(Above photo: Archbishop Hoser, Apostolic Visitor to Medjugorje, at a youth festival there)
Interview with Medjugorje Expert and Director of Medjugorje dot org, Steve Shawl
PrivateRevelation dot org: Christ taught: "So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits" (Mt. 7:17-20). Likewise: "For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush" (Lk. 6:43-44). Though the good fruit (conversions in life and to the Church, return to the sacraments, priestly and religious vocations for example) in Medjugorje is abundant, some still disbelieve that Our Lady is appearing there. The first couple bishops were skeptical but more recent ones are more open. Is it fair to keep citing the first two bishops as reason to disbelieve? After all, the Vatican itself has officially approved the first visions already. Steve Shawl: Historically, it is not uncommon for there to be significant pushback and attempts by locals – and even the Church – to stop an apparition from continuing. Lourdes was such a case. Bernadette endured repeated efforts to prevent her from returning to the grotto time after time. And it took decades after the apparitions ceased for Lourdes and Fatima to be approved by the Church. Certainly, the local bishops’ opinions are not infallible, and due to many circumstances, they may refuse to believe that a local apparition in their diocese is authentic. In Medjugorje, Bishop Zanic was the first bishop over Medjugorje when the apparitions began on June 24, 1981. The bishop traveled to Medjugorje a number of times over a six-month period and spoke to the visionaries at length. Fr. Jozo Zovko was the pastor of the parish at the time, and in the beginning was not sure about the authenticity of the apparitions. Bishop Zanic actually admonished Fr. Jozo for not believing. The bishop gave a sermon in Medjugorje in front of approximately 3,000 people and declared that the visionaries were not lying, they were not coerced, and were of sound mind – and he believed the apparitions to be authentic. Fr. Jozo was sitting alone in the church contemplating the apparitions taking place there, and he heard a woman’s say: “Go; protect my children.” He opened the side door of the church and the visionaries ran in. The Communists were chasing them. He locked them in a side room where they would be safe. He returned to the door, the Communists ran to Fr. Jozo and asked if he had seen the children. Fr. Jozo glanced in the opposite direction, and without saying a word the Communists ran in that direction. Shortly after that experience, during an apparition in the church with the visionaries, Fr. Jozo also saw Our Lady. He was now a staunch believer in the apparitions. The Communists spoke with Fr. Jozo and asked him to leave Medjugorje for a number of days. If he refused, they told him they would torture and kill him. Fr. Jozo refused. He said: what kind of man or priest would I be if I abandoned my people and my parish, and denied the truth of Our Lady appearing? Shortly after, the Communists arrested Fr. Jozo and charged him with speaking against the Communist government. During a homily, Fr. Jozo spoke of the Israelites in exile, wandering the desert for 40 years. The Communists accused him of speaking about the 40 years of Communism in their country. He was tried and sentenced to three years in prison. He served 18 months. Before he started his prison sentence the Communists beat him so severely that he was unrecognizable. They broke his back, knocked out his teeth, and continued to beat him without mercy. Parishioners that were in the Mostar hospital at the time witnessed them dragging the unconscious and close to death Fr. Jozo into the hospital. I am told the Communists also paid a visit to Bishop Zanic. He was also threatened with torture and death if he did not denounce the apparitions and prevent Medjugorje from continuing. The bishop responded that he was not able to go to prison for Medjugorje, and from then on denounced the apparitions. He did everything he could for many years to discredit the apparitions, and all who were involved in Medjugorje. When Bishop Zanic was replaced with Bishop Peric, no further investigations were done by the bishop. He did not believe in Fatima or Lourdes. He had no interest in finding the truth about the apparitions. During his appointment as bishop, he never spoke to any of the visionaries, and only traveled to Medjugorje for confirmations and other Sacraments where his presence was required. It had previously been affirmed by Rome on more than one occasion that the local bishop’s negative opinion of Medjugorje was simply that – his personal opinion – and did not reflect the Church’s view of Medjugorje. And so it was until Pope Francis permanently appointed Archbishop Henry Hoser to Medjugorje to help oversee all that went on there. This placed Medjugorje officially under Vatican control. Archbishop Hoser was a staunch supporter of Medjugorje. The latest local bishop assigned to Medjugorje is a Franciscan. He visited Medjugorje as a child, and it helped form his vocation to the priesthood, and now, serve as the bishop of the Mostar Diocese. The commission created by Pope Benedict to continue investigations into Medjugorje ran from 2016-2019. This was by far the most thorough investigation to date and included many specialists that looked into every aspect of the apparitions. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith turned over its recommendations to Pope Francis in late 2019 as I recall. Pope Francis has yet to publicly disclose them. But we do know of four recommendations contained in the Ruini report: 1. That Medjugorje be named a pontifical shrine of the Church (done) 2. That Medjugorje be placed under Vatican control (already done) 3. That the first days of the apparitions be declared supernatural and authentic (done) 4. That church-organized pilgrimages be allowed (already announced by Archbishop Hoser) These recommendations have never been made about any ongoing apparition. The Church is very wise recommending the first apparitions be deemed authentic. This leaves later and current apparitions to further study in the future. The fruits of Medjugorje have been recognized. Over 1,000 documented vocations to the priesthood and religious life have been realized. Countless healings of mind, body, and spirit have also been carefully documented over the years. Countless conversions back to God and our Catholic Faith. In my opinion, having spent years of my life in Medjugorje, traveling there with our pilgrimage groups for 30 years, Medjugorje is the most important apparition of Our Lady to date. Medjugorje is truly a place where Heaven touches the earth.