Will Medjugorje soon become the Next Big Story in Catholic News?

By Stephen Ryan

(Source: ministryvalues.com)

“Here we have the “author” of the  Catechism -the greatest single reference work on Catholic doctrine today and close friend of the Holy See- outright telling the World that the Blessed Mother is here offering “messages” to the world. You can’t make this stuff up. This is 60 minutes worthy. ”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church and Cardinal Schönborn the Archbishop of Vienna has gained international prominence for his work as Director of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – the greatest single reference work on Catholic doctrine today.

So who could have imagined that on September 23, 2010 this great intellect, the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Schonborn,  would host two “visionaries” of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his grand cathedral – St. Stephen’s in Vienna. This singular event in Austria has now pushed  Medjugorje, the place known for the spiritual mystery of the Blessed Mother appearing to six children, now adults, for nearly thirty years, even further onto the world stage.

Watching the event on television and  according to reports, electricity shot through the Church and goose-bumps poured forth when the Archbishop, in his opening statement, turned to the Bosnian visionaries and said:

Praised Be Jesus and Mary!
Praised be Jesus Christ! (a common greeting from Medjugorje)
Dear Marija, dear Ivan, thank you first of all that you
came.  Thank you that you came
again!  [applause]  Thank you for your service across so many
years. For your work, for your service of being messengers of the Gospa
Our Lady.   You bring us children of this
world, children of humanity, her love and her presence and may God pay you
back 100 fold for what you¹re doing tirelessly.  read transcript here

After the Mass and after the Adoration of Our Savior  the crowds thinned and as the broadcast equipment was being gathered and put away, Cardinal Schonborn, still milling around the Cathedral,  thanked Tom Matasso, the Mary TV technical expert who had broadcast the event around the world, for his work.  Tom Matasso then  thanked Cardinal Schonborn  for standing by Medjugorje.. – the Cardinal replied, “It is my duty!”  – more electricity, more goose-bumps.

It was an extraordinary moment.   Perhaps soon, perhaps in time, but we wonder if the moment will be remembered as historic or simply a  footnote in the Catholic Church’s mysterious dance with visions of the Virgin Mary.

So why do we ask if Medjugorje, which was recently described by the BBC as the fastest growing Marion shrine in the world, will soon become the biggest Catholic News story in America?

First of all it is important to understand that the Catholic “blogosphere” and leading Catholic voices have been very active reporting on Medjugorje and have recently come out strongly against Cardinal Schonborn’s  very public support for the Queen of Peace and the events taking place in Medjugorje.  But with the decidedly negative spin attached to Medjugorje  by these Catholic commentators the events of Medjugorje are quickly dismissed and so the idea of the Virgin Mary appearing today remains a remote and fringe issue for many Catholics  –  perhaps even “dangerous”.  But again we think this is about to change. Something must change, in fact, as we explain below.

Over the past two weeks ministryvalues.com has held intense and at times  uncomfortable dialog with leading  voices in Catholic Media including Deacon Greg Kandra at Beliefenet.com, Patrick Madrid and Mark Shea ( a few months ago).  Each of these esteemed men have been active and persistent critics of the apparitions of Medjugorje. The tone of these important America Catholics writers in their columns and blogs have  not only mocked the events at Medjugorje but quite frankly have questioned the behavior of the Archbishop of Vienna himself.   Greg Kandra writes in a headline – “Someone should alert Cardinal Schonborn” and a few months ago Greg Kandra in another article against Medjugorje he writes  of  Medjugorje – “Medjugorje: Lies, contradictions, promises, uncertainties”

In an e-mail we  asked Greg Kandra about his views on Cardinal Schonborn’s recent activities including hosting the Medjugorje visionaries in his Cathedral and why it bothered him so much -we asked why he was willing to take on the Archbishop so directly. Greg wrote back saying  ” I think the Cardinal is being irresponsible in his very public support for an “apparition” that has not been approved by the Church, and I would caution all faithful Catholics to tread carefully on the issue of Medjugorje. It is a place to be approached with great skepticism and, in fact, caution.”  We thought to ourselves “Greg Kandra thinks the Editor of the Catholic Catechism is being irresponsible -Wow, thats a pretty strong statement.”

We then asked him if he  would be willing to invest a little time  trying to understand the Archbishop of Vienna’s point of view and his  actions towards Medjugorje. Mr. Kandra wrote back: “Thank you for your insight and kind offer, Ryan. But I’ll decline.  I’m really not interested in promoting the Medjugorje “apparitions” at this time.”

We then  asked  Greg Kandra “Without this (trying to understand Cardinal Schonborn’s views) Greg you are effectively waging a quite battle against the Director of the Catholic Catechism. You have put yourself at odds with the man who wrote the book that speaks officially for the Church. This is not a sustainable position to be in.” Deacon Kandra finally offered that to him  Medjugorje was cult like in most of its manifestations  and he felt the proper approach for Catholics was to be “cautious”  until the Catholic Church has ruled on the matter.

Patrick Madrid, though recognizing the great “fruits” of Medjugorje , also holds negative views on the unapproved apparitions but the trouble he finds in Medjugorje stems from issues of disobedience among supporters of Medjugorje, including Cardinal Schonborn. Mr. Madrid believes Medjugorje and its followers, from beginning to end, have been disobedient towards the Bishop of Mostar who oversees Medjugorje. He believes this is reason alone to consider the events at Medjugorje as “Not supernatural”

“From very early on, you see an incitement to disobedience in the messages,” Madrid said. “If this really is the Mother of God urging disobedience to the bishops, that seems at odds with her messages to people like St. Faustina, where she urged obedience even in the wake of disbelief and disapproval.”

Mr Madrid has  a cornucopia of intellectuals that tend to do his bidding including one of his most zealous “sources” who has accused Cardinal Schonborn  of “slapping” the Bishop of Mostar “in the face” for hosting the Medjugorje visionaries.  We have gone back and forth on the question of dissobediance with Patrick Madrid but like Greg Kandra in the end, he feels his postion and views on Medjugorje are  correct and that  Archbishop is wrong in his public support of Medjugorje.

Cardinal Schonborn without apologies or nuance greeted the visionaries of an unapproved apparition in his Diocese in the grand and ornate Catholic setting of St Stephen’s Cathedral and it certainly begs the question from skeptics and believers “Why and why now” Why would the good Cardinal embrace the visionaries in such a public way knowing the controversies surrounding Medjugorje and how Medjugorje creates divisions among the Catholic faithful?  What are his motivations? Certainly he could show his support towards Medjugorje without sending the Catholic blogosphere in to such a state of dismay as to feel compelled to criticise a great intellectual of our faith.

We think  part of the answer to these questions can be found in a lecture Cardinal Schonborn gave to students at Catholic Universtity almost a year ago.

Ministryvalues.com was in attendance and the lecture was titled “The Identity of Christianity – Alien Presence or Foundation of the West”,. The lecture presented a stark assessment of Christian faith in Europe and suggested that the revitalization of faith among its citizens would be arduous and uncertain. He said Europe is “ignoring its Christian roots” and he went on to say  Europe was now the least religious region in the world.

Clearly Cardinal Schonborn sees Christianity and Catholicism under attack. He made reference that Christianity was dying in Europe.  Perhaps he sees that we need the hand of Our Lady now more than ever. Perhaps he sees we need the spirituality of our faith to be deepened by reexamining  the supernatural, a unique  and important aspect to the Catholic faith that is often overlooked by so many today.   Pope John Paul II  once said “We have lost our sense of the supernatural”   Our Lady at Fatima the great prophetic “approved” apparition said  in one of her messages “In the end my heart will triumph” Perhaps Cardinal Schonborn sees that the time is now – now is the time for Our Lady’s heart to triumph.

Without referring to Medjugorje directly Pope Benedict XVI, last week gave a talk on the importance of pilgrimages and shrines and said “In these historic moments in which we are called, with greater force if possible, to evangelise our world, the riches offered to us by the pilgrimage to shrines should be highlighted”  We were left pondering what the Holy See meant as he spoke of “these historic times”

Vatican confirms names of Medjugorje commission

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

(Source: www.crownofstars.blogspot.com)

The following statement was released by the Vatican Press Office this afternoon and confirms most of the names speculated in past weeks as being members of the Medjugorje Commission:

“The International Investigative Commission on Medjugorje met for its first session on 26 March 2010.

“The Commission, presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his Holiness’ vicar general emeritus for the diocese of Rome, is composed of the following members:

“Cardinal Jozef Tomko
prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples;
Cardinal Vinko Puljic
Archbishop of Vrhbosna, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina;
Cardinal Josip Bozanic
Archbishop of Zagreb and vice-president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conference;
Cardinal Julian Herranz
president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts;
Archbishop Angelo Amato SDB
prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints;
Msgr Tony Anatrella
psychoanalyst and specialist in Social Psychiatry;
Msgr Pierangelo Sequeri
professor of Fundamental Theology at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy;
Fr David Maria Jaeger OFM
consultant to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts;
Fr Zdzislaw Jozef Kijas OFM Conv.
relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints;
Fr Salvatore M Perrella OSM
teacher of Mariology at the Pontifical Marianum Faculty of Theology;
Fr Achim Schutz,
professor of Theological Anthropology at the Pontifical Lateran University as secretary.
Msgr Krzysztof Nykiel
an officer of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith serves as additional secretary.”

“Other experts have also participated in the commission’s work:
Fr Franjo Topic
professor of Fundamental Theology in Sarajevo;
Fr Mijo Nikic SJ
professor of Psychology and Psychology of Religion at the Philosophical and Theological Institute of the Society of Jesus in Zagreb,
Fr Mihaly Szentmartoni SJ
professor of Spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University
Sr Veronica Nela Gaspar,
professor of Theology at Rijeka.”

“As announced previously, the work of the Commission will be carried out with the utmost reserve. Its conclusions will be submitted to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for study.”

Medjugorje Commission… first session underway

Thursday, 25 March 2010

(Source: www.crownofstars.blogspot.com)

According to the Office of the Archbishop of Zagreb the first session of the Holy See’s International Commission to study the Medjugorje phenomenon has started today and will end on Friday. Archbishop of Zagreb, cardinal Josip Bozanić, is one of 20 members attending this first session at the CDF in Rome.

Considering that an official announcement of the new Commission was made only seven days ago, the speed at which this first session has got underway suggests that Rome is in a hurry to make an announcement of some kind, though not necessarily to reach a final verdict on the Medjugorje phenomenon.

Heading the Commission is Cardinal Camillo Ruini.

Statement of Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina about International Commission for Medjugorje

Monday, 22 March 2010

(Source: © Informativni centar “Mir” Međugorje www.medjugorje.hr.)

Archbishop Allessandro D'Errico

Archbishop Allessandro D’Errico

Archbishop Allessandro D’Errico, Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina, gave statement about Medjugorje on March 18th at the end of 48th Bishop’s Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the statement broadcasted by Radio Mir Medjugorje, he amongst other things said: “Whenever I would meet Holy Father, he was always very much interested in Medjugorje. He was involved in everything, starting with the time when he was Head of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is aware that this is the issue of special importance, and he, as supreme authority of the Church, needs to give his precise statement about that matter. Holy Father is very much familiar with Medjugorje phenomenon; he even mentioned that to me personally. He is aware of huge amount of positive and good influence of local priests, religious, Franciscans, lay people, and therefore, it is very difficult for him to perceive that there can be so many opposing information about the same matter.

That is why he wanted to establish this Commission that is on really high level. He wanted to establish this Commission in order for him to have broad picture about this matter, but according to the people who have highest qualities and skills. That is why he invited Cardinals, Bishops and experts from different parts of the world to be part of this Commission.

On March 17th it was officially announced that Chairman of this Commission is going to be Cardinal Ruini, very prestigious cardinal, who has great qualities, and also close associate to Holy Father, and his friend not only in this period while he is the pope. Cardinal Ruini is very much familiar with situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina; he especially knows the situation from the war period, when he used to be President of Bishop’s Conference of Italy. At that time, he brought decision that Italian Church and Bishop’s Conference of Italy become more involved in helping to all wounded nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

What is especially interesting, and shows Holy Father’s great sympathy for this country, is that he wanted this information about Commission to be announced publicly at the same time, both in Vatican as well as in Mostar, since Medjugorje is in territory of Mostar Diocese. I know well that media spoke a lot about this Commission for a longer period of time, and certain expectations were made. Today, we can say that we are pleased and grateful to Holy Father for this attention that he expressed towards Mostar and our Catholic communities. That is how I, on behalf of Holy Father, announced this decision on March 17th, at the same time when decision was announced in Rome. We understand that work of this Commission is going to be very demanding, and I would like to invite all of our communities to pray and to offer work of this Commission to St. Joseph and to Mary, Mother of Church, patron saints of Mostar.

New Archbishop of Belgium had spoken about Medjugorje

Thursday, 28 January

(Source: crownofstars)

“I am convinced, as is also Pope John Paul II, that the time of the Jubilee is a time of special grace, as John Paul II has said several times, that is preparing a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church. That which I am expecting from Medjugorje is that it contribute to the preparation of that new outpouring of the Holy Spirit which the Church and the world need.”

Just over a week ago, Msgr André-Joseph Léonard was appointed Archbishop of Brussels by Pope Benedict XVI, on January 18, 2010, and so became Primate of Belgium.

Archbishop LéonardWhen he was first made a bishop in 1991, Msgr Léonard added the name Mutien to his first name, in honour of his brother. On becoming Archbishop of Mechlen-Brussles he changed the name Mutien to Joseph, in honour of St Joseph, patron saint of Belgium.

Archbishop Léonard was born in May 1940 and is one of four brother who all became priests. He was ordained a priest in July 1964. Twenty years later he made his first ever visit to Medjugojre. On a second visit to Medjugorje when he was bishop of the Belgian city Namur, Msgr Léonard gave this interview to the late Fr Slavko Barbaric OFM which was published in the Medjugorje parish magazine Glas Mira:

Bishop Mutien: “I met Medjugorje through my seminarians. When I was rector of the school of theology at St. Paul in Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982 and 1983, some of my students of theology went to Medjugorje. That was at the very beginning of the apparitions. I had never heard it spoken of before. Some students of theology came to me seeking permission to go to Medjugorje during their vacation. I knew nothing about it and asked them if there existed a position of the Church on Medjugorje. They told me no, that it had only begun a couple of years earlier, and that the Virgin seemed to be appearing there. They gave me an article to read and I told them, “Go and see; go and see!” They spoke to me several times about it, and in 1984 I decided myself to go and see. Four of us priests came with the students of theology to Medjugorje in June1984. I must say that what I saw in the parish church in 1984, that folk piety, the manner in which the rosary was prayed, the Eucharist celebrated, the meeting that I had with the visionaries twice during the “apparitions” in the sacristy – all that seemed to me very positive, especially the manner in which they prayed here.

SB: How many times have you already come to Medjugorje?

Bishop Mutien:
This is my second time. The first time I came in 1984. I kept a very positive impression about what I saw here. Later I kept up being informed. I read the books of Fr Laurentin, not all, but a few. I read some articles and , accordingly, took an interest. Especially while I was a professor at Louvain, I saw among the students some who had been to Medjugorje and who from there had discovered prayer, confession, Eucharist, fasting, and I remember that in the theologate I began fasting Fridays quite regularly, following the example of some of my students of theology or other students whom I met at the university and who had fasted after pilgrimage to Medjugorje. When I became a bishop I met some believers of my diocese who fasted every Friday, who discovered the sacraments, thanks to their encounter with Medjugorje.

I established the fact that regularly among the students of theology there were those who experienced conversion and received a vocation via Medjugorje. Now I have thirty students of theology, among whom there are some who have undergone a spiritual experience here in Medjugorje which has marked their vocation. Such fruits are of interest to me. I know that from false premises according to logic we can draw exact conclusions. But still, the fact that so many positive discoveries take place, just with thanks to Medjugorje, is positive evidence in favor of Medjugorje. Accordingly, I continued to inform myself and said that some day I would be able also to return to Medjugorje.

In the year 2000 I thought I might be able to take advantage of the Jubilee for a short pilgrimage. The fact that at the present time in France and in Belgium there exists much opposition to the Medjugorje events, books which criticise Medjugorje, moved me to come and see with my own eyes. I do not wish to judge things, situations, and persons from a distance, or only from books. I would rather take a little more personal look. After I informed the bishop of Mostar about my coming, I came here as a pilgrim to pray, but also personally to convince myself, and I must say that what I see in the parish church on the pastoral level seems very good: praying the rosary, the Eucharist, adoration, solid devotion, balanced piety and cultivated devotion.

As far as the Medjugorje events are concerned, it is not up to me to decide about that. It up to the local bishop, the bishops of Bosnia-Hercegovina, after a detailed study of the situation, to formulate a judgment about the authenticity or non-authenticity of the apparitions. That is not my business! In every case, I will accept the official judgment of the Church.

SB: Why does the Church hesitate when good fruits are visible?

Bishop Mutien: I think that the Church in her wisdom, with these kinds of phenomena, wishes first to investigate the facts, and only then the fruits. I think that is the rule that Cardinal Seper already formulated when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. First the facts are studied, and only then the fruits. Investigating the fruits is not enough. The facts have to be investigated; but the abundance of positive fruits is in itself a positive evidence, even if it seems to me that there are, as in every human affair, also negative fruits. Wherever there are people, there are also human moments, sometimes far too human. As also among the twelve apostles!

SB: From where does the opposition come?

Bishop Mutien: I understand why questions are asked about the phenomena of Medjugorje and why there exist objections against the apparitions in Medjugorje. I understand why, for example, questions like these are asked: the multitude of apparitions, the fact that in some manner they are foreseen, known for a certain day. I understand why there is opposition. Personally there are not many a priori thoughts about what the Most Blessed Virgin would need to do, or what she would not need to do. I prefer to accept things, even if they disturb my personal ideas, but I understand why questions are asked and I believe that, according to what I have been able to see, there are in this phenomenon of Medjugorje essential things, but there are also parasites.

I believe there exists that which is fundamental, but also accidentals. One is more positive, and the other is more negative. In Lourdes the testimony of Bernadette impressed me very much, I would say 100% pure. It seems to me that here there were parasites surrounding the central events. I understand why questions are asked. I keep informed also on the questions that the opponents of Medjugorje are asking. One has to hear them, and therefore I read the book of Joachim Boufflet from beginning to end. It is written in a polemical tone which does not seem to me to be in place, but there are real questions which are asked and which one day have to receive a clear and historically established answer. Accordingly, I accept those questions, but I wish to stay open to the event.

I know bishop friends whose rule of behavior is to say: “Look out, if we are open to the events of Medjugorje, we can perhaps encourage something that is not authentic.” There exists a risk. I am more sensitive to the opposite risk and say: “Just the same, it is possible that Heaven has spoken to people at that place and I do not wish to take the risk of a priori being closed to that grace.” Two risks exist: the risk that we are being deceived in Medjugorje and the risk that we are bypassing a gift of grace.

SB: A gift from Heaven?

Bishop Mutien: My desire is that those who have the grace and the competence for that, the local bishop, the Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina, a theological and investigative commission, continue to study this phenomenon, to formulate one day the judgment of the Church about what has happened here. Until then, between the two risks, I prefer to take the risk of being open rather than the risk of a priori being closed to the grace of God which can be operating in this place. Accordingly, therefore, I take the position of openness and prudence.

SB: Some say: “Where there is prayer, there is grace and miracles.”

Bishop Mutien: That logic does not seem to me completely correct. It is true that in the place where there is prayer, Eucharist, confessions, fruits do come. But there are many other places in the world where there is prayer, where there is confession, where Eucharist is celebrated, but there are not the same kind of evident fruits!

SB: You, then, think that this dimension can be attributed to the apparitions?

Bishop Mutien: I believe that it is an indication which has to be studied, an indication that leads to consideration. I regularly meet young people who think about the priesthood or who have had a profound experience of conversion coming here, much more so than in relation to other places, and that makes me question. I cannot accept without reservation that the fruits of Medjugorje are connected only with the living of the sacraments. They are also lived in other places. Here there exists something that presents a special question. It is not up to me to pronounce about the reality of these fundamentals, but there is a question that cannot be avoided.

SB: Finally, is it your wish to give some message here to the world?

Bishop Mutien: I think that on the spiritual plane we are living in a period that demands urgency. I am convinced, as is also Pope John Paul II, that the time of the Jubilee is a time of special grace, as John Paul II has said several times, that is preparing a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church. That which I am expecting from Medjugorje is that it contribute to the preparation of that new outpouring of the Holy Spirit which the Church and world need. Therefore I think that it is more useful to concentrate on the most fundamental, as you are doing here in this parish: to concentrate on the Eucharist which is the source of Christian life, and for the rest I think we need to cultivate the grace of peace and seek for the discernment in connection with Medjugorje to be done in the best possible climate, for the good of the Church.