Comprehending Medjugorje : Original Documents And Conversations with Arnaud Dumouch

Supplement I : Bishop Žanić, as a witness to the first month of the apparitions

Reference (French Edition) :
Daria Klanac, Comprendre Medjugorje : Regard historique et théologique, avec la collaboration du théologien Arnaud Dumouch, Informativni centar Mir, Medjugorje, en coédition avec les Éditions Sakramento, Paris, 2012, 2e éd. (1re éd. 2008, ISBN 978-2-915380-19-4 & 978-9958-36017-6), annexe v, pages 253 à 257 et annexe vii.
English Translation by Duško Čondić


Supplement I

Bishop Žanić, as a witness
to the first month of the apparitions


Mgr. Pavao Žanić (1918–2000 †)

The first months of the apparitions, Bishop Žanić was a frequent guest in Medjugorje. He was interested in what was happening, asked questions, and observed events closely, showed father concern, had good intentions, and was open to the events. In his first statements, he went even further than the parish pastor as well as the other pastoral personel, all of whom carefully watched the events as they unfolded. The bishop expressed himself clearly and publicly:

“I am deeply convinced that no one has induced the children, who say they saw the Virgin, to say so. If we were dealing with but one child, it might be said: why! That child has a hard head such that not even the police can elicit anything from him. Six innocent and simple children would, in the space of half an hour tell all if someone had influenced them. None of the priest, I can vouch, had no such intent, or part, such that they would have talked the children into something… In the same manner, I am convinced: the children are not lying! The children say exactly that which in their hearts… It is certain that the children are not lying!” (The Bishop’s sermon on the occasion of Confirmation in Medjugorje, the 25th of July, 1981.)

It is important that we make note of some succinct statements made in this short address: It is the Bishop’s firm conviction that no one induced or talked the children into saying what they did. The children are innocent and simple. He vouches for the priests and does not doubt their intent or their lack of participation in the events. The children speak from their hearts and are not lying.

This is a most beautiful and truthful report given from the soul of a bishop, Msgr. Pavao Žanić, on those first days, in the presence of Reverend Mijo Gabrić, a journalist for the Glas Koncila [The Voice of the Council], who was the first to report on the apparitions in Medjugorje. The bishop expressed his thinking that he was certain the children were not telling falsehoods.

In the meantime, attacks on the part of the Communist Authorities were strong and were incresing. All is stormy within all the levels of the governmental apparatus.

The Chancery of the diocese of Mostar feels obliged to respond. We read the following in the Glas Koncila, dated the 16th of August, 1981:

1. The public expects us to speak about the events in the Parish of Medjugorje, where six children assert that the Virgin is appearing to them.

When journalists of an atheistic persuasion write about this, it is entirely natural that they would deny the truthfulness of that which the children assert. They also are convinced that there is no God or Virgin. For those of us who are believers, their manner of expression is offensive and unacceptable, and they accuse without any sort of proof, that the children were incited to say what they did.

2. The articles in the newspapers were written by men who only know how to speak of the faith ironically and mockingly and from a position of power along with many accusations, and little proof. Thus, among their many insinuations directed towards the priests, they attribute to them that they “made use of under-aged children, and trained them without the knowledge of their parents… in the attempt to convince the people of the appearance of the ‘Gospa’ in human form.”

3. In the same manner, it is inaccurate that the responsible Church authorities distanced themselves from the events in Bijakovići by having pronounced the events to be products of superstition.

4. Speaking of apparitions, in general, we, as believers, must say that for us, they are possible. We certainly will not deny Jesus Christ and the history of the saints. In the meantime, it is also known that the Church is careful not to express a positive judgement about the apparitions and miracles of Lourdes, Fatima, and elsewhere.

5. It is also known that pious souls often assert that they see something which, meanwhile, proves to be an hallucination, some personal psychological experience, or no more than a plain lie.

6. What can be said of the events in Bijakovići? It is certain that the children were not influenced or induced by anyone, most especially by any one in the Church, to speak falsehoods. The most difficult question remains: is this no more than a subjective experience on the part of the children, or is it a supernatural event?

7. When the Jews wished to silence the Apostles, they then said, as reported in the Acts of the Apostles, the wise and level-headed teacher of the law, Gamaliel, said in their Council: “you will not be able to destroy it…”(Acts 5:38-39).

At the present, we also take the same position!

Chancery of the Diocese of Mostar

Even fiercer attacks continued against such “clerico-nationalistic” and “Ustashi” manifestations dressed in Franciscan habits. Persecutions, hearings, and intrusions into Franciscan houses ensued.

Bishop Žanić once again spoke out on the 1st of September, 1981. Boldly and brusquely, he appealed directly to the President of the Presidency of the SFRJ [Socialist Federal Republics of Jugoslavia], Sergei Kreigher:

Respected Mr. President!

On the 17th of August, 1981, it was reported under various formulations in the daily press, on radio, and through television transmissions, that a broadened meeting of the County Conference of the Socialists’ Alliance of the Working People of Čitluk took place, and that they discussed the events occurring in the Parish of Medjugorje.

Among other things, the news reports listed the following:

‘It was stressed that the people must be informed even more clearly that that which is desired and planned by the priests Jozo Zovko from Medjugorje, his collegue Ferdo Vlašić, the Bishop of Mostar, Žanić, and other extremists, is the same as that which is planned by and dreamt of by the terrorist organization of Ustashi. These clerico-nationalists aim to bring down the achievements of the revolution, work against the constitutional system, and against Socialist self-management, and this, in essence is a most-brutal form of misuse of the religious sensibilities of people.’

I feel it is my duty and my right to protest with indignation against such falsehoods and completely unsubstantiated insinuations.

As the Catholic Bishop, and the responsible Ordinary of the Diocese of Mostar, I reject for myself and the above mentioned priests these irresponsible calumnies and unsavory attacks which in no manner contribute to a sober view of the events occurring in the Parish of Medjugorje.

Through such an insulting approach, fundamental human and citizens’ rights are violated.

I ask that you make note of my protest, and as the most responsible person in SFRJ, you most energetically take the necessary steps against such irresponsible incidents.

With my respect,

Bishop Pavao Žanić

This is the last word of defense for Medjugorje by the Bishop. At this point, they are pointing a finger at him as well as being an “extremist” and are applying pressure on him. The Chancery of the Diocese of Mostar, in its official newsletter dated the 13th of December, 1981, calls for caution:

Already, for one-half year, the apparitions in Medjugorje have shaken the Church in Hercegovina, and beyond. The Ordinary [the Bishop] is aware of this, and as bishop, it is his duty to pass judgement on the matter. Until now, no ad hoc committee has been formed since we were waiting for the apparitions to conclude so as to be able to comprehend them as a totality and thus arrive at a conclusion. Meanwhile, since the events continue, a word of caution, at least, is required.

There is not doubt that the faithful has received and accepted that news as a source of comfort and merciful aid, and, for many, it has served as an impetus to prayer, fasting, penance, and conversion. Yet, all of this is insufficient to prove the authenticity of the Virgin’s apparition, or messages. The Holy See is keeping a careful eye on the events and recommends extreme caution in coming to any conclusion by the Chancery of the Dioceses.

We call attention to this caution for all priests so that in their statements and stance on the matter, do not precede the judgement of the Church.

This quite moderate caution leads one to suspect that the first impressions and expectations are beginning to constrict. Even at that point, after six months, there was a steady expectation that the apparitions would soon cease so that a valid judgement could be passed. Slowly, the hope that the Virgin appeared so as to resolve the strained relationship between the local Bishop and the Franciscans, the so-called “Hecegovinian Situation,” began to fade.

Bishop Pavao Žanić withdrew into a state of silence up to the point where he decided to speak out against Medjugorje. The conflict sharpened with the introduction on the scene of two assistant pastors in Mostar who began to resist the Bishop’s requirement that a new Cathedral Parish be organized and that the territory of the diocese be restructured.

The young Franciscans, fra Ivan Prusina and fra Ivica Vego, who because of their resistance would be suspended by the Bishop a divinis, appealed to the Virgin through the visionaries. Through the “filter” of their psyche that was imbued with a love for the Franciscans, what emerged is that the “Gospa” took the side of the young assistants. The quarrel came to the boiling point, and many failed to meet their mark on both sides of the issue. The quarrel went to such an extreme that it caused harm to the reputation of the entire phenomenon occurring in Medjugorje, and to all that encompasses the Church in Croatia. Even after the passage of many years, the quarrelling parties still have not managed to arrive at the level of peace and truce such as that which the Virgin continues to urge.

A number of well-intentioned and constructive attempts were made to resolve the issue. Bishop Žanić and the Franciscan provincial, fra Jozo Pejić, succeeded in arriving at and actually signing an agreement for “a united report to the faithful:”

Already, for a longer period of time, there was definite tension and unrest in the Church in Herzegovina, especially in the City of Mostar following the establishment of a new parish. Hence, every attempt to arrive at a solution so that this state of affairs can improve is not only a duty for us as men, but even more so as believers. Jesus calls us to peace and unity; these serve as signs that we belong to Him. This is particularly true for our circumstances as well, namely, where members of other faiths laugh and ridicule us—and this certainly is not a badge of honor for us.

Having this in mind, we priests, both Franciscans and Secular priests, appeal to the people to be at peace and to have understanding so that finally there can be peace between us and with the laws of God and His Church.

Then, let this manner of seeking a solution to our problems be in the form of consultation. As was said, this problem is present, in particular, in Mostar. So as to resolve this state of affairs, it was decided that the following measures would serve as a start:

– Each of the faithful can go to whatever church he wishes.

– As regards the reception of the sacraments, (baptism, marriage, and even funerals), the wishes of the faithful will be taken into consideration.

– So that we can truly come to realize this will to make peace, it has been decided that Masses and the teaching of catechism would be led by both the priests from the Monastery and those from the Cathedral.

– All problems that arise and that have not been resolved will continue to be resolved in common and in the spirit of love and understanding. Hence, let each of us priests as well as each of the faithful reflect on whether or not we actually are contributing to the cause of Peace through our actions and words. Without this, we cannot claim that we belong to Christ. All of us must pray much to the Mother of God, the Queen of Peace, so that she will obtain Peace from the God for our diocese, our province, and our People.

This declaration is entirely in the spirit of the messages of the Queen of Peace. Aside from Peace, she also urged fasting, prayer, and the resolution of conflicts. Why this desired goal was not reached remains a mystery hidden by even more mysterious human weakness. Through fast and prayer, the mercy of God, despite everything else, acts to change hardened hearts to those who are open to it.

Two unforgettable encounters and events

That crucial year of 1991, between the issuance of the Zadar Report, and the start of the war on our territories, I led two groups to Medjugorje, namely in May and in June on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the apparitions. As regards the Zadar Report, circles close to Medjugorje carried on bitter discussions from various points of view. This, for me, served as welcome news born from common sense.

I arrived in Medjugorje about the middle of May. The next day, on my way to church, I encountered Sister Emanuel. She said to me: “Daria, Dr.Loron is here, and wishes to see you.” A bit farther on, one of the friars asked me: “Do you have any news from the Bishop?” I responded: “No, I do not, and I do not know when I will see him again.”

The next day, I set out towards Mount Križevac with a group of pilgrims. At the foot of the mountain, I encountered Dr. Loron. He informed me that he was their in the company of Edmond Fricoteaux, a well-known reporter who disseminates the Virgin’s message of peace. They arranged a meeting with the Bishop and they begged me to join them. They had the approval of their meeting with Bishop Žanić for sessions over two or three days. The first day would be devoted to the scientific investigations and in viewing the video tapes.

I walked the Way of the Cross and thought about the up-coming meeting in prayer with the hope of success of their brave initiative. The next day, we met at lunch and I then proposed that it would be good if we dedicated the following day to peace and reconciliation; also, that it would be well if we were accompanied by several Franciscans. Fra Ljudevit Rupčić, fra Jozo Zovko, and fra Leonard Oreč agreed to accompany us. Dr. Loron and Mr. Fricoteaux will alert the Bishop of this visit without mentioning the friars’ names. The purpose is to seek mutual forgiveness and redirect ourselves to the path of peace and reconciliation.

We met in front of the Bishop’s residence in Mostar. The Bishop knew we were coming, but he was truly taken by surprise at the sight of the three friars. After being seated, we were at a loss as to how to start, or what to say. We remained silent for a few awkward moments.

Photograph of the bishopric of Mostar
The bishopric of Mostar

“Reverend Father Bishop”, I began, “I beg you for forgiveness for that open letter that I directed towards you after you published your position on the matter. Perhaps I offended you thereby. I remain firm in my stance, but, nonetheless, I ask your forgiveness.”

Immediately and quite willingly, he forgave me and added: “And, why, in fact, did you come?” After a bit of a pause, I added: “We came for sake of peace and reconciliation. We most certainly wounded you, but you, in some manner, also wounded these three who are here before you.” Silence, again. Then, Mr. Fricoteaux suggested that we pray before the Blessed Sacrament. The Bishop took us to his chapel and we prayed before the Tabernacle. One after the other, we spoke spontaneous prayers and presented all our difficulties, misunderstandings, and our rejections to the Gospa, the Queen of Peace.

When we again returned to the Bishop’s reception room, the atmosphere and disposition were entirely different. We all stated that we must especially seek and work towards reconciliation following the Zadar Declaration. All three Franciscans expressed the wish and will for a better spirit of cooperation. They invited the Bishop to Medjugorje to hear confessions since it is in the confessional that one sees the good fruits of Medjugorje. We concluded our visit by praying the Magnificat while our hands were linked together. One felt peace and blessings. The Bishop invited us to stay for lunch. Fra Leonard Oreč, Mr. Fricoteaux, and I accepted. Fra Zovko and fra Rupčić could not stay becasue they had other obligations. We enjoyed our meal with a welcome and pleasant sense of unity.

On our way back to Medjugorje, fra Leonard was quite happy. He said: “This is the first time in ten years that I had an opportunity to speak in this manner with the Bishop, and, that he was prepared to listen to me.” Both of them promised that meetings of this sort would continue more often. We were truly filled with hope. And then, the war broke out.

On the second of June, that same year, Msgr. Pavao Žanić celebrated his Golden Anniversary as a priest, and his twentieth year as Bishop. I was preparing to return to Medjugorje for the celebration of the tenth year anniversary of the apparitions. I kept thinking of the pleasant meeting of the Franciscans and the Bishop and wondered why something like this could not be arranged for the visionaries. I shared my thoughts with some responsible people, but there was no response. Perhaps I was imagining that which was impossible. It was Saturday, and I attended Adoration in the evening, praying for that intention. As I was leaving the church, I knew that something must be attempted in this regard. The next day, I went to Marija and said to her: “The Gospa is calling us to peace and reconciliation for the past ten years. It is now your turn to go to the Bishop.” Marija received the idea with eagerness and said: “I simply wait for the opportunity…” I visited all the visionaries. The idea appealed to all of them. All that was needed was to agree on a time to visit the Bishop. I called the Chancery and the Bishop himself answered: “Reverend Father , I want to thank you for your hospitality on the 22nd of May when I and two other laymen and the three Franciscans were received by you. I also wish to congratulate you on your jubilee and to present a small token as a gift.”

“You know”—he responded—“I’m afraid I can’t find time—I have confirmations and various meetings with the Bishops…” “But Reverend Father Bishop,” I continued, “there are several visionaries who also would like to present you with a gift…” “What is that? Who? The Visionaries?” “At present, I don’t know how many, but they have the desire.” “Give me a call tomorrow night.” I called on the 24th, and he said to me: “When would you like to come?” “Whenever it is convenient to you.” I said. “Come tomorrow.” The meeting, then, was to be on the very day of the anniversary of the apparitions. Perhaps he was unaware of the difficulty we might have in leaving Medjugorje because of the heavy traffic and the huge press of pilgrims.

Fortunately, we found a skilful driver and managed to exit Medjugorje. Marija, Jakov, and I went. The remainders were unable to go since they had too many obligations on that day. We thought that perhaps that was best—that not too many of us should be present.

We took along our gifts. Marija had a small but beautifully embroidered stole that she had received the day before from a pilgrim. Jakov brought a picture of the child Jesus from himself and the other visionaries, while I had a hand-wrought Monstrance made in Montréal. We agreed among ourselves that for any discomfort the Bishop might exhibit, we would silently say: “Lord, bless our Bishop.”

When we arrived half an hour late, we found the Bishop standing in front of his residence along with another priest. He greeted us warmly with a simile that I have never before nor since seen on his face. I had the impression that he was going to hug the visionaries. He recognized Marija, but mistook Jakov to be Ivan. A warm handshake followed. He no longer addressed me as “Gospođo,” but rather as “Daria.” I really was pleasantly surprised.

We entered the house and went to his reception room. “Daria, why did you come—why did you bring them?” “Reverend Father, we are your ‘three kings.’ We brought you some gifts for your jubilee.” We unwrapped the gifts and presented them to him. He did not comment, but we could see that he was surprised, touched, and excited.

Subsequently, he turned to Marija and Jakov and asked if they were aware of the new regulations that they would have to abide? They joyfully answered that they did, and Marija added: “It was time that some movement take place.” I, too, expressed my satisfaction that from this point forward, Medjugorje was within the framework of the Church which would assume pastoral care over her. The conversation flowed, but we were not in agreement on all points. It occurred to me that we needed to find some point of common agreement. At that point, the Bishop began to speak of his sufferings and tribulations because of Medjugorje. “I am attacked—they call me all sorts of names—they say that I am mad, that I am possessed by the Devil…” I begged that we find common ground—and that common ground was precisely that which the Bishop had just mentioned, namely, the misunderstandings, attacks, and judgements…

“What you say is true, Reverend Father, namely, that you suffered much. And these young people here before you also suffered much for sake of Medjugorje. It is also said of them that they are crazy, mentally sick, liars, manipulators—yet, they continue to maintain that they see the Gospa. I too, in my role as pilgrim-guide am exposed to mockery, lack of acceptance… This is common to all of us. All of us suffer for sake of Medjugorje, and we as the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, that He bless our suffering… Here before you stand two nice young people—a nice young and healthy boy and girl who are at peace, and who are joyful. Ask them about their apparitional experience. They assert that they do see the Gospa.” Clearly, it was difficult for the Bishop to enter into a more personal contact. I had the impression that something that he could not overcome prevented him from doing so. Since those first days when he spoke so nicely of the visionaries, and listened to them, so much that was negative had accumulated that it seemed to take away his freedom to react to them spontaneously.

By then, the noon hour bell had struck. We stood in silence and prayed the Angelus, and thereby concluded our meeting. As he escorted us out, he inquired of the two youngsters what their plans for life were, and said a sincere goodbye to all of us. They, in turn, promised to come again with the remainder of the visionaries. The Bishop also expressed his wish that the next meeting would be with the remainder of the group. Another time never did come. In obedience, humility, and love, the willingness to listen to each other and to firmly continue to pray on the part of both sides, could, one day, lead to a repetition of such a meeting as this.

Both of my encounters with the Bishop ended in spontaneous prayer. The first time, with the Franciscans, we ended by praying the Magnificat, and now, the second time, we ended by praying the Angel of the Lord, the Angelus. Mary was clearly with us as mediatrix. And, she continues to be among us yet today.