier. It is said to give an account of the report of the commission formed in 2010 by Benedict XVI, chaired by Cardinal Ruini, on the supernatural character of the Medjugorje apparitions. The Holy See, however, does not wish to confirm or deny to La Croix the authenticity of this Medjugorje Dossier.
Four days later, on February 25, Anita Bourdin of the Zenith agency alerted her readers that the publication of The Medjugorje Dossier “raises some questions that call for caution: the document [the Ruini Report] is not officially published by the Vatican.”
So why does the Vatican remain silent? It has not published the report, but it does not condemn the publication of the The Medjugorje Dossier. Why this apparently contradictory double attitude? Is it prudence, fear or manoeuvre on the part of the Holy See? Our opinion is that the Holy See is preparing a recognition of some of the Medjugorje apparitions.
Basing ourselves mainly on the long investigation carried out by Brother Michael of the Holy Trinity and published (in its French edition only) in 1991 under the title Medjugorje en toute vérité [Medjugorje: the Whole truth] and on the numerous statements by Bishop Ratko Peric, of Mostar, we will demonstrate that all the apparitions of Medjugorje are diabolical, that the bishops of Mostar, with full knowledge of the facts, never wanted to recognise them, but that Rome, playing a double game, is making the supporters of Medjugorje triumph, allowing the devil to prevail at the same time.
Let us make a short journey in a world dominated by heresy and lies, but which will collapse at the hour of the triumph of the Immaculate.
The visionaries are two boys and four girls “neither better nor worse than others,” they say of themselves. Five of them were born in Bijakovici, one of the four hamlets of the municipality of Medjugorje, a large town of 3,400 inhabitants located about 30 km southwest of Mostar in the province of Herzegovina.
In 1981 when the first apparition took place, Jakov Colo, aged ten, was still a child (1971). The other five visionaries were teenagers: Vicka Ivankovic, the eldest, was almost seventeen (1964), Mirjana Dragicevic, Marija Pavlovic and Ivan Dragicevic were sixteen (1965), Ivanka Ivankovic was just fifteen (1966). Mirjana lived in Sarajevo with her parents, attended a high school there, but came on holidays to Bijakovici. Vicka, Marija and Ivanka were doing vocational training in Mostar. They dressed in fashionable jeans, they went out with boys and they smoked. Ivanka already had a boyfriend.
These teenagers come from modest families. The parents are farmers, technicians or workers. Some fathers had emigrated to Germany to find work. The visionaries have bonds of kinship, friendship or neighbourhood ties. Vicka, Mirjana and Ivanka are close friends.
Medjugorje is located in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a state on the Balkan Peninsula in South-East Europe. Its capital is Sarajevo. At the time of the apparitions and until 1992, this country was one of the republics of communist Yugoslavia. The region of Medjugorje with its Croatian population, is a bastion of traditional Catholicism. Religious practice there is still intense. None of the future visionaries, however, were remarked for his piety. Father Jozo Zovko, who had been the parish priest for six months at the time of the apparitions, said that he did not know them.
THE FIRST TEN APPARITIONS
To date, the visionaries of Medjugorje have received more than 50,000 apparitions. Impossible, useless to study each one of them! We will dwell on the most acceptable of them, the first ten, because they are the most misleading. By unmasking them, Medjugorje’s entire credibility will be undermined.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 1981: FIRST APPARITION.
It was Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a feast day. Vicka told Father Yanko Bubalo who wrote down her testimony in 1984 that she did not go to Mass that day because she had to go to an extra mathematics class in Mostar and then planned to go for a walk with her two friends Mirjana and Ivanka. When she got home, however, Vicka fell asleep and Mirjana and Ivanka went for a walk alone. They took the road to Podbrdo, a place at the foot of Crnica hill. Its 300 metres above sea level summit dominates Medjugorje. They went there to smoke in secret.
In the days following the apparitions, when questioned, the visionaries did not want to say that they had gone to smoke. They preferred to lie, saying that they had gone “to round up the sheep” or “to pick flowers.” First lie. The bishop reproached them for it. Not for smoking, but for lying! They had to admit it to the bishop, however, on the following July 25, under the pressure of the oath. In his Posizione of October 30, 1984, Bishop Zanic wrote: “From the very beginning there were certain things that savoured of lying. For example, the motives that had led the children to go to Podbrdo.”
At the end of their walk, as the two girls returned towards the village, Ivanka turned her head mechanically towards the hill and saw something shining. “I saw the Gospa’s silhouette,” Ivanka said. (Gospa is the Croatian word for the Virgin. From now on we will use it to clearly distinguish this apparition from the Immaculate). Ivanka said this to Mirjana, who did not believe it and did not even look at it. They continued on their way, picked up Marija’s little sister, Milka, and her flock of sheep, returned together to Podbrdo and saw the Gospa again in the same place. They fall to their knees.
Then Vicka arrived and saw the three girls staring at something. “They looked frightened,” Vicka said. “What’s going on? A snake?” “No, it’s not a snake, it’s the Gospa.” Vicka came running, but she was so frightened by the sight of the apparition that she took off her shoes and ran away. “I took off my shoes and ran away barefoot like a madwoman. When I got close to the village, I burst into tears, irresistibly.”
Yet she went back. On the way she met Ivan Dragicevic and Ivan Ivancovic and asked the former to accompany her because she was afraid. On the spot, both of them saw the Gospa and were frightened. Vicka related: “Ivan ran away immediately by climbing a fence. He dropped the apples and everything he had.”
It was 6:30 p.m., it was raining a little and dark. “I saw her really white. I saw her dress, her black hair. She was wearing something on her right hand that she kept covering and uncovering, but I couldn’t see what it was.” This is understandable; they were three hundred metres away. The Gospa beckoned them to come closer with her hands, but they did not dare: “We were too afraid!” They went back to the village. They talked about it at home, and soon everyone knew about it.
Apart from the concealment of the visionaries on the motive for the walk, three curious elements, often peculiar to diabolical apparitions, should be noted. The visionaries are certain that it is the Virgin, from the outset, although they had not yet spoken to her and could not see the silhouette clearly. “It was as though someone were saying to me: ‘It’s the Gospa!’ I was sure it was the Gospa.” They felt reverential awe, but above all they felt fright. They all testified to this. “On the first day we all screamed and made faces,” Vicka confessed. Marija said she was still so scared in the evening that her hands were very cold, as cold as ice. Then Vicka sobbed. These sobs are not caused by fear or pity, but by the vision itself. This is a phenomenon frequently found in Pentecostal groups during sermons or at the time of the outpouring of the spirit. According to exorcists these sobs are often the first indication of demonisation.
THURSDAY JUNE 25: SECOND APPARITION.
The three girls, Vicka, Mirjana and Ivanka, agreed to return to see the Gospa. How did they know that she would come back since she had not told them anything? Anyway, they went back in the evening and people followed them.
The phenomenon was repeated on the hill of Podbrdo: “Suddenly a light shone out. The Gospa was there.” Vicka ran away and fetched Marija and Jakov, who came running.
What about Ivan, was he there? Vicka said he was present. Father Kraljevic wrote: “Later on,’ the Gospa asked “to celebrate the anniversary of the first apparition, not on the 24th, a day of fear, uncertainty and confusion, but on that second day when all six of them saw her together, spoke with her and prayed in peace.” This is a lie! During the interrogation of June 27, Ivan claimed three times that he was not present that second evening, and no visionary at that time reported his presence.
The Gospa beckoned them to climb the hill. According to Vicka, a miracle took place. They started running “as if we had wings (...). There is no path there. We ran straight up through the brambles (...). We couldn’t feel the stones, the brambles, nothing! It was as if the ground were covered with a sponge or rubber (...). I was afraid. I was also barefoot, but no thorns hurt me, nothing. When we arrived about two metres from the Gospa, we felt grasped and brought to our knees.” Jakov even knelt in a thorny bush without being hurt.
This version from 1984 is quite different from the one given three years earlier by the visionaries to Father Zovko, their parish priest, on June 27 and 28, 1981. The ascent was difficult. They got lost in the rocks and the people from below shouted to them where to go: “To the left! To the left!” for they themselves seemed to see something, until the visionaries, mysteriously guided by something, went straight up and suddenly stopped at the same place. Jakov pointed out that on the way up they had all bled, of course, but that none of them cared.
The Gospa stood among the brambles from which a swallow flew. Faced with the apparition, the girls fainted and felt great fear, as they had the day before. The Gospa had a very long dress that hid her feet. “She is beautiful like an actress,” said Jakov. She was in her twenties. Her eyes are blue. She was crowned with stars. She did not have a rosary, but spread her hands over the visionaries.
In spite of the fear, the visionaries took astonishing liberalities: “We touched the Gospa, we kissed her and she laughed,” Vicka said. These facts, attested during the second apparition, will be repeated often. They have been rigorously established by the transcripts of tape recordings that Father Ivo Sivric, a Franciscan native of Medjugorje made available to the general public in 1988 in his book The Hidden Face of Medjugorje. Fathers Kraljevic, Ljubic and Bubalo, however, deleted these facts in their source books. Father Laurentin, who quickly became the authority on the subject, mentions them only once in one of his fifteen books on the subject. It is understandable! The touching, the continual kissing, the laughter of the Gospa... such embarrassing and vulgar behaviour is unworthy of the Virgin Mary. “When you touch,” Ivanka said, “it resists like metal.”
The teenagers asked for a miraculous sign in order to be believed. The Gospa smiled. Then Mirjana looked at her watch and saw that the hands had turned. They no longer indicated the exact time. The visionaries said that this sudden change in the watch was a sign from the Gospa. The fact, however, is so inconclusive that Laurentin would long omit to relate it and the visionaries asked for another sign during the following apparition.
The Gospa left. The visionaries came back down, troubled; some of them were crying. Several villagers were waiting at the foot of the hill. Mirjana’s grandmother did not believe: “How can the Gospa appear to you if you don’t avoid the company of boys?” Mirjana answered insolently: “The Gospa does not intend to make us sanctimonious hypocrites.”
Marinko, a neighbour, a mechanic, decided to report to the Franciscans in charge of the parish. As the parish priest was away for several days, Father Zrinko received him: “Marinko, let those who want to see this free to see it, and those who don’t want to see it free not see it.” “His reply discouraged me,” Marinko said, “he acted as if he wasn’t interested in knowing if the Gospa was with us.” The attitude of this negligent Franciscan is surprising. He should have collected the testimonies of the visionaries and the villagers so that he could confront them with later statements. This was a deficiency.
FRIDAY, JUNE 26: THIRD APPARITION.
This is the most important: the Gospa revealed her message. She manifested herself with a bright ray of light that illuminated the village and the surrounding area three times. Then she appeared around 6 p.m., once again on the hill, but three hundred metres higher than the previous times. There were 2,000 to 3,000 people. The visionaries went up and flew like birds again. The crowd followed behind. Vicka had holy water, given to her by her mother: “If it is not good, the holy water will chase it away.”
When the apparition appeared, Vicka vigorously sprinkled it. In the interrogations of June 1981, Ivanka claims that the Gospa remained. In 1984, however, when questioned by Father Bubalo, Vicka replied that the Gospa “had disappeared. We began to pray and she came back.” In the first interrogations, no visionary mentioned a smile or any sign of the Gospa’s contentment after the sprinkling. Kraljevic writes: “The visionaries would say later that the Gospa smiled beautifully at them after they had tested her.” The visionaries have continually contradicted themselves!
Marinko was close by and noted all the reactions of the visionaries in a diary that was entrusted to the Church: “Ivanka, Mirjana and Vicka fainted several times. Then, to revive them, they had to be pulled out of the crowd.”
Having come round, the visionaries began to pray. They said seven Pater, seven Hail Marys and seven Glorias as is the custom there: “This had been recommended to us by our grandmother. And a Creed.” Mirjana’s testimony of June 27 clearly indicates that the visionaries themselves took the initiative in reciting the prayers. On June 30, Ivanka told Father Zovko that the Gospa had in no way indicated to them the prayers they should say. Later on, the visionaries would say the opposite: it was the Gospa who recommended them to say this and that prayer.
The visionaries were urged to ask for a sign. The Gospa equivocated and only answered that she would return the next day and then disappeared. The visionaries fainted again immediately after the end of the apparition. Then they went back down to the village.
Vicka told Father Bubalo: “Marija, who always walks fast, outdistanced us a bit... All of a sudden she found herself beside the path, as if she had been pushed by someone... And there the Gospa appeared to her, alone, with a large cross.” Marinko adds: “According to her own account, Marija saw a cross made up of different colours like a rainbow, without a body on it. The Gospa stood in front of it, in tears, and first asked: “Where are the other girls?” Then she repeated: “Peace, peace, peace, be reconciled!” Her last words were again: “Go in the peace of God!” “Marija was so scared,” Vicka said, “that she could no longer stand on her own two feet.” She had to be supported.
This is the essence of the message of Medjugorje. The fifteen interviews of the visionaries from June 27 to 30 published by Father Sivric do not mention any other words of the Gospa to complete this message, which was later considered too banal.
The parish priest, Father Zovko, was still absent from the presbytery, but the assistant priest, Father Cuvalo, was there. The idea to go see the visionaries to question them did not occur to him. He made light of the whole matter. It was a further day lost for an interrogation. In the evening, four priests arrived at the presbytery, including Father Ivica, secretary to Bishop Zanic of Mostar, who wished to visit the visionaries. Father Cuvalo was unable to fill them in! However, this visit encouraged the assistant priest to do his work.
SATURDAY, JUNE 27: FOURTH APPARITION.
The next day, he decided to summon Vicka, Ivanka and Marija to the presbytery for interrogations which he recorded in part. Ivan would be interrogated in the afternoon. The visionaries specified that they went to catechism, but irregularly and often when there were films. In the evening, did they pray more? Yes, but they incidentally said that they do not have rosaries and do not know how to recite it. Father Cuvalo gave one to each of them. So they did not have rosaries during the first apparitions and the Gospa did not tell them to recite it. Besides, the Gospa did not have a rosary either.
Father Zovko returned that same day and was surprised by the presence of crowds in the streets. His assistant priest had him listen to the recordings and the priest summoned the visionaries. This new conversation was also recorded and kept. On the tape we hear Father Zovko very relaxed, familiar and laughing several times with the visionaries. What a difference in attitude with that of Father Peyramale (the parish priest of Lourdes) a century earlier! The parish priest decided that at the next apparition two Franciscans would go to the hill with a camera and tape recorder.
In the evening, the visionaries returned to the hill, except Ivan. When questioned the next day, Ivan made no mention of having received an apparition apart from the others, but later he claimed to have had one. Yet another contradiction. The crowd of thousands of people accompanied the five remaining visionaries who decide to split into two groups: Marija and Jakov waited at the bottom of the hill, and the others went directly to the place where the Gospa had already appeared. “Why two groups?” Father Cuvalo asked later. “We thought that perhaps the Gospa would not appear to us (...). We tested her,” replied Marija. “Why this doubt?” continued Father Cuvalo, “Didn’t she say she would come?” Marija’s embarrassment clearly reveals that the Gospa had said nothing to the visionaries, not knowing herself whether she would reappear, or where, at the foot, at the top or half way up the hill. The Gospa’s astonishing ignorance of future events will be seen several times during the apparitions.
The visionaries and the crowd were uncertain about where to go. All of a sudden Marija saw something on the hill and started to climb as fast as she could, “like a wild boar,” Marinko said. “She was literally flying,” added Father Kosir, a witness. She stopped twenty metres further than the usual place of apparitions, when the Gospa disappeared. Jakov who was following behind arrived with a few witnesses. The other visionaries who had gone to the first place of the apparitions and who did not know where Marija were told, because the large crowd, who did not know where to go, prevented them from seeing one another. Finally, everyone gathered around Marija and prayed. Then the Gospa reappeared. Among the crowd, “everyone was trying to be as close as possible, to see, to touch. The visionaries saw that people were trampling on the Gospa’s veil.” They begged them to back away from the vision, too late, the Gospa had disappeared... and then came back a third time. But a boy stepped on the veil and the Gospa disappeared again. A few men decided to set up a security cordon.
The Gospa’s extravagant game of hide-and-seek was related by Father Kraljevic, a supporter of the apparitions, without batting an eyelid.
A visionary then asked the Gospa to appear to the crowd so that all may believe. She answered that those who believe without seeing are blessed.
What’s her name? “I am the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Once again she was asked if she could leave a sign. On hearing this question, “she left without taking leave of us," said Vicka. The visionaries waited, but the Gospa did not return.
Then, on the way back, the Gospa was purported to have appeared to them again. At least, this is what Father Kraljevic related, but Father Laurentin did not speak about it in Medjugorje, Account and Messages of the Apparitions (1986). The Gospa supposedly said to the visionaries: “You are my angels, my beloved angels. Go in the peace of God.” She also supposedly promised to return the next day.
What a disturbing impression this day leaves! Lack of seriousness, confusions, contradictions of testimonies, lies, the Gospa’s grotesque attitude. Is this not sufficient to conclude that the Gospa is not from Heaven?!
SUNDAY, JUNE 28: FIFTH APPARITION.
All the visionaries are at the 8:30 a.m. High Mass. “After Mass,” Vicka testified, “Brother Jozo invited us to the presbytery, and he questioned us at length, each in turn. We were really fed up... He went on endlessly about the fourth apparition.” Mirjana related: “It seemed strange to me that I had seen the Gospa, but it was so pleasant.”
In the afternoon, while the parish priest prayed in the church and has his parishioners recited the rosary for light to be shed on the apparitions, a crowd of 15,000 people climbed the mountain. Kozina, a villager, took his tape recorder to record the words of the visionaries during the apparition.
The Gospa appeared at 6:30 p.m. Here are some of the eight remarks that the Gospa said that day. “Dear Gospa, why don’t you appear in the church so that everyone can see you?” “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” “Dear Gospa, do you prefer to be prayed to or sung to?” “Do both. Pray and sing.” “Dear Gospa, what do you want for this crowd that has gathered here?” “Let them believe as though they had seen.” She looked at the crowd, smiled and disappeared. The visionaries exclaimed: “She is disappearing, she has gone!” They prayed; the Gospa reappeared. “Dear Gospa, will you leave us a sign on earth to convince all these people that we are not liars?” “Go in the peace of God.” Immediately she went away without adding anything to this bland dialogue. The apparition lasted ten minutes.
In the evening, at about 8.30 p.m., Father Zovko questioned the visionaries again. Several things upset him deeply. The visionaries do not seem to be aware of them. Mirjana and Ivanka were dressed very badly.
Their attitude was not in keeping with that of humble and obedient children. The visionaries answered the priest; they were arrogant, sarcastic. The transcripts of the interviews should be read in their original sauciness. Ivanka, caught out by a question, started laughing in front of the priest and said insolently: “Ok! Go ahead! Keep talking!” If the Gospa really appeared to her, she would look very different, exclaimed the Franciscan. While Ivan was being interrogated alone, the other visionaries waiting outside, becoming impatient, did not hesitate to make it known. They knocked on the door, entered noisily without permission and interrupted the interview. They had to be severely rebuffed.
They were no more pious or mortified than before. “This is my problem,” Father Zovko replied to Ivanka, “if you haven’t made a special prayer, if you haven’t thanked God, it bothers me terribly. In fact, it sometimes happens that the Devil says things... that he claims: I am Jesus. I am the Gospa, in order to deceive people.” He was surprised that the Gospa did not invite people to say the Rosary or to fast. From 1988 onwards, Father Laurentin claimed that the Gospa had been saying since June 26: “You must believe, pray, fast...” The transcripts of the first interrogations, however, say nothing of the sort. The visionaries did not attribute to the Gospa any message concerning fasting until “the end of August 1981,” as Laurentin himself affirmed in his books published between 1984 and 1987. Even then, this late mention, without any precise date or source, is debatable. Vicka did not mention it in her diary at that date.
Another subject that gives cause for concern is that, without having submitted their judgement to ecclesiastical authority in any way, the visionaries categorically affirmed the identity of the apparition: it is the Blessed Virgin, because the Gospa said so. “But aren’t you afraid that perhaps Satan might claim this?” the Franciscan objected. Mirjana absolutely rejected this possibility: they sprinkled holy water on her.
More than anything else, two things worried Father Zovko. Every time the visionaries asked for a sign, the Gospa disappeared. She was always powerless to provide the promised great sign. “Every time we ask the Gospa for a sign, she goes away,” Mirjana admitted. Father Zovko burst out with emotion: “It’s terrible. People are troubled, do you understand? (...) It’s becoming a very risky thing.” Vicka was particularly concerned, and even obsessed, by the Gospa’s impotence. At night she was heard shouting in her sleep: “Leave a sign!”
As well, the Gospa had nothing to say, she had no message. “The Gospa should leave you a message, communicate something to you. Otherwise, it’s only entertainment, antics, and it’s not very convincing.” No, nothing, the Gospa said nothing. It was always the visionaries who began the dialogue and asked questions. “Then there is no message!” “It’s terrible,” the parish priest kept repeating.
In reality, the priest’s dismay concealed his sympathy for the visionaries: he was in favour of the apparitions. At the same time, seeing the disconcerted crowd, ill-disposed towards the events because of the many strange facts, and racked himself with scruples and anguish, he obliged himself to do his inquisitorial work, which soon becomes managerial.
Indeed, an idea preoccupied him: we must take advantage of the opportunity, we must take charge of the events. Rather than make an objective investigation, adopt a cautious attitude and let the bishop judge the apparitions, he embarked on a crazy adventure in an attempt to correct the facts. He was still able to discern, but little by little he would select elements, ignore or reinterpret them, suggest others, in order to correct and make things supernatural. He realised that if he did not rectify it, the crowd would judge it to be demonic. That would be a pity.
His eagerness to want to direct events was obvious from the very beginning of this interrogation. Father Zovko asked Mirjana what he and the parish community should do to make the phenomenon acceptable to the crowd. In Ivanka’s presence, he formulated the idea that it would be so much better if the apparitions took place in the church. It was already with this in mind, we believe, that on that same Sunday afternoon he asked his parishioners to say the rosary and on the following July 2, he explicitly urged them to fast. The Gospa did not ask for anything of the kind, but later the supporters credited him with these acts of piety. Father Zovko was assuming an extremely serious responsibility. We will see, however, that he was driven by a powerful motive.
MONDAY, JUNE 29: SIXTH APPARITION.
That morning, the visionaries were gotten out of bed by ambulance drivers on the orders of the communist government, who took them to the psychiatric clinic in Mostar for a medical examination. They were observed, not individually, but all together by the woman doctor Mulija Dzudza. “You’re making it up, you’re drugged, you’re dressed too fashionable to really be daughters of the Virgin…” she began by telling them. She quickly released them around 2 p.m.: “The crazy people are the ones who brought you here: you are absolutely normal.”
Mirjana would later recount, in December 1982: “During the examination of Doctor Dzudza, I saw, behind the Gospa, the head of Jesus.”
Back home, they were overwhelmed with questions and were taken for further questioning by Father Tomislav Vlasic, a Franciscan, who is destined to play a decisive role in the events of Medjugorje.
In the evening, there were large crowds on the hill, but the visionaries felt that the atmosphere was deteriorating. “People were on top of each other,” Vicka said. “Some were shouting, others were crying... unbelievable!” “We heard swearing as we were waiting for the Gospa,” Mirjana added. “We also heard obscene remarks.” People had brought their tape recorders to record the apparition, but in the meantime they were listening to music.
Among the crowd was Dr. Darinka Glamuzina, probably an observer sent by the communist authorities from Citluk. She bade Ivanka to ask the Gospa “if all religions are the same.” Like the day before, Kozina is there with his tape recorder. The Gospa arrived at 6.30 p.m.
“Dear Gospa, are you going to leave us a sign?” “I will come back tomorrow.” “Dear Gospa, what do you want from these people?” “There is only one God and one faith, believe firmly.” This is the first formulation of an ecumenical message that the Gospa will develop in a much more explicit way from September onwards. “Dear Gospa, what is your wish here?” “May you have strong faith and trust in me.”
Meanwhile, Doctor Glamuzina kept bothering the visionaries. She wanted to touch the Gospa. The visionaries asked: “Can this woman touch you?” “There have always been unbelieving Judases. Let her come.” Vicka guided the doctor’s hand which touched the Gospa on her right shoulder. “It was the most convenient,” Vicka confided. The Gospa disappeared.
They prayed. The Gospa reappeared. The visionaries asked for the healing of a little crippled boy, Daniel Setka, who was impaired by “a kind of infantile paralysis.” They insisted three times before receiving an answer: “May the parents firmly believe that he will be cured.” And the Gospa disappeared. The next day, Ivanka replied to Father Zovko who insisted on knowing why the child had not been cured that the Gospa would cure him in about a year’s time. In 1983, the parents testified that there had been a gradual improvement, but no cure.
Father Vlasic, who attended the apparition, was extremely disappointed by the confusion on the hill, but, like Father Zovko, he saw how to get the most out of it. Thus, he thought it necessary to act rapidly to “direct all this towards the church, taking care to remove at the right time anything that could be negative, while supporting, strengthening and developing all that is positive,” as he told Christian Ravaz in a tape recorded report. He would soon be the parish priest of Medjugorje, spiritual director of the visionaries and the founder of the pilgrimage.
This sixth apparition marks the end of a first phase during which the priest remained complacent, while having serious concerns about the nature of the phenomena. The visionaries saw something; that is certain. They are not drug addicts or psychopaths. They were not acting. There is something really preternatural going on. So there are two possible hypotheses: either it is the Virgin Mary, or it is Satan disguised as an angel of light.
Further events would show that Father Zovko had decided in favour of the first solution. Let us repeat that his concern was not so much to know who was appearing, nor to wait for the position of the Ordinary, although all this continued to torment him, but to exploit this extraordinary event. Henceforth he had only one thing in mind: to take matters in hand, to control them, to make them acceptable and to take advantage of them.
TUESDAY, JUNE 30: SEVENTH APPARITION.
In the morning, two Franciscans from the surrounding area came to Medjugorje to interview the visionaries. Not knowing what to think of the phenomena, one of the Fathers suggested exorcising the visionaries, but Father Zovko opposed this: “Be careful not to destroy them!” No exorcism was performed.
Shortly afterwards, the parish priest resumed the interrogations and recorded those of three of the visionaries. He asked how many more days the Gospa would appear. Mirjana answered: “Two or three more days.” Father Zovko tried with great patience to win over Ivanka, Mirjana and Vicka one after the other to his plans to make the Gospa appear in the church and to integrate her into a liturgical ceremony that he would direct. Although no Medjugorje historian makes the slightest allusion to this manoeuvre, the recordings exist. The parish priest suggested that when people came down from the hill, the visionaries would be waiting for them at the bottom to bring them into the church. It would suffice to ask the Gospa to appear in the church! This extremely serious decision to invite the Gospa into the church establishes the responsibility of the parish priest. When the bishop was informed, he disapproved of it.
An unforeseen initiative, however, delayed this project. Around 3 p.m., the visionaries agreed to go for a drive with two nurses from Citluk, who probably offered it to them at the instigation of the police. The visionaries told the priest that evening that “it was to see if the Gospa would appear to them in another place.” In December 1983, Vicka no longer remembered having said this sentence. In the face of the evidence on the recording, she justified herself by this unspeakable reflection: “It’s true that we wanted to go out and unwind.” The walk was very cheerful. They stopped at a café. On the way back, they made a halt in the forest of Cerno where the Gospa appeared. After the visionaries had asked her to appear in the church, she answered “she wouldn’t be vexed” and she declared again that she would only appear for three more days, that is to say until Friday, July 3.
What an incredible day! One wonders why the Vatican wants to recognise this seventh apparition, which seems to us to provide so many incriminating elements?
Let us review the next ones more rapidly.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 1: EIGHTH APPARITION.
In the afternoon, the police arrived in the village to arrest the children. They fled through the vineyards to take refuge in the church, but the door was locked. Inside, Father Zovko was preparing to welcome the visionaries and the Gospa herself in the evening. The fugitives knocked on the door. The parish priest said that at the same moment, he heard “like a call, a special grace of revelation” that definitively enlightened him on the attitude to adopt towards the visionaries and the Gospa: “Come out and protect the children!” He hurried to open the door and led the visionaries to the presbytery in an unoccupied room. After the police had gone away, the Gospa’s first apparition took place there.
Meanwhile, pilgrims were told that a prayer service would be held in the church. At around 5 p.m., Father Cuvalo had the the crowds who had gathered recite the rosary and at 6 p.m. Mass was said.
THURSDAY, JULY 2: NINTH APPARITION.
The parishioners flocked to the church long in advance. As on the previous day, the rosary was recited at 5 p.m., followed by Mass. During the sermon, of which a recording is available, the parish priest urged the faithful to fast on bread and water for three days, to pray the rosary daily at home and to read the Bible daily as a family. Curiously enough, these are three of the five points which, according to the visionaries’ subsequent statements, are at the heart of the Gospa’s message. Meanwhile, the visionaries were in the rectory where the Gospa appeared to them. At the end of the Mass, without making any restrictions, the parish priest asked them to come to the choir of the church and testify to what they had seen. Vicka and Jakov made a public declaration as though everything had been authenticated. Absolutely overstepping his role as pastor and without worrying about his bishop’s judgement, Father Zovko concluded: “The Virgin Mary is here! Here you can address your prayers and requests to her. Here you must come to meet her!” Such haste and such infidelity in his office are, to say the least, culpable! It is clear that the parish priest was trying to force events.
FRIDAY, JULY 3: TENTH APPARITION.
According to what the Gospa said on June 30, this is the tenth and last apparition. This was the conviction that the visionaries themselves had. This was further authenticated by five witnesses, four priests and a layman, who were well identified, and who heard all the visionaries say at the end of the apparition: “This is the last apparition!” Father Laurentin did not make the slightest allusion to this statement of the visionaries. However, it can be found in Bishop Zanic’s Posizione. He was the first, and for a long time, the only one to mention it. It was confirmed by a meticulous investigation by Father Sivric in 1988.
After the apparition, the visionaries were led to the church by the priest who placed them behind the altar so that people could see and touch them. Then they prayed and Father Zovko exhorted them to conversion, to fasting and to reading the Bible. He insisted on the recitation of the rosary. The seven Pater, Ave, Gloria and the Creed were recited with the visionaries on their knees and the day ended with an original charismatic prayer for the sick, which was introduced that day.
AFTER JULY 3.
This little ritual remained unchanged for several years. When the visionaries were not there, a Franciscan Father stayed in the church to inform the pilgrims about the history of the apparitions and the Gospa’s latest message.
Despite the announcement that the apparitions had come to an end, they continued. From July 4, 1981 until January 1982, the Gospa appeared every day in the most diverse places, even when the visionaries left Medjugorje. From January 11, 1982, when the bishop set up a commission of enquiry, the apparitions took place mainly in a former storeroom opposite the sacristy, which was named the Chapel of Apparitions.
To be continued.