Three church dignitaries came for the 16th anniversary of Our Lady's apparitions in Medjugorje: the retired Archbishop of Split, Dr. Frane Franic, from Italy the titular bishop of Rusado, Paolo Hnilica S.J., and the archbishop of Manizales in Columbia, Fabio Betancur Tirado who is on his way to Rome for a meeting with Pope John Paul II. He joined in mass with the pilgrims and gave witness to his own conviction in Our Lady's presence in the parish of Medjugorje.
At the end of May Msgr. Damian Kyaruzi, a newly named bishop in Tanzania, visited Medjugorje. On his journey to Rome where he will be consecrated bishop, he visited Medjugorje. This is what he said on the occasions: "I am a priest of the diocese of Bukoba in Tanzania. Till now I have the Vicar General in my diocese and now I am named as bishop of the diocese of Sumbawanga. I am already a priest for 29 years. My episcopal consecration will be on the anniversary of my own priesthood ordination, June 29, 1997. I am in Medjugorje for the first time. I came here to pray before my episcopal consecration. Here I found a place and people who pray a lot in Church, on Podbrdo and Cross Mountain. I saw deep devotion on the mountains. I welcomed this experience because for me it means that people are ready to pray, when they are given the opportunity and when they are led well. But this is not only a place of payer, but a place where one can learn a lot. It is particularly important to me that I understood that we are all pilgrims. Pilgrims who come here discover the gift of life. God heals them here. They come back to God, they grasp the law of life and become messengers of peace. I want in my own ministry to tell people not to be afraid to accept life, even though I know it isn't easy. When we climb the Medjugorje mountains, we can understand those difficulties. That can be experienced especially on Cross Mountain. The lesson one gets on Cross Mountain says: One has to accept everything one encounters in life and complete one's assignment. You only have to look at and follow Jesus' way of the cross. I want all pilgrims here to accept their life pilgrimage with God and Mary."
In the second half of June the bishop of the diocese of Mbalmayo from Cameroon visited Medjugorje. His name is Msgr Adalbert Hdzana and this is what he said on the occasion: "I gladly visit the great Marian pilgrimage place. I have already been to Lourdes and Fatima twice. Here I feel completely fulfilled and am happy that I came. Here I feel that Medjugorje is the continuation of Fatima. Someone already said that before. But what I see here is the continuation of Fatima, because here I see the realization of the gospel in a way that corresponds to the man of today and to the situation of men. What is important is being proclaimed here: love, confidence in God. However, sin is opposed to that life that God offers us here. Everything Our Lady is telling us here is found in the Gospel and the means to which she call us are out of the gospel and the tradition of the Church. Here life is spoken of, but in the world death is being experienced. The sacraments are the channels through which we obtain divine life. And Our Lady is inviting us to receive the sacraments and to live them. The sacrament of reconciliation is especially at work here and the Eucharist is found at the center.
The manner in which all this is happening here is very simple, I like that, yet again that which is most important is being proclaimed. I believe, that in these kind of events the Church has to remain very reasonable. I can especially understand all the caution because the events here are still not finished. But here much good is happening and already for a rather long time and this must help us to understand what we are dealing with. What I have learned here, I think, will help me to go back more to pastoral work, as the Pope also told us when he said to us to do everything to prepare well for the 2000 year jubilee. What is especially on my heart here in Medjugorje, what I will tell everyone, is conversion and consecration. Our Lady is constantly telling us, free yourselves from sin and open yourselves to God's love. When I go back, I will proclaim again what I have heard and experienced here. That is what re-evangelization means. I invite one to take advantage of this time of grace that God is giving us here through Mary. May God bless you. I will pray for all of your and you pray for me and my homeland."
In May at the invitation of pilgrims and friends of Medjugorje Fr. Slavko visited several parishes in Croatia and Slovenia conveying Our Lady's message of peace and the spirit of the Medjugorje prayer program to the faithful in their local churches. A large number of the faithful participated in all the meetings and at one meeting in Slovenia Fr. Slavko met also with Archbishop Franc Rodeo. In an open conversation he asked him, do you know that many Slovenians are coming to Medjugorje and what is his position. He answered: "Once a bishop from Pescara asked the Pope what should be done with the people who are going to Medjugorje. The Pope answered with a question: 'And what are the people doing there?" The bishop answered: "They pray, they go to confession, they do penance!" The Pope answered briefly, "Well then let the people go there!" Fr. Slavko asked the archbishop if that were his position and his answer. With a pleasant smile he said, "Yes."
The Medjugorje Photomonograph which we mentioned in the last number of the Press Bulletin June 4, 1997 was also presented in Split. In the presence of a large number of the faithful and of people active in the cultural, religious and public life of that city the first one to speak about that book was Msgr. Dr. Frane Franic, retired Archbishop of Split-Makarska. Here is what he said on the occasion: "Our Lady's apparitions have to be seen as an intervention in human history from the other side that can only be understood in a long period of time. I have personally heard Our Lady's voice, but I have never seen her. In the Medjugorje fruits of prayer, fasting and brotherly love I see the signs of preparation for meeting with God. Our bishops with their Declaration of 1991 confirmed Medjugorje as a place of pilgrimage and prayer, and as such they recommended to the faithful what it has become on a world wide level."
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