Jul 11, 2010


 I am still reflecting on my recent retreat in Medugorje and hope to post further comments at a later time. One of the facts that recently came to my attention is the role of the Old Catholic Church in the area, a role that has both disturbed and outraged the local ordinary, Bishop Ratko Peric, who refers to the OCC as a "schismatic sect." Apparently some breakaway parishes in the area together with defrocked Franciscan priests are attempting to link up with the Old Catholic Church, inviting their bishop to perform confirmations. I can certainly understand how this would be seen by traditional, faithful Catholics as a countersign of 'disunity,' but since I have great regard for the OCC as an alternative and very spiritual witness to a different way of being 'Catholic,' my own view is more open-minded. I'm definitely intrigued by these developments. At this point in history, and this is only my marginalized view, we are going to witness far more of these breakaway, spirit-filled alternative communities, living authentic Catholic lives on the margins outside the formal control of the institutional Roman Church. Splintering and fragmentation, chaos and disunity? Perhaps, but my own faith tells me these are the signs of the times, the dividing walls are  dissolving, and tribal distinctions in religion are no longer necessary or important. Genuinely sincere spiritual seekers are being moved to form alternative communities of Catholic belief, while other equally sincere believers are being given the strength and charism to remain within the larger tent and struggle for reform from within. There seems to be both a place and a dire need for both alternatives. The Old Catholic Church in Bosnia Herzegovina, where Medugorje is located, has already gone on record acknowledging its belief - not in the authenticity of the original visions - but in the simple fact that 'Our Lady' is at work in Medugorje in a powerful, spiritual way. Whether or not one can accept the authenticity of the original, charismatic experience - which is still ongoing - it seems hard to deny the extraordinary spiritual fruits of this very holy place. To make my point, here is a beautiful reflection from Cardinal Schonborn, explaining how he made the decision to come to Medugorje last December. The statement is remarkable, not only for the Cardinal's views on the whole phenomenon, but for what it reveals about the deeply spiritual, fair-minded, and balanced character of this very unique prelate in the Roman Catholic Church. The future pope? One can only hope and pray.

I cannot explain exactly how this happened. I have known about Medugorje for many years, not personally because I have not been here before, but I have experienced the fruits of Medugorje in our diocese and even further. I always used to say what Jesus has said in the Gospels, “You will recognize the tree by its fruits.” When I see the fruits of Medugorje back home, I can only say that the tree is surely good. I will just mention two little examples.

At the Security Check point at Vienna airport, one of the guards recognized me, looked at my ticket and asked me if I was flying to Zagreb. I confirmed this and added that from Zagreb I was going to Split and then to Medugorje. His face immediately changed and he said, “I was in Medugorje before!” And with much excitement he began to talk about his experience of climbing Holy Cross Mountain and the spiritual atmosphere he experienced there. A security check point guard talks about Medugorje! Another example, early in the morning I was standing at the local train station. The manager of the station recognized me and we started talking and he confided in me the deep pain and loss he felt when his wife died of cancer. But he immediately added that his friends took him to Medugorje and that strengthened his faith even more. His face reflected such joy.

Those are just two little examples among many, many experiences I have had about Medugorje. I will just repeat what I once said in one interview: if there was something wrong about Medugorje, we would have to dismiss half of our seminarians, since so many of our priestly vocations are both directly and indirectly related to Medugorje.

How, then, did it happen that I decided to come to Medugorje? I always used to hesitate, and being a Cardinal, I am a very exposed person in the Catholic Church. Since there are many controversies, I did not want to start additional discussions and in my opinion, Medugorje is already well known. But this summer I visited the community of Cenacolo in Saluzzo. I have known Sister Elvira for the last couple of years, I love her and respect her as an extraordinary witness of the  Risen Lord and I am aware of the deep relationship the community of Cenacolo has with Medugorje. In Saluzzo, I was able to experience a very strong feeling of interior security: my time to go to Medugorje had arrived! I would say that it was a kind of interior encouragement. I expressed a desire that my visit remain confidential. I simply wanted to spend time in silence and prayer. I did not want to hide my intention to come, but also I did not want that to be the main subject of discussions. I just wanted to come to the place where Our Lady gives so many abundant graces. Besides that, the visionary Ivan Dragicevic was in Vienna last year and I spoke with him, and with Marija Pavlovic Lunetti this year, they were both in the Cathedral of St. Stephen and I gave my permission for those events. Both of those encounters have impressed me so much, primarily because of the modesty, simplicity, clarity and warm heartedness of those two visionaries. That only strengthened my decision to quietly and simply come to Medjugorje.

Read the Cardinal's full statement (in very rough translation) here. 

Here is a video of the youngest visionary,  Jakov Colo, receiving his annual apparition on Christmas day in Medugorje this last December, four days before the arrival of Cardinal Schonborn.