From March 18th to 23rd Msgr. Franziskus Eisenbach, auxiliary bishop of Mainz, visited in Medjugorje. He said the following about his impressions:
"I am here as a pilgrim. I want to get acquainted with Medjugorje and to pray in it. For years already I know about and follow Medjugorje and I also wanted to come earlier, but I waited for a sure sign for myself when to decide to visit Medjugorje. This time I was expressly invited, therefore I came.
Already my first impression is that the church is continuously full at all the masses, and especially at adoration. It is obvious that many people have understood that this is a special place of prayer. The experience of many is that their personal prayer improves and that it is supported by the experience of community prayer. I know many people who in Medjugorje have renewed their faith and have learned to pray again. And now I too have personally been able to experience how Medjugorje helps in this sense.
Another experience that for me is very important is that in Medjugorje it is not just a matter of prayer, but that prayer also brings forth fruits in the service of man, especially of man in affliction. It was especially important for me to get to know the "Mothers' Village" where mothers with children, abandoned children and orphans of war find a refuge, and everything is also connected with a large garden where encounters take place between the children of healthy families and the children of those who for various reasons have lost a normal family. I saw that abandoned children here have a chance to learn how to live. And that is very important. The community of Sr. Elvira in which those addicted to drug and other evils find a place of refuge and healing also impressed me deeply. I celebrated Holy Mass and prayed morning prayer with them. It was very nice to see with what strength they pray and how joyfully they celebrate Holy Mass. I understood that the main method of healing is the deepening of faith and the experiencing of community in prayer and work.
It was important for me to hear about the God-Parent program for children, that is, the action of helping the children of fallen defenders, in which many families from Germany cooperate helping every month with a financial contribution for the destroyed families and their children. These works of active love for the needy especially showed me that in Medjugorje it is not just a matter of the correct spirit of prayer. Love toward God that is shown in prayer has brought fruits that are recognized in the care of man.
By all means I also wanted better to understand the very phenomenon of apparitions. Therefore I made an effort at least to meet someone of those who tell about their experiences and affirm that they see Our Lady. I met one of the visionaries, spoke with her and was present at an apparition. At my first meeting with Marija in her family home I found her in the garden working in rubber boots. She is a completely normal, young woman with three children. In conversation with her I understood that she is a very alert person, knows how to ask questions and to speak of her experiences and discerns things well, sees what is good and what is not good. She invited me also to participate in prayer with her when she prepares the encounter with Our Lady, that is continuing already more than 18 years. We prayed in the chapel of her home where quite a few people were gathered for this occasion. We prayed the rosary in various languages and waited for the moment of apparition. Marija gave a brief notice that the moment of apparition was getting close and after a prayer that she led, she remained in silence. We all knew that it was the moment when she sees Our Lady. After the apparition she told us that Our Lady prayed over everyone and blessed us all. Once more she invited us to take part in a prayer. The meeting with Marija showed me that she is a completely normal, young woman, that she is standing with her two feet on the ground and that she is taking good care of her children. I saw that she has a good relationship with her family and with the pilgrims. She is simple and natural, and then again clear and understandable when she talks about her experiences. In the end I can say that she is a woman who can be believed, who is trustworthy and therefore I have no difficulty trusting in what she says, that is, that she is seeing and that it is authentic. This for me is a very important experience, because I concluded that this place of prayer rests on the experience that these young people have received like a gift and which they confidently transmit to others.
Mary is venerated in Medjugorje as the Queen of Peace. This title and all that she sees had to prepare the world for that terrible experience of war. Ten years after the first apparition war broke out in Croatia and in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Medjugorje is a place that continuously prays for peace. The message of Medjugorje for the world is clear: it has to overcome wars and conflicts by the power of love. One gets the impression that in Medjugorje the whole man is affected: heart, soul and body. Prayers and the place of prayer here take a hold of the entire person. Therefore Medjugorje, in this sense, carries a message for the whole Church: allow God and Our Lady to touch us in the totality of our human reality and let us allow Mary to bestow her love on us, and thus learn to love with our whole heart. Therefore I can say that no one needs to be afraid of Medjugorje even if it has not yet been officially approved in the Church. Here prayer is really done in a way that changes a person. Therefore multitudes of the faithful who also wish to learn to pray come here. I wish that this message and this experience be carried also to Germany because we Germans are inclined to rationalism rather than to feeling. And here it is a matter of a message for man in his entirety, something that is really necessary for everyone."
As we published in Bulletin No. 137, in February Bishop Robert Rivas was in Medjugorje for a private visit. Many pilgrims come to Medjugorje, among them more and more priests, and men and women religious. It is completely natural also that more and more bishops are coming. According to the Zadar declaration of April 1991, the bishops should accompany the events in Medjugorje in order to know where their faithful are going. We took advantage of this opportunity and spoke with Msgr. Robert Rivas, bishop of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean Islands, who spent ten days in Medjugorje. We are grateful to him for being available to share his testimony with us. Fr. Slavko Barbaric spoke with Bishop Rivas. Here is a part of that conversation:
SB: Tell us a little about yourself first?
RR:My name is Robert Rivas. I was born in Trinidad, Tobago. I entered the religious life, the Dominican order, at the age of 18. I did my noviciate and studies in Ireland. I was ordained in 1971. I was born in June 1943. After my ordination in Trinidad, I went to the Engelicum in Rome, and completed my studies there -- I received a Bacaloriate license in Theology. I went back to Ireland and studied Communications, Radio and TV production. I was very interested in that kind of work. When I returned to Trinidad, my superior told me I had been gone to long, 8 1/2 years, and that I needed to be 'inculturated' again to the local situation. I worked in three parishes over 7 years. After 5 years I was given the job of Director of Communications which I did for 2 years and then I was appointed Novice Master for the Dominicans in Formation. I did this work for 10 years, preparing young men for the priesthood and religious life. I also was a Unversity Chaplain for 6 years during that time. In the early 1980's I was given an appointment in the Carribbean as the first Domincan to be the Assistant to the Master of the Dominican order in Rome for the promotion of Domincan life in the Carribbean. The idea was to promote unity on the various existences of the Dominicans in the various dioceses in the Caribbean. There are at least 6 provinces within the Caribbean. My work was to coordinate all these groups toward common formation, -- the dream was to have a Dominican province in the Caribbean. I did that for 4 years and then I was appointed Bishop of St.Vincent, an island in the Caribbean.
SB: When and how did you hear about Medjugorje for the first time?
RR: In Trinidad a lot was going on in regard to Medjugorje, and then already from the first days of the apparitions. One of the pilgrims invited me to come as a priest. I only responded to the invitation in 1988. I was very happy and satisfied with my first visit to Medjugorje, because I experienced a renewal of faith and life by the faith of the pilgrims. A special grace of Medjugorje is that the priests who come with a group, start to minister especially as priests, making themselves available for confession and for conversations. The greatest grace of Medjugorje really is confession. Pilgrims by their coming to Medjugorje become eager to be active in their own parishes - both in regard to prayer and the sacramental life, and parish activities in general. Due to all that I experienced with the people, I have to say that a special work of grace exists here and that Mary is present. I really believe that Our Lady is speaking here.
SB: What convinced you the most and helped you to accept Medjugorje?
RR: Again I have to say: It is the pilgrims who started to change their life here and decided to live the faith.
SB: Now you are in Medjugorje the second time and no longer as a priest, but as a bishop. Now what can you say?
RR: I decided this time to come and to be in silence and to remain “incognito”. I wanted to make a retreat here and to be in silence. However, that did not happen, because pilgrims sought me out for confession and I also preached. I understood that my role also as a priest has changed. The love of the faithful for a bishop especially touched me. Whoever loves a bishop, loves the Church. The Holy Spirit is at work here. Our Lady is work here. I personally want to be continually under Her protection.
SB: Would you like to say something from Medjugorje?
RR: What I am trying to realize in my life is simplicity. I think I have learned simplicity in suffering in my priesthood, and I have grown in profound love for God, Our Lady, the Church and complete surrender to Christ. All that I want is to do God will and Gods work. My message to the parish community, to the visionaries, to priests in the parish and to all pilgrims is that they be capable of surrendering their life completely to God and to be freed for love, that the gospel be lived in complete simplicity and beauty. I want for ll of us to know that Jesus is the King of our life. We Catholics must be capable of showing the world the beauty of our faith with the help of Our Lady. I would recommend to everyone to come to Medjugorje, because here they will deepen their faith for the Church and Our Lady and thus become good witnesses to others of the good news. And in Medjugorje the good news is: Peace.
SB: Thank you for this conversation and we promise you our prayers.
From March 3- 5th, 2000 Bishop Joao E. M. Terra was on a private visit in Medjugorje. He is the auxiliary bishop of Brasilia in Brazil. This was his second visit to Medjugorje.
In Press Bulletin #129 we wrote about the visit of bishops that were in Medjugorje at the end of October. In this number we bring you their impressions.
After spending several days in Medjugorje Msgr. Stanislaus Lukumwena from Congo among other things also said this: "The first morning as soon as I came, I went to pray on the Hill of Apparitions. That impressed me very much, because I encountered many people who were concentrated and devoutly praying. An important experience was also the evening prayer program at which there were many people. The many people from different countries and various languages, who prayed together gave me a profound and inexpressible feeling of joy. I am here on a private visit, and therefore officially I accept the position of the Church, but a personal experience is still something else. I can personally say that it is clear to me that all this that is happening here, and especially the great number of people, cannot not be interpreted in any other way than a special intervention of God. Therefore, regarding the authenticity of the apparitions - we should leave that judgment to those persons in the Church are also called to that. I personally am praying that the moment of recognition come as soon as possible. Our Lady has always told us to pray for peace. The world today is divided. There is neither peace nor love. I recommend everyone to try to pray humbly with all their might that peace come as soon as possible to all people. I would recommend to all communities that do not have vocations to come here and pray in this spirit that is alive here and they will certainly have vocations. To all of you who are living here I wish to say that you should continue to work in the spirit of St. Francis: dedicated and humbly, as you are already doing. Keep on hoping, because the time of recognition will come and everyone will be happy."
Msgr. Jose de Jesus Nunez Viloria, bishop of Guyana in Venezuela came with a group of pilgrims and stayed himself as a pilgrim in Medjugorje from October 24 - 28, 1999. He said the following about his impressions:
"After these days spent in Medjugorje I have very positive impressions. It is clear to me that in this place there is something very strong and supernatural. Without this supernaturality these events could never hold out to such an extent and spread like this throughout the whole world. I know that all the more people are coming from the whole world and that many pray here and are converted. This is a great supernatural reality of which the facts themselves speak. The visionaries simply convey that which Our Lady tell them and that is what the Bible calls for: peace, conversion, prayer, fast and the faithful accept it and continue living accordingly. When I listened to one of the visionaries I saw that some pilgrims are concerned also with questions of curiosity, but the visionary answered very simply: she can only say what Our Lady tells her, and they have to ask a priest the other things. My impression is very positive about everything that is happening here. I especially like the evening program, rosary and mass and adoration.
This is the real way of conversion.
The only thing I can say as a brother is that you who work here need to be patient with the people who come here. They come from far away, many things they don't know and, as much as possible, you always have to listen to them patiently and help them. To the visionaries, priests and pilgrims I would recommend to accept Mary who today is helping us in a special way to come to Christ, and He is the only Mediator and Savior. To her Jesus said from the cross: "Behold your son, but to the disciple He said: "Behold your Mother! I am convinced that is the reason of the apparitions that is giving Mary the right and from which comes the duty that she appear and help us and our job is to accept her. What is being announced here is the essence of the Gospel, therefore we have to accept it. Therefore, the renewal of life according to the Gospel is at work. The spirit of devotion and fervor that is seen here will truly serve the new evangelization. I commend myself especially to your prayers, also all priests and the whole world, and I myself promise to pray for all of you."
In the second last week of October Msgr. Emilio L. Bataclan, a bishop from the Philippines made a private visit to Medjugorje. Before leaving Medjugorje he also said this:
"I believe that Our Lady is appearing here. She is the Mother and she cares for us. I believe that she is always with her children, especially when they have to suffer, when the they so many problems. I have no difficulties believing that Our Lady is here because, above all, the "sensus fidelium" [sense of the faithful] says that Mary is here, and also my priestly and pastoral experience through a full 25 years, and now also that of being a bishop helps recognize the special signs that May is present here and that she is caring for her children. I would like to say to everyone: Mary is the Mother who loves and truly has to come to this world. She comes and says what we have to do, because she cares for us. I hope that the world will open its heart and soul to this good Mother. Let us pray mercy for all people to open their hearts. Let us pray for each other. May God bless you all."
During October, five bishops came on a private visit to Medjugorje: Msgr. Joseph Mugeny Sabiti and Msgr. Christopher Kakooza from Uganda, Msgr. Stanislas Lukumwena from the Congo, Msgr. Jose de Jesus Nunez Viloria, a retired bishop from Venezuela and Msgr. Emilio L. Bataclan from the Philippines.
In this Press Bulletin we quote the impressions of the two bishops from Uganda. Among other things, Msgr. Joseph Mugeny said: "I have no problem about anything here. In fact, what is happening here is with great intensity. All over the world, there are things happening. This time we are living in is a special time. God is giving us special graces through this place. Many people who have problems with their faith should come here to Medjugorje. Medjugorje is a chance, a privilige, special gifts given by God through the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us. The world is in an extremely bad state and it is good that we have places like Medjugorje. Wars, divorce, drugs - all these are bad things. We need such a place where we are able to learn about true love, true peace, true faith. So there is no doubt about what is happening here. It is much more intense here than in any other place. The people living here are very prayerful. I believe that the persons who lead the Church should come here and experience the graces and gifts of this place, which will help them to live a better life and to lead others towards God in a better way."
Msgr. Christopher Kakooza had the following thoughts: "The Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared in many other places. Important is Her call for compassion, prayer and penance. Our Lady asks us to sanctify our lives, to convert, to turn our lives toward God so that we may be worthy to enter heaven. I think the message we must take to the whole world is conversion, prayer and to go towards God and so to open the way to eternity."
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