Dear Friends, Members of Medjugorie Prayer Groups,
This letter is an expression of the deep affection which unites us to the message of Medjugorie! Knowing that many people (bishops, priests, religious and laity) have gratefully testified to the abundant spiritual fruits of this message, we would like, through this letter, to make you participants in a group testimony. This testimony should contribute to the defense of this work of Mary, a work which is spread throughout the whole world and which continues to be threatened in many places.
No one can deny--even if there are, in fact, those who try to do so--that the spiritual movement of the Queen of Peace is a living reality within the Church sustained by a spirit of prayer rather than by human initiatives. This river of light, of life, of peace, and of love for the Mother of God has generated prayer groups everywhere, has inspired conversions, and continues to heal and console the hearts of all those faithful who have found in the simplicity of the message of the Queen of Peace an authentic direction to rediscover the Gospel and return to the heart of the Church. By now we can no longer count the conversions which have happened in Medjugorie, and thanks to that message many who had left the Church have returned and many others have learned to love the Church more.
A definitive judgment has not yet been given by the competent ecclesiastic authority concerning these apparitions which began in 1981 and are still continuing. It is an undeniable fact that the spiritual movement formed by the messages of the Queen of Peace is one of the largest and most authentic prayer movements in this twentieth century. It is a movement that lives in the Church and for the Church, because it includes the faithful, the clergy, religious, and Bishops, all of whom have given and continue to give in various ways public witness to the numerous spiritual benefits that Medjugorie has brought into the lives of the faithful, not the least of which is the return to a life of prayer.
Tens of millions are the pilgrims who have gathered at Medjugorie to pray. Thousands are the priests and hundreds the bishops who have celebrated Mass there and heard for hours the confessions of penitents who were transformed by the motherly grace of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Many have returned to their Diocese giving a unanimous witness: "People convert in Medjugorie." These conversions strike the attention of pastors because these are "lasting conversions". One cannot count the number of people who have experienced the presence of Mary there, just as one can no longer count the stories of personal conversions, of spiritual and physical healings, of vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life born of the grace of Medjugorie. These are some of the principle spiritual fruits which have brought many to conclude that the Queen of Peace is truly present in Medjugorie and that her presence explains the very rapid diffusion of the movement of prayer connected to her in all the world.
In every continent today there are so many prayer groups which have found a light of hope and consolation in the messages of the Queen of Peace. Such groups are a living and working Christian presence within the Church. One thinks, for example, of all the charitable help which so many Medjugorie prayer groups from everywhere in the world have sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina and in other regions both during and after the war. No other humanitarian organization has done as much as the Queen of Peace volunteers to help the victims of that war. We say this for God's glory.
Dioceses, parishes, religious orders and institutes, seminaries and monasteries, schools and workplaces, households, and many other places in the Church and the world have been touched by the grace of Medjugorie, by the presence--we believe in this together with many others--of the Queen of Peace, who appeared there for the first time on June 24, 1981, and continues to do so at the present time. This maternal presence reminds us of what happened at Guadalupe, at Lourdes, and at Fatima. These and other Marian apparition sites were like spiritual deserts at first, but then, after the motherly visit of Mary, life flourished, hope returned, forgiveness was sought, and peace returned.
Some people attempt to devalue the spiritual reality of Medjugorie by saying, "There are conversions in every place where people pray." There is, however, reason to object: why then do people today pray less and less in their parishes, in the seminaries, in their schools, in factories, and in their families? Why do people pray so much at Medjugorie? How is it possible that the small Franciscan parish of a little village may become for the entire world such a great and efficacious call to prayer?
According to the conviction of many, this oasis of peace has become by the grace of God one of the places of Marian devotion in the Church where people pray the most and where we convert. In saying this we certainly are not demanding that it is necessary to believe in the apparitions of Medjugorie, but we simply wish to give a peaceful testimony, fully respecting those who think differently. No heresy has grown upon the tree of Medjugorie. Nor have the pilgrims been forced into any ways of thinking or behaving which are contrary to Catholic morals or liturgy or the sacraments. Nor have any teachings been given which would scandalize the faithful, as has happened, unfortunately, in other places.
We are sorry to say it, but a cause of much suffering is the attitude of those who condemn Medjugorie, leaving many of the faithful confused and disoriented. Just last year many ambiguous claims and distortions were spread by certain publications, claiming that the Church has officially condemned the apparitions, or at least that there are serious suspicions concerning them.
Because of this, Dr. Navarro Valls, the official spokesman of the Holy Father, had to intervene in August of 1996, to confirm that "concerning Medjugorie there has been no change." This official pronouncement became necessary from the moment that publications were sent throughout the world claiming that the Vatican had prohibited pilgrimages to Medjugorie. Exactly that providential statement of the Vatican, rather than prohibiting pilgrimages, reaffirmed that anyone may go on a private pilgrimage to Medjugorie, that is, that the laity may continue to organize their pilgrimages to this place of prayer.
The Queen of Peace came to Bosnia-Herzegovina not to sow discord or to cause arguments within the Church, but to bring a message of peace and reconciliation to those peoples who a few years later would be thrown into the hell of a war which would massacre their countries in a short time. Her voice was crying out as in a desert. She came to warn, admonish, and beseech her children, who, without a conversion of heart, could not obtain true peace. The peace they had in 1981 was only apparent; ten years later, in fact, the war would begin. But no one on earth knew this. At the time of the first apparitions, no one understood why, in a place where people were living together peacefully, the Lady of the apparitions was speaking of the urgent necessity of a return to God in order to have true peace. On June 26, 1981, she showed herself crying before a large cross. On June 26, 1991, the first bombs fell on the Ljubljana airport in Slovenia.
The Virgin Mary came precisely to open hearts to peace, to form the consciences of man to be capable of giving and receiving forgiveness. Referring to this extraordinary Marian work of reconciliation, the then Archbishop of Split, Monsignor Frane Franic said, "The Queen of Peace of Medjugorie has done more in six years of apparitions than we Bishops in forty years of pastoral work." During the war these words of Archbishop Franic resonated more truthful than ever. The prophetic message given by the Queen of Peace also resonated more powerfully than ever, because the bombs that fell all around Medjugorie didn't hit that weak, vulnerable and disarmed village. Suddenly and dramatically we understood that the heavenly call of Medjugorie had not been sufficiently believed or heeded.
Medjugorie is similar to Kibeho, Africa, where the Virgin also appeared to warn and to draw the hearts of her children to conversion before it was too late. Some years later a tremendous civil war came to this African population as an Apocalyptic battering. Medjugorie is also similar to Fatima, where Mary spoke with three shepherd children, who though today are highly praised, were greatly hindered in their own day. The Queen of the Rosary had already spoken to them in 1917 of the coming of a war greater than the first, and of a chastisement which Russia would bring down upon the whole world if humanity would not convert and consecrate itself to her Immaculate Heart. Unfortunate for the message of Medjugorie, which speaks of peace and conversion as does the message of Fatima, the way in the Church is not easy, having the same destiny as that of the prophets: many conversions but also many persecutions, many graces but also many fights. As with the prophets, only after much suffering and tribulation will humanity come to truly understand the importance of the message.
There are actually very many among the bishops, the clergy, and the faithful of the whole world who have already recognized this Marian message coming from the East as an authentic motherly admonition to conversion, and many consider this to be one of the most fruitful messages for the Church in the twentieth century. In light of the war and despair of the recent past, we cannot help but be moved by this prophetic message of hope and peace. Is it not clear that there is a tie between the devastating war which exploded in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the edifying message of Medjugorie? The destructive war has not conquered the place which God chose to spread this extraordinary message of peace and conversion. Today Medjugorie, by the grace of God, is more beautiful and resplendent than ever! It is a message which has echoed unto the far corners of the East--at which time was still separated from the West--to fill with hope the hearts of the faithful of every nation through the Easter gift of peace. "Peace, Peace, Peace." These words spoken by the Queen of Peace are more relevant today than ever.
Medjugorie once again testifies within the Church to the role of Mediatrix and Advocate which the "Woman Clothed with the Sun" has been given by the will of God for salvation history. She had been able to bring the East closer to the West, not through diplomacy but through prayer and reconciliation, through the powerful Gospel proclamation of which Medjugorie reminds us: love for the Cross of Christ is the only way to conquer evil.
Calling to mind these matters is a duty of conscience in regard to the messages of Medjugorje. It is exactly in the light of these "signs of the times" that it seems so urgent for us to return to the messages of the Queen of Peace, to contemplate them and live them with new enthusiasm. These are simple messages, and they even appear to be repetitive, but they contain the heartfelt appeal of a Mother who has never failed to make her voice heard in the course of the centuries. Her voice and maternal presence have admonished peoples, have called us back to the essential truths proclaimed by the Church, and, finally, have led us back into her womb as nations reconciled with their Father and Creator.
The events of Medjugorie are taking place in a period of human history which is particularly threatened by the forces of evil. It is enough just to consider that the apparitions of Medjugorie began only about a month after the assassination attempt upon the Holy Father. How could the Queen of Peace possibly remain indifferent in the face of the hatred and devastating violence of Satan, who hiddenly prepared one of the most violent attacks ever known to the world, still sadly reflected in Sarajevo? It would be more surprising if the messages of Medjugorie had not been given; we should not be disturbed by the fact that Medjugorie exists! Nor should we be scandalized if at Medjugorie, as at Fatima, the light of God has shone in the midst of the darkness of the end of this century. This is, rather, a reason to thank God. In all these years, the six visionaries have proclaimed this message of light in agreement with each other, transmitting it without ever contradicting themselves, despite all of the obstacles and suffering which the communists--and not only the communists--have caused. How could they have resisted without a special grace from God?
"Medjugorie is the continuation of Fatima." This was said by our Holy Father, John Paul II to Bishop Paul Maria Hnilica, S.J. in 1984. Many times our Holy Father has spoken favorably about Medjugorie with cardinals, bishops, priests, and groups of faithful, who in their private audiences with him, have informed him about Medjugorie. This Vicar of Christ, so attentive to the course of history, has never hesitated to show his love and gratitude for the message of Medjugorie. "Protect Medjugorie," he also said to the Franciscan, Fr. Jozo Zovko, who paid with imprisonment for his fidelity to the apparitions of Medjugorie, while he was pastor there in 1981. Not only did Pope John Paul II show his benevolence towards Medjugorie, but he has also expressed more than once (as also the Croatian President recently stated) his desire to visit Medjugorie.
Through her presence in Medjugorie in this year dedicated to her Son, Savior of the world, she, the Mother of God, continues to encourage us to follow the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, wherever he goes. Medjugorie has become like Fatima, an international center of prayer and of spiritual sustenance for the universal Church and, in a particular way, for the ministry of Pope John Paul II. One reason why the Queen of Peace came to the village of Medjugorie was to confirm the "Totus Tuus" of the Holy Father by helping him carry to the end the immense work the Lord has entrusted to him. This work entrusted by the Lord to the Holy Father, as he himself often recalls, is the task of bringing the Church into the Third Millennium. Who, more than he, has been prepared through suffering to open the Holy Door of Christmas of 1999, to break the seal of this doorway, so that the infinite Mercy of God may flow into the very depths of the Church?
Dear brothers and sisters of Medjugorie prayer groups, we also are called to do what the Holy Father asked at his last visit to Poland, that is, to fall upon our knees and ask God for the grace that Pope John Paul II can guide the Church into the Third Millennium. Fatima at the beginning of the century and Medjugorie at the end of the Millennium both show the special maternal presence which comes to help the Church, the Holy Father, and all peoples throughout the world in their particular moments of need.
The spiritual movement of Medjugorie, which is living in the Church at the end of this millennium, has experienced for years a spiritual life which springs forth to and encounter with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As did Elizabeth, also we have experienced deep in our hearts the joy of the presence of the Virgin Mary, a joy given to all simple hearts who take refuge in her maternal intercession. She comes to reveal to us all that beauty which belongs to Christ, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! She brings this new life to Medjugorie to uplift and console the wounds of many members of the Church, our Church who now finds herself in great need of renewal by the Holy Spirit. Without this encounter with the Mother of Jesus, there is no supernatural life. This life is always threatened--there is always a Herod waiting to destroy it.
We pilgrims of Medjugorie have all received, therefore, the great responsibility of bringing to fruit the gift of prayer which the Queen of Peace came to bring us in Medjugorie. Prayer of the heart and penance make us walk in the truth of the Gospel and form our armor for fighting Satan and his followers. The messages of Medjugorie, without any commands or orders, have given birth to a movement of prayer which spreads spontaneously throughout the world to help everyone of good will to walk in the Truth. In the Church today, unfortunately, the frenzy of action is widespread. Medjugorie reminds us that the Church is more active in the Cenacle than anywhere else, because it is there that the Apostles "devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with ... Mary the mother of Jesus " (Acts 1:14).
We must not allow polemics, disharmony, division and loose condemnations to suffocate the spirit of communion and of prayer which has filled the Medjugorie movement for years. We have to return to living the messages, and their most urgent appeal continues to be the same as always: "pray, pray, pray." The Medjugorie movement was born to remain faithful to this request of the Queen of Peace. This message has gathered us to adore Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, to acquire from Him the Light of the Holy Spirit, to understand and love the Word of God, and thus to have the strength and courage to live the Gospel truths, to forgive and find peace.
It is our conversion alone which determines the future of humanity. Conferences, meetings and words will not change the world. The Queen of Peace has revealed to us the path for arriving at a conversion of heart. It is the path which leads us to the Cenacle, for the Cenacle is that place where we pray in union with Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Through such prayer we are enabled to recognize our sinfulness, to do penance, and to convert. This is why Medjugorie does not ask us for great programs, but for the simple things that we find in its messages. They are found like five little stones: the Eucharist, the Word of God, monthly confession, the Rosary, and fasting. It is in this way that we, just as David, shall be promised victory over Goliath.
We should not be surprised if Satan tries to destroy the supernatural fruits that have matured in the interior of the spiritual movement of Medjugorie. In order to protect ourselves, we must truly love, serve, and imitate our Queen and Mother of Peace, living her messages which invite us to conversion through prayer, fasting, and abandonment in God to have peace. We must not be disturbed by the lies that are spread out about Medjugorie; we must only respond with the truth of our Christian life. Our Marian devotion must always become a truer Marian imitation. Thus, she will live her life in us. If we want to know the Son of God, let us go to His Mother! Pope John Paul II sets the example; he, the Pope, goes to Mary to know Jesus. He says, "Totus Tuus".
The Medjugorie Movement is a "walking" towards Mary with Mary to discover her Son. This spiritual journey, considered by so many as a great blessing for the Church, does not create confusion. Confusion is the work of the evil one. The Queen of Peace does not confuse us in her messages, but she orients us toward the evangelical truths, and Medjugorie itself has become for innumerable pilgrims a place of reconciliation with the Church, not a place of separation from the Church. The movement lives within the Church and in this spirit loves the local Church where she is present with prayer groups. So many pastors, such as the deceased Cardinal Siri of Genoa, have given thanks to God for the renewing presence of Medjugorie prayer groups in their dioceses and their parishes.
We know well that there are voices against Medjugorie. But it is not the first time that there is disagreement over a supernatural event, even among Bishops themselves. We wish to entrust ourselves above all to the discernment of the Supreme Pastor, Pope John Paul II, who, concerning the events of Medjugorie, has never shown any doubt as to their supernatural origin.
"The world is losing its sense of the supernatural. People are rediscovering this in Medjugorie through prayer, fasting, and the sacraments," said the Holy Father some years ago after an encounter with a medical commission from the A.R.P.A. Association. Together with Bishop Hnilica they reported to the Holy Father the scientific results they obtained from examinations of the six visionaries during ecstasy. They concluded that these phenomena are inexplicable from the natural point of view. This was the first time that scientific instruments were used to examine the visionaries while they were in ecstasy during the apparitions in Medjugorie.
Dear friends, let us unite our hearts to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We are clearly aware that these are her times, the times announced at Fatima, confirmed in the messages of Medjugorie. These are the times of the universal "Totus Tuus" which, through the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, is being widely spread throughout the Church, despite meeting so much resistance.
We would like to conclude with the words of our beloved Holy Father John Paul II who, during the Angelus of March 7, 1993, referring to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said: "We need to return to God, to know and respect His laws! Let us ask the Holy Virgin for this renewed awareness. Her admonishing and maternal presence has been heard so many times, even in our century. It seems almost that she would like to warn us of the dangers threatening humanity. Regarding the dark forces of evil, Mary asks us to respond with the peaceful weapons of prayer, fasting, and charity. She points us to Christ, she brings us to Christ; let us not disappoint the expectations of her maternal heart!"
Are not these words of the Holy Father a beautiful synthesis of the messages of the Queen of Peace, messages which have spread from Medjugorie throughout the world?
The Queen of Peace wants us united in prayer in faithful expectation of a new Pentecost which will renew the face of the earth. In this way the Holy Father and the Mother of God wish to prepare us for the Great Jubilee. Walking with her, let us go to meet the Lord.
United in one love for our Mother, the Queen of Peace,
Msgr. Frane Franic, Msgr. Paolo Maria Hnilica, SJ, Fra Tomislav Pervan, OFM, Fra Ivan Landeka, OFM, Fra Jozo Zovko, OFM, Fra Slavko Barbaric, OFM, Fra Leonard Orec, OFM
Medjugorie, June 25, 1997
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