On Friday, October 9, th 1998, the parish priest of Medjugorje, Father Ivan Landeka and Father Slavko Barbaric visited the retired Archbishop of Split-Markarska, Dr. Frane Franic. Upon their return, they told us the following:
"The meeting and the talks, as well as our lunch together, were really warm. Despite his age, the Archbishop reads and writes much and spends the afternoons in prayer and adoration. Smiling and deeply convinced, he admits that he learned this in Medjugorje and that he has remained loyal to Our Lady's calls for prayer. He also recalled the words he spoke at the end of the Mass, celebrating his Diamond Jubilee: Every priests should pray three hours daily, bishops four hours and retired bishops five hours. He also promised to visit Medjugorje again, which he recognizes as he did in 1982, when he came incognito to see what was really happening here. He visited Medjugorje for the first time not only because he felt responsible for the faith of his people but also to personally experience Medjugorje and also to be able to voice his opinion. Since his first experience with Medjugorje, he became a great supporter and advocate of the Medjugorje happenings. He also confided in us something that happened during an apparition. During one of his visits to Medjugorje, he was also present at an apparition, after which the visionary, Marija, gave him a message that Our Lady had given to him personally. This message is now a prophesy for the Archbishop, since it occurred later exactly as he had been told. Since it is something that the visionary could not have known, this was further reason for the Archbishop to believe in the apparitions. We thanked the Archbishop for everything he has done for Medjugorje with his statements and wished him to be able to visit Medjugorje in the near future."
This year in the first week of June the retired Brazilian Bishop Don Silverio Jarbas Paulo de Albuquerque visited Medjugorje. He is a member of the Franciscan Order and from 1970 to 1995 was ordinary for the diocese of Feira de Santana. He spent a week in Medjugorje, accompanied by one of the priests of his diocese.
He briefly summarized the impressions of his stay in Medjugorje: "The strongest impression made on me was the simplicity of prayer and the strong faith of those that I met. There is no kind of fanaticism here. I saw a very great number of young people gathering here. Marian shrines have an important role in the life of the Church."
Msgr. Tomasin had also visited Medjugorje and described his experience there as follows: 'The first time I was in Medjugorje was in 1984. A friend, who told me that he had received a great spiritual grace there, suggested that I make the trip. We arrived with our own car. I can still well recall the Communist militia. We arrived at Mostar where we also stayed overnight. One day later, we finally came to Medjugorje. I was very impressed by the landscape. We first went into the church where there were not many people. This is why I was very surprised when, before the beginning of the evening prayer, the church was filling up to the last seat. I saw mainly young people. I felt a deep faith which had nothing to do with fanaticism. I saw many people going to confession. This fact particularly caught my attention. During Mass, I could not understand anything but I saw that there was very deep faith. While many were praying the rosary in church, I was invited to pray the rosary with the visionaries. I was present during an apparition. I was very impressed by the simplicity. The following morning, I got up early and went up Apparition Hill. I prayed for myself, my community and the whole church. In the meantime, many faithful were climbing up Apparition Hill, praying really devoutly. I went to church and remained there praying almost the entire day. This is how I spent my time during my stay in Medjugorje. I did not speak with any of the Franciscans and also not with the visionaries. When I returned home, I felt completely renewed spiritually. Now I understood Mary better and accepted her better as my mother. Now I understood that the Church is being renewed through Her.'
'When I was again named General of the Order, I returned to Medjugorje. I travelled via Ancona, accompanied by the local bishop, Msgr. Zanic, who took the opportunity to tell me all about his difficulties. I listened to him attentively. I knew the situation, I knew about the commission and the different opinions. And I also had the same spiritual experiences this time. I returned home and was deeply convinced that many things are happening here, which cannot be explained philosophically or psychologically. The faith and the apparitions are two realities. Nobody can question the fruits of faith in Medjugorje. The presence of God and His grace are obvious and, after sending His grace through the Fathers of the Church, He is now sending it through the Mother of Grace, the Mother of the Sinners, who stood at the cross. For me, this is without a doubt believeable. As far as the apparitions are concerned, aside from the conversions and the many other good fruits of faith, there must be still something else. And here we have to wait.' "
Drawn by the powerful words of Our Lady, bishops from all over the world are constantly coming to Medjugorje. At the end of April Bishop Gerard Dionn from Edmonson, New Brunswick, came to visit us from Canada. On that occasion he told us the following:
"I am on my first visit to Medjugorje which I heard about from the Croatian Franciscans who work in my diocese in Ontario. So in these last seventeen years I heard it continuously, and not only from them, that Our Lady is appearing here every day. For me that was all quite surprising and I did not know if I should believe it or not since all these events have still not been officially approved.
This year I am celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of my priestly ordination. A group of pilgrims that was planning to travel to Medjugorje requested me to be their spiritual director on this trip. That was for me a beautiful gift because already long before I had wished to find out what was going on there.
Everything I have seen here during my stay has impressed me deeply. Something like this is hard to find any place else. The faith of the people here, the attendance at holy mass and the spirit of self-denial cut deeply into my heart. I watched how crowds of countless people go up mountains that are not easy to climb, go to confession and pray. They were from every part of the world. It is difficult therefore to conclude that all this is accidental, that this is an ordinary place and that nothing has happened here. In my opinion, only faith could lead these people to come here, faith that is convinced of something concrete. This can all be compared with Lourdes and Fatima. Of course, I cannot express a final judgment. That belongs only to the local bishop. Nevertheless, according to the fruits that I see, I can say that there is something really special taking place here. It is not the Franciscans who are drawing the people here. I also have Franciscans in my parish, but there is nothing special going on. God is the one who is drawing the people to come here.
I have often talked things over with those who have been to Medjugorje. Some have also come several times even though its far away and very expensive. They try to witness their faith with a new zeal. God awakens new hope in their hearts and in the hearts of others through his own Mother. I believe she is appearing here. I don't know how I would in any other way explain the phenomenon that is alive here. It is not possible that the devil is at work, since people are praying. Likewise all this cannot be an ordinary deception. People can be deceived for a while, but not a full seventeen years and then not millions of people. I believe that something special is happening here because of the fruits. There cannot be so much good fruit on a bad tree.
Observing the liturgical life in the parish of Medjugorje I didn't notice anything particular. It is the everyday customary life of the Church. Mass is celebrated just like in other places. There is nothing here out of the ordinary. Last night we had adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Everything was so simple: a few words, a few songs, just like the Church wants it to be. People are so strongly attracted to it that they are prepared to spend hours on their knees. We do the same thing in our churches, but people do not come in such great numbers. Why? I cannot answer differently than to say that God is present here in a special way.
I would also wish the parish of Medjugorje to keep on continuously witnessing its faith through prayer and fasting. If they are prepared to respond to Our Lady's call, then we who come here from the outside will also do it more easily. It is truly a great responsibility for the parish. I hope it will carry on successfully and remain simple has it has so far. Many pilgrims who come here carry in their hearts a remembrance of the faith and the hospitality that they encountered in the parish of Medjugorje. It is a great honor for this parish that Our Lady has visited it in a special way and that she has spoken in the Croatian language. I hope that the parish of Medjugorje and the entire Croatian people will never lose sight of that.
Before Easter two bishops visited Medjugorje. There were Bishop John Dew from New Zealand and Bishop Donald Montrose from the United States. Here is what they said on the occasion about their impressions:
"I heard about Medjugorje for the first time from my parishioners. Those who went to Medjugorje came back with good fruits: the spirit of prayer, fasting, returning to the life of the sacraments and becoming active members of the parish community. Numerous prayer groups were established. I came with a group of pilgrims that also visited the Holy Land. These events in Medjugorje made a profound impression on me. Everything seemed natural and normal to me. I do not see any kind of oddities. People talk about the apparitions in a simple way and a large number of the faithful try to live Our Lady's messages. The experience of prayer and fasting are to me especially useful. I will try in a special way to find time for prayer before Holy Mass. I will try also to propose all that to the parishes of my diocese. And you here in the parish of Medjugorje, pray and fast and be apostles of love in everyday life. This is the preparation of all of us for the Great Jubilee" - said Bishop John Dew, auxiliary bishop of Wellington, New Zealand.
"I came to Medjugorje the first time before becoming an auxiliary bishop. Now I have come by the invitation of a group of pilgrims. Here I feel the special presence of Our Lady. I see that a great number of the faithful who have visited Medjugorje return with a renewed faith, a renewed experience of prayer, fasting, confession, Holy mass and adoration. The people that are faithful to Our Lady are also faithful to the Church. Devotion to Mary is very important. My message to you in the parish of Medjugorje is: Live the messages, love Our Lady, love the Eucharist, do not neglect confession, find time for prayer, pray at least one part of the rosary every day. I promise my prayer and blessing to all of you. I especially want to pray for the Franciscans, because what is happening here is great and the Franciscans have a great responsibility. I know about all your troubles and difficulties, but persevere in good" - said Bishop Donald Montrose of Stockton, California in the United States.
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