Below is an interview with Medjugorje expert and tour guide Steve Shawl (March 24, 2023).
Hello, Mr. Shawl. Many think your website, Medjugore.org, is the best Medjugorje site on the Internet. For this reason I contacted you – to clear up some questions I keep hearing regarding Medjugorje. Thank you so much for your time.
Shawl: In case your readers are not familiar with our website, let me give you a quick intro. I had a powerful, supernatural experience with Our Lady in 1995. The experience changed my life, and my career focus – to spreading Our Lady’s messages from Medjugorje full-time. I created the very first website focused on Medjugorje in 1995. It is still probably the largest resource of Medjugorje information, with over 4,000 .html documents. I also immediately started traveling to Medjugorje, and have been there over 150 times with our [pilgrimage] groups over the last 28 years. We still schedule one to two pilgrimages per month to Medjugorje, with most of our groups staying with the visionary Mirjana. Medjugorje is truly a place where Heaven touches the earth, and it is a life-changing experience for those who visit there.
What is the status of Medjugorje in the eyes of the Church?
Shawl: This is a very complicated question that could be a book in itself. So this is a short response that is limited to the latest commission that has investigated Medjugorje. The investigation was started at the request of Pope Benedict in 2010. It was named “the Ruini Commission.” The commission was presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini. The commission consisted of an amazing group of experts, from many fields, who were tasked to investigate and look into every aspect of the Medjugorje apparitions. The visionaries were, once again, extensively tested medically. Very little was published regarding the progress of the commission, until the results, called “the Ruini Report,” which were given to Pope Francis in 2019. Pope Francis has not yet revealed the findings, and can choose to reveal them sometime in the future or not. We do know a few of the recommendations from the commission:
That Medjugorje be placed under Vatican control. This has already happened with Pope Francis permanently assigning Archbishop Henryk Hoser to Medjugorje in 2017. He reported directly to Pope Francis and was there to assist the Franciscans with the pastoral care of the almost one million pilgrims per year that visit Medjugorje. Archbishop Hoser was a staunch supporter of Medjugorje. He passed away in August 2021. He was replaced in November 2021 by Archbishop Vibo Valentia, who is also a staunch supporter of Medjugorje.
That official pilgrimages be allowed. This is a big step for Medjugorje. We know that Medjugorje will most likely not receive full Church approval until decades after the apparitions cease, as with Fatima and Lourdes. So for the Church to allow official pilgrimages – Church-organized – is unprecedented. This was announced by Archbishop Hoser in Medjugorje.
That Medjugorje be declared a Pontifical Shrine of the Church.
That the first apparitions reported in Medjugorje be declared authentic and supernatural in nature. This is also unprecedented in Church history for the Vatican to make such a declaration while the apparitions in Medjugorje are ongoing.
We must realize that the Church moves slowly and cautiously. There have only been about 12 apparitions throughout history that have been approved by the Church. For Medjugorje, which is an ongoing apparition, to receive this level of support and approval by the Church is truly rare.
There are people who are twisting the messages of Medjugorje to suit their ends. How would you respond to that?
Shawl: Unfortunately there are some organizations that distort Our Lady’s messages in both print and online videos. It makes me very sad. It has always been critically important to us that we only use the official translations of Our Lady’s messages from the parish in Medjugorje, and we do not sensationalize or editorialize them in any way. We can only pray that these people will see the harm they can/have caused by doing this.
Some say that the messages have gone on for too many years. How do you respond to that?
Shawl: We are very fortunate that Our Lady is still with us in Medjugorje after 41+ years. As Our Lady tells us: “this is a time of grace.” We need to take advantage of this time and work on our personal conversion. These special graces in Medjugorje are to help us to grow closer to Jesus and also help us grow in faith. Conversion is a lifelong process, and this special time of grace helps us advance in our spiritual lives unlike any other time in history. Every day that goes by, more people find out about Medjugorje, and for many, their lives are changed forever. There are healings of mind, body, and spirit. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life. There are so many fruits. The purpose of Our Lady’s time here on earth, through Her apparitions and messages in Medjugorje, is to bring as many people to Her Son as possible. For those that are hung up with the length of time the Medjugorje apparitions have been taking place, I will point to Laus, France. Our Lady appeared there for 54 years, from 1664 to 1718, to Venerable Benoîte Rencurel. The Church approved the Laus apparitions in 2008.