Medjugorje is again in the center of attention, church and public as well. Though the visit of Cardinal Shonborn is private, it did not leave anybody indifferent because he is the member of Congregation for Doctrine of Faith. We talked to Cardinal while he was visiting Medjugorje.
“We came here to be close to the Lord’s mother”, you said during the Christmas Eve Mass, Your Eminence. These words had a great echo. We would like you to explain them?
Cardinal: “We cannot deny that pilgrims have been coming over here for the past 20 years, as we can not deny what they experience in Medjugorje and how close they feel to the Blessed Mother. This is my first visit, but since I’ve been a Bishop since 1991. I have simply noticed the fruits of Medjugorje.
Interviewer: “What kind of fruits are you talking about?”
Cardinal: “I will give you couple of examples: vocation calls for priesthood. Lots of our young priests have received their vocation call here, but not strictly in Medjugorje but because of Medjugorje. The second thing is conversions. I am impressed that that happens in every level of society, from noble families, industrials down to the common little people. Flying from Vienna, via Zagreb to Split I was asked by a security guard where I was going and I told him I was going to Medjugorje. All of sudden his face started shining and he told me that he had his conversion in Medjugorje as well. Couple of weeks ago on one small railway station one worker told me his story. His wife died of cancer and he was desperate and his friends brought him to Medjugorje. He has received the strong and living faith over here. The third evidence is the healings. A young man who was addicted to drugs told me that he was almost forced by his friends over here. He told me while the bus was entering to Medjugorje something happened with him. Especially he was healed immediately and all of us know how long that healing lasts. The fourth evidence is the prayer groups. I’ve known this Medjugorje Prayer Group from Vienna since the period when I wasn’t the Bishop. I’ve known them since 1980’s. To us Dominicans it was very meaningful that these people pray for hours and their church is always full. The Dominican churches in Vienna are rarely so full, on Thursday nights the church was always full. They stayed faithful to the prayer till today. Jesus said that the bad tree doesn’t bear any fruits. Which means: if the fruits are good than the tree is good as well.”
Interviewer: “For pilgrims Medjugorje is a miracle and they expect a message from the Holy See until Official Church would approve the supernatural events of Medjugorje. It has been speculated a period of time about the movements of Holy See. What do you know about this and what is your opinion about the demands to recognize Medjugorje?”
Cardinal: “I do not have detailed information about this matter and that is not my assignment. But I am standing to the statement made by Bishop’s Conference of Yugoslavia and Congregation for Doctrine of Faith of the Holy See. That statement for me has always been reasonable and smart. I will remind you about three statements made about Medjugorje. The first of all are phenomena. I am dogmatist and I was a professor of theological dogma. “Non constat de supernaturalitate.”- which means that the Church hasn’t given the final judgment about supernaturality of phenomena and hasn’t given any statements. So it has never denied or confirmed.”
Interviewer: “This sounds as diplomatic answer, what this really means in the practice?”
Cardinal: “It simply means that the Church hasn’t given its final judgment and decision. I am personally convinced that this is correct. While these phenomena are still going on, the Church is hardly going to give or make its final judgment and decision. These phenomena are the center of Medjugorje. It has started with the children who said that they saw Our Lady and the messages she gave through them. What has developed from that is second phenomena which will be studied by the church on the second level. From the very beginning a huge number of pilgrims have been coming to Medjugorje. The intensive prayer life has developed here and many humanitarian organizations have been born here.”
Interviewer: “The Church has divided the matter of Medjugorje from the pastoral work. But still a large number of pilgrims come over here. What position we should take about this matter?”
Cardinal: “The concrete ways of pilgrimages have been over here and that is a practical challenge for the church. That’s why the bishops from ex Yugoslavia said in 1991 that the official pilgrimages shouldn’t exist. I do not want and I cannot organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje in my diocese as we did to Rome or Holy Land. But the Bishops Conference or Rome have never forbidden to pilgrims to come to Medjugorje, which is the main part of the third statement. For us Bishops, for me this is very important. The believers must get the pastoral care. As the Archbishop I see my homework in that. If I, as a bishop, see that in my diocese hundreds, thousands of believers convert, pray, and are healed then I, as a Bishop, must take care that all of them get that pastoral care. That’s why I supported all these things as for example community of the “Oasis of Peace,” which was started because of Medjugorje. I think that all of this has influence on us bishops, especially those dioceses which pilgrims do come to Medjugorje and they need to get good pastoral care. So in all of those conversations I had with other bishops about Medjugorje I encouraged them to support their pilgrims.”
Interviewer: “You had a meeting with a visionary, you climbed to the Apparition Hill. What were you talking about?”
Cardinal: “I would say ironically that Our Lady did not choose the simple hills. I am fascinated with the coherence of Medjugorje with other Marian shrines, apparition sites. I always say that there is a grammar of Mary’s apparitions. That style has something special with Our Lady.”
Interviewer: “In what way is this connected?”
Cardinal: “There are 3 elements which are connected with this phenomenon. Almost always Our Lady appears to children. Those were not especially intelligent children or holy children but normal. Bernadette did not know how to write. She was 14 almost as children over here. Secondly, Mary gives the messages through the children. It is insulting for one bishop. Why Our Lady does not come to bishop’s house? Why does she come to the hill filled with stones or by the river? This is not practical. In Fatima she appeared in the bushes. She gives the messages through children because children are not complicated. The third element: it looks like that Our Lady has her own program. In Fatima she had appeared before Russian Revolution and she gave a message. When rationalism was on its highest level she appeared in Lourdes. She appeared in Yugoslavia in the moment when we did not have an idea that Yugoslavia would fall apart in the time when the Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox were living together. She appears with the name Queen of Peace. 10 years after that the first of 4 wars on Balkan Peninsula brakes out. And her first message was peace through conversion, prayer and this first message has its weight, strength, credibility. Maybe we could go further to Guadalupe, Mexico. When Europe started invasion of America, Our Lady appeared to one Indian who had to go to his bishop to tell him what to do. I think that theologians have to study the syntax of Mary’s apparitions and in that context to study the phenomena of Medjugorje.”
Interviewer: “It is prayed for peace in Medjugorje all the time but the political peace is not correct, the state is in problems and the Croats Catholics are in the worst position. What would you suggest to the International Community which is run now in this country by your co-citizen Valentin Inzko?”
Cardinal: “ The problem over here is that too many countries are involved in this such a small country which that way cannot over come these problems. The long lasting peace can be formed only if everything is just for everybody. This is a challenge for European policy. I am happy that Valentin Inxko is now in charge of Bosnia and Herzegovina and I expect that he gets a bigger support from European community. I am sure that (this) what is going on Medjugorje supports that peace. And people from all over the world do come to this small village Herzegovina which has never been known in the world, if I want to speak ironically. Look, how many Koreans come to Medjugorje! This is a hope that these people will be apostles of peace in their countries, peace which comes from Medjugorje. If it is prayed for peace in the world on one place, than that is a special blessing for one country. And Our Lady respects all three religions. Orthodox believers honor Our Lady, Islam doesn’t respect any other person that much, but Mary. For Croats Catholics who are minority in this country the apparitions among them are the great comfort.”