The March 25, 1985 official letter of Bishop Zanic to the parish priest, Father Tomislav Pervan, of St. James parish in Medjugorje, issued under the number 281, is definite and vigorous. This letter includes not only the orders and instructions of the Ordinary but also brings out the pastorals which the clergy and the visionaries contravened and the dates of their contraventions. The letter bears the title: The Newest Developments in the Events in Medjugorje:
Reverend Father Tomislav,
Even before this, the Ordinary had come to the firm conclusion that the apparitions of the Madonna in Medjugorje are not a reality. Meanwhile, in 1982, the Bishop's Office had formed the Commission to investigate the events and to study the case thoroughly. Because of it, the Bishop's Office has refrained from making any official statement on the real state of affairs. However, several times through letters, the Bishop's Office expressed its desire, and even demanded, that the propaganda stop because of the disobedience of the pastoral personnel and the "visionaries." This was a futile attempt. I present the documents which have been sent to you, and the subject of each one of them:
- December 13, 1981, (N 977): attitude toward the events in Medjugorje;
- April 12, 1983, (N 241): letter to the parish priest, instructions to be followed;
Invitations for meetings:
- March 31, 1983, (N 297);
- September 27, 1983, (N 982);
- July 19, 1984, (N 777);
Following a two-day session, the Commission on the events of Medjugorje declared that the pastoral personnel and the seers in Medjugorje are requested to abstain from any public statement or declaration to the press about the contents of the visions and the alleged miraculous cures.
At our meeting, held in the Chancery Office in Mostar on October 31, 1984, I demanded that Medjugorje's occurrences "be toned down and eliminated little by little."
In the meantime, matters remain as they were, and a great disgrace is expected to befall the Church. Now, without any delay, after all this, I demand from you that you remove the "visionaries" from public display and put an end to their "visions" in the parish church. They have had "visions" in Mostar, and earlier in Sarajevo, Visoko and Dubrovnik. Let them now have them at their homes: people say that they had them at their homes during 1981. In ten days the new statue of the Gospa in front of the main altar ought to be discreetly removed late one evening and replaced by the old one. You must stop talking about apparitions and also cease publicizing messages. The devotions that grew out of the "apparitions" and their messages must be eliminated, sales of souvenirs and printed material which propagate the "apparitions" must also stop. The faithful can go to the sacrament of reconciliation and attend Mass. I do not allow the other priests, especially Fathers Jozo Zovko, Tomislav Vlasic and Ljudevit Rupcic, to celebrate Mass for the faithful or to preach.
The "visionaries" must give you whatever they wrote, especially what pertains to the so called "Biography of the Madonna." No excuse that that's a secret can justify them from not handing over that material to you. Since there was so much public talk about their Diaries and their other writings, and since all this had a great influence on the events of Medjugorje, thus all these documents and [written]) materials fall under the supervision of the Ordinary and become subject to the investigation of the phenomenon of Medjugorje.
We do hope that you will execute what we demand from you in this letter. With greetings and a prayerful wish for God's blessing.
Msgr. Pavao Zanic, Bishop of Mostar-Duvno and Apostolic Administrator of Trebinje-Mrkanj.
The letter above was never published in the Yugoslavian Catholic press, but the Catholic public is familiar with it because the majority of its content was presented in the parish church in Medjugorje. Today, the Gospa regularly appears to Jakov, Ivan, Marija and Vicka in the rectory, in the choir loft of the parish church or elsewhere, but not to Mirjana and Ivanka. She stopped appearing regularly to Mirjana as of December, 1982, and to Ivanka as of May, 1985. The statue of the Gospa which was sculpted according to the descriptions and specifications of the visionaries was removed from the front of the main altar and replaced by the old one.
The Bishop affirms his complete certainty that Our Lady did not appear in Medjugorje, and the Commission's communiques continually underline the theological and disciplinary difficulties posed by the events and the messages of Medjugorje. At their May 30 and 31, 1985 meeting in Mostar, the members of the Commission questioned Fathers Jozo Zovko and Zrinko Cuvalo, as well as two nuns, Marcelina Susac and Vladimira Vucic, who were in Medjugorje at the time of the first "apparitions." They also had a short conversation with Father Tomislav Pervan, as well as with Father Slavko Barbaric.
The Commission concluded its short communique with the following declaration:
The Commission has also heard the reports of its members on various topics assigned to them:
- comparison between the concept of conversion in the Gospel and that contained in the Medjugorje messages,
- disciplinary difficulties in connection with the two former Mostar's chaplains who are appealing to Medjugorje's messages,
- insufficient documentation for alleged miraculous cures.
Despite all these orders from the Bishop, the Franciscans of Medjugorje went all over Europe, to Ireland, to Great Britain, to Canada, and to the United States to give lectures and even to speak on the radio and appear on television about the events in Medjugorje. Moreover, neither Father Vlasic nor Fathers Rupcic and Barbaric obeyed Bishop Zanic's directives. In short, everything remains exactly as before, except that the statue which supposedly represents the Madonna was removed from the church, the visions were moved from the church to the rectory, then again to the church, but this time to the choir loft, and that the propaganda has been intensified! Thus, with regard to the essentials of the situation, the paths continue to diverge.
Since October 30, 1984, when Bishop Zanic sent his position on the events of Medjugorje to Rome and the European Bishops' Conferences, he has not modified his stand. From then on, often on the opposite side of the fence, through his interventions he has always aimed at shutting down belief in the apparitions of the Gospa in Medjugorje as well as at halting the pilgrimages that they inspire. His meeting with the heads of the parish in October, 1984, followed by a letter containing precise orders to Father Pervan, the parish priest, well illustrate the actions he undertook in order to be logical and true to his convection as the Bishop responsible for the diocese concerned.
Bishop Zanic has taken a new step in the same direction. Even though a new (national) Commission has been installed to pursue an examination of the events, he has released an official document to the media which leaves no doubt about his intentions. This is a declaration he made in Medjugorje at the end of his sermon delivered on the occasion of his administering Confirmation to the parish children. In this document he once again publicly and officially declares that the Virgin is not appearing in Medjugorje. He lays out his arguments, professes his faith in the Virgin, and reveals that a "great sign" by the Virgin supports his conclusions. He reviews the course of his own interventions and those of Church authorities aimed at discouraging the pilgrimages, and he deplores that they have gone unheeded. On the same occasion, he announces an additional disciplinary measure: the priests accompanying the pilgrimages cannot celebrate Mass anywhere in the Mostar diocese. I believe that the text, because it summarizes the Bishop's thoughts on Medjugorje over the last six years, should be quoted here in its entirety. It is titled
Brothers and sisters, today here in Medjugorje the sacrament of Confirmation will be administered, and probably you are expecting me to say a few words about those events which are the talk of the entire world. The Church watches all this, and especially what is of interest to her. This is confided to certain individuals and to commissions. As you know, at present, a Commission is mounting an inquiry on the matter. The said Commission has been established by the Yugoslavian Bishops' Conference, for the Church cannot endanger her credibility in this 20th Century world. It [the world] keeps an eye on her to catch her off guard, to criticize her and be able to say: this is what you do with everything else in your faith, everything else is like that...this is the way it is with your Christ.
I can tell you that during these six years I prayed, studied and kept silent. Many others also prayed, and I am grateful to them for that. In each Mass I celebrated, I had a thought for Medjugorje; in every rosary that I recited daily, I prayed to the Madonna for God's and the Holy Spirit's enlightenment. This helped me to gain a strong and firm conviction about everything I have heard, read and experienced.
Here people are praying and fasting a lot, inspired as they are, of course, by the belief that these events are indeed supernatural; and to preach untruth to the faithful about God, Jesus and the Madonna is worthy of the depths of Hell.
Through all my prayers, my work and research, I have sought one goal only: the discovery of truth. For that purpose, in 1982, I established a Commission of four members which later was expanded to fifteen, thanks to some bishops and father provincials. The larger body included people from nine theological faculties, seven dioceses and four provinces, as well as two highly qualified. psychiatrists. Consulting their colleagues in their respective fields, all these people worked for three full years. The Holy See was informed about their work and the events. Today, the Commission set by the Yugoslavian Bishops' Conference is studying the same problems.
In the meantime, there were some who were in a hurry and wanted to go ahead, before the Church's verdict. They proclaimed the existence of miracles and supernatural happenings; from the altar they preached private revelations, a breach to Church regulations as long as those revelations have not been recognized as authentic. For this reason, various Church authorities kept warning against organizing pilgrimages and to wait for the Church's verdict. On March 24, 1984, the Commission on the Medjugorje events also issued a warning. Unfortunately all this remained fruitless. Then, in the month of October of the same year, the Yugoslavian Bishops' Conference issued an order prohibiting official pilgrimages to Medjugorje; and an official pilgrimage was defined as any group organized to come to Medjugorje. This did not help either. Later, on May 13, 1985, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a special letter to the Italian Bishops' Conference asking the bishops to discourage organized pilgrimages... as well as all forms of propaganda. This did not bring any results either. Finally, when the second Commission was set up, His Eminence Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, and the Ordinary of Mostar, declared on behalf of the Yugoslavian Bishops' Conference in their January 9, 1987 press release:
"For that reason, it is not permitted either to organize pilgrimages or to arrange other manifestations motivated by the supernatural character which might be attributed to the Medjugorje events."
At the outset, when the first news was announced about the extraordinary happenings in this parish, the Chancery Office of Mostar intently followed the news and collected everything that might be of help in the search for truth. The Bishop gave all latitude to the pastoral personnel and the children, he even defended them from the attacks of the newsmedia and civil authorities. We taped all interviews, we gathered chronicles and diaries, letters, documents, and all this has been studied by the Commission composed of theology professors and physicians. The three-year research produced the following result: two members of the Commission voted in favor of the supernaturality and authenticity of the Medjugorje events. One member abstained from voting, another wrote that there was something supernatural at the beginning only, while eleven members of the Commission voted against the supernatural character of those events, and thus, that there were no apparitions.
I am deeply convinced that all the members of the Commission worked conscientiously and examined everything that might be of help in finding the truth. The Church cannot risk her credibility, and often in similar cases she carefully probed these kinds of events and banned crowds from gathering where it had been established that the events were not of supernatural origin. It is sufficient to recall Garabandal in Spain, San Damiano in Italy, and tens of similar cases in recent years.
The Madonna, they say, started to appear on the Podbrdo of the Mountain Crnica, but when the militia forbade going there, she came into houses, into forests, fields, vineyards and tobacco fields; she appeared in the church, on the altar, in the sacristy, in the choir loft, on the roof, on the church steeple, on the roads, on the way to Cerno, in a car, on busses, in classrooms, in several places in Mostar and Sarajevo, in monasteries in Zagreb, Varazdin, Switzerland and Italy, once again on the Podbrdo, atop Krizevac, in the parish, in the rectory, etc. It is certain that not even half of the places where the alleged apparitions have taken place have been mentioned, so much so that an earnest man-who venerates the Madonna-asked himself: "My Madonna, what are they doing to you?"
In this diocese, by divine decree, I am the shepherd, teacher of faith, and judge in the matters of faith. Since Medjugorje's events have created tension and division within the Church (some believe in it, some do not), and have evaded Church control, since the recommendations and decisions of the said authorities such as the Commission, the Congregation, and the Bishops' Conference have been ineffective, I, the Ordinary of Mostar, responsible before God for the discipline in the diocese, repeat and sanction former decisions of the ecclesiastical authorities. I do forbid the priests who organize pilgrimages or come here ascribing a supernatural character to these events, to celebrate Mass in the territory of my diocese, and this until the Commission of the Bishops' Conference ends its inquiry.
I turn to you, Immaculate Virgin and Mother, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Mother of this congregation which is looking for you, prays to you and loves you. I am turning to you, as your servant and Bishop of Mostar, and before the entire world I proclaim my deep and unshakeable faith in all the privileges that God has endowed you with, by which you are the first and the most distinguished creature. I also affirm my deep and unshakeable faith in your intercession with almighty God for all the needs of your children in this valley of tears. I assert my deep and unshakeable faith in your love toward us sinners, and that love you confirmed with your apparitions and assistance. I myself have led pilgrimages to Lourdes. Exactly through the virtue of that faith, I your servant, Bishop of Mostar, before the great multitudes which called on you, find and accept your great sign which became sure and clear after these six years. I am not in need of a special sign, but it is necessary to those who believed in the untruth. That sign to me is that for six years you steadfastly remained silent to all rumors about the sign: it will be, they said, on the hillside of apparitions, visible and permanent; it is going to be realized soon; it will be before long, in a while; be patient for a while, so they were saying in 1981... Then again: it will be realized on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, for Christmas, for the New Year. etc.
Thank you, Madonna, because with your long silence of six years you have demonstrated that you have not spoken here, nor appeared, nor given any message or secret nor promised a special sign. Blessed Virgin, Mother of Christ and of us, intercede for peace in this restless region of the Church, in the diocese of Mostar, intercede especially for this place, for this parish, where innumerable times your blessed name was mentioned in words which were not yours. Make them stop fabricating messages in your name. Accept, Blessed Virgin, satisfaction through the sincere prayers of the devout souls who have no part in fanaticism and disobedience to the Church. Let us all reach the real truth. Dear Madonna, humble and obedient servant of God let the faithful of Medjugorje follow with their firm steps the shepherd of the local Church so that all of us might together glorify and praise you in truth and love. Amen!
+ Pavao Zanic, Bishop
Mostar, July 24, 1987
On January 18, 1987, a press release dated January 9, signed by Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, president of the Yugoslavian Conference of Bishops and by Bishop Zanic of Mostar, made the front page of "Glas Koncila" with the announcement of the formation of a new Commission of inquiry on Medjugorje. Here is the text:
In accordance with the canonical regulations which treat the matters of discernment of alleged apparitions and private revelations, the Diocesan Commission formed for that purpose by the Bishop of Mostar, the local Ordinary, investigated the events of Medjugorje.
During the inquiry these events under investigation have appeared to go much beyond the limits of the diocese. Therefore, on the basis of the said regulations, it became fitting to continue the work at the level of the Bishops' Conference, and thus to form a new Commission for that purpose.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been informed about it. It has expressed its recognition of the Diocesan Commission's work done under the responsibility of the local Ordinary, and it urged that that work be continued at the level of the National Conference of Bishops.
Thus the Bishops Conference of Yugoslavia will form a Commission to continue the investigation of Medjugorje's events. While waiting for the results of the Commission's work and the Church's verdict, let the Pastors and the faithful honor the practice of the usual prudence in such circumstances. For that reason, it is not permitted to organize either pilgrimages or other religious manifestations based on an alleged supernatural character attributed to Medjugorje's events.
Marian devotion, legitimate and recommended by the Church, must be in accordance with the directives of the Magisterium, and especially the apostolic encyclical Marialis Cultus February 2, 1974 (cf. AAS, 66, 1974, p. 113-168).
Zagreb, January 9, 1987
+ Franjo Card. Kuharic
President of the B. C. Y.
+ Pavao Zanic
Bishon of Mostar