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From the Athanasius of Mostar to Henryk of Medjugorje

By Snježana Majdandžić-Gladić, on July 29, 2018, translated from Croatian, Vjera i djela (Faith and Works, portal of Catholic theologians)


Introduction


A news item was published recently in several media reports that the retired bishop of Warsawa-Praga and archbishop ad personam Henryk Hoser, embarked upon his assignment as the Apostolic Visitor for Medjugorje. The very information itself has caused a lot of reactions in the virtual world. Once again, the battlefield has been opened between those who hold the Medjugorje apparitions as absolute and those who consider them unbelievable. When along with this news, another item was published that the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Ratko Perić, as the bishop on whose territory the parish of Medjugorje is located, received archbishop Hoser and Luigi Pezzuto, the Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that on this occasion he expressed his respect for the Holy See’s decision, he offered archbishop Hoser his cooperation and wished him God’s abundant assistance in fulfilling his mission, he then reiterated clearly and unequivocally what has been the constant position of the Diocesan Chancery of Mostar – that he does not consider any “apparition”, any “message”, any “secret” and any “parchment” as authentic, including the first seven or ten days of the so-called apparitions, the reactions turned into open insults and hostility.


The Queen of Peace or the Queen of Unrest


Even just a quick look at the comments made on a few of the most popular portals, both secular and religious, leads one to conclude that there is very little decentness and objectivity in them, and instead a lot of sarcasm, bitterness and gross insults. On the secularist side, the tones generally range from ridicule to the denigration of all sides, which can be understood regarding the approach and credentials of those commenting. Yet it is very sad to observe how on the so-called religious portals, as well as on official and personal profiles on the social networks, the largest number of commentators-believers present scandalously rude insults. In this regard, what is particularly sad is the way the advocates of the Medjugorje apparitions, those who readily refer to the Medjugorje Gospa (ie. Our Lady) as Mother and Queen of Peace, are so full of unrest and such intolerance, that one’s blood freezes in one’s veins due to their attacks against bishop Perić, in wishing that he would croak, to accusations that he is a KGB agent, a hardened materialist and nonbeliever, even going as far to claim that he is Satan incarnate.


“Fra” Bože Radoš and the Devil or Love towards Enemies in the light of the truth of Medjugorje


In this light, a lot of dust was particularly raised by a video-clip, more accurately an accusation, against bishop Perić that he was none other than the Devil, which was revealed on the Facebook profile of Bože Radoš, who is well-known to the proponents of the Medjugorje apparitions, and who unjustifiably refers to himself as “Fra” Bože Radoš. He is a former member of the Franciscan Order, who due to his disobedience was dismissed 20 years ago and suspended from all priestly faculties, yet he continues to wear the Franciscan habit and usurps the priestly ministry. In the archives of the old web-page of the Dioceses of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinjske-mrkan one can read: “Bože Radoš, dismissed by the General’s decree, on 28 February 1998, confirmed by the Holy See on 23 March 1998, suspended from celebrating the sacraments on 30 December 1998. He is illegally residing in the parish rectory in Čapljina and illegally ministering in some other places in Herzegovina.”

His attacks against bishop Perić are nothing new, for they are a constant of his unlawful pastoral activities, as well as those pastoral activities of some other (oftentimes dismissed and suspended) Franciscans. This can be confirmed amongst other things, by his publication in communion with the other Friars of Čapljina, of the title: The Devil in Herzegovina. The public indictment of bishop Ratko Perić, which is a booklet issued by the Association of the Catholic Faithful of Herzegovina “Mir i dobro” (Peace and Good) in Čapljina, in 2002. The contents of the booklet are, mildly stated tragicomical, while “peace” and “good” cannot be sensed even in traces.

Moreover, to what level of manipulation the “Friars” of Čapljina and some other “friars” of the same mindset and behaviour of “Fra” Bože are ready to go, can be seen in the fact that one of them in the past – “Fra” Stanko Pavlović, before his dismissal from the Order of Friars Minor, dared to pretend to be a bishop and he ventured out to administer the sacrament of confirmation to the candidates of Čapljina.

It is good to add that “Fra” Bože Radoš is a welcome guest in those media which go a long way in promoting the so-called Medjugorje apparitions, and his insults against the bishop in these contexts are regularly referred to as courage and wisdom, and never as arrogance and disobedience. In addition, judging by his frequent appearances and activities on Facebook, we cannot avoid the impression that due to his many performances and self-promotions, he does not have much time left for the rosary and breviary.

Following then, his customary manner of most crudely insulting the bishop, “Fra” Bože also published the aforementioned video-clip, which has been viewed over 30,000 times since its release, received over 250 comments, and been shared about the same number of times. It should also be noted that “Fra” Bože has a large number of followers, that is, that the majority of the commentators approve and support this mode of expression and ways of insulting bishop Perić, and they add their own to the same address. However, thank God, there are a good number of those who express their horror at such low blows, and even more of those who express their deep sorrow that anyone in the Church uses such vocabulary, especially when this is done by a “friar”.


“I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war”


What we want to emphasize here is precisely this kind of ugly and crude vocabulary that is very often used by some friars of Herzegovina and their ideological clones to disqualify bishop Perić and anyone who does not recognize the Medjugorje apparitions. But even more, we also want to self-critically emphasize that this type of vocabulary provokes nervousness and crudeness in those who feel the need to react to this. In this light, we are aware that we too have crossed the limit of decent argumentation and have entered the arena of ​​ridiculing and belittling “Fra” Bože and the likeminded “friars”, along with all those who support the Medjugorje apparitions. Looking at others in this light and looking at ourselves as well, we can observe that this Queen of Peace of Medjugorje is strange, so strange that she is annulling her own essence, for instead of peace, it seems that she is for war. It is similar to what we read in the psalm: “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Ps 120:6-7). And these two sides would probably never agree on who is the enemy of peace, who speaks of peace and who is for war.

The theme of the Medjugorje apparitions should, of course, be open to any discussion, even to that which enters sarcasm, because due to its nature, it is something that is by no means and can never be considered as mandatory belief. Yet in practice it turns out to be a very dangerous area to which very rarely only a few dare to speak critically of. Therefore, it is quite understandable why some of the Herzegovinian “friars” are hurling sticks and stones at bishop Perić or as Scripture would say: “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords“ (Ps 55:21). In this way, Christ’s commandment of love towards our enemies is completely devalued, even worse it is corrupted to the extent that one starts hating both friends and brothers. It seems to us that this is one of the fundamental problems of the Medjugorje phenomenon, and in this light, we allow ourselves to repeat once again, that in all of this we see no objectively justified reason for calling the Medjugorje Gospa the Queen of Peace, but rather the one who is constantly inciting war.


The Medjugorje colorful lies


In other words, the arguments of Bishop Ratko Perić and the indisputable proofs provided by the Chancery Office of Mostar throughout the whole time of the apparitions are completely acceptable to us, for they clearly indicate that the Medjugorje apparitions are a simple lie and manipulation of the masses. Therefore, it is quite understandable that during his encounter with archbishop Hoser, the bishop publicly and clearly presented his position, even though he knows that the appointed Apostolic Visitor has for the time being completely sided with the Franciscans and unquestioningly accepted only their side of the story, while in the face of a whole cluster of negative Medjugorje fruits, he is simply closing his eyes. Therefore, we deem it necessary to look at some of the particularly noticeable things that have emerged these days, to make an attempt at interpreting them in a way that seems reasonable.

First of all, we want to say that we have already addressed the issue of the credibility of the so-called apparitions of Medjugorje in the text titled: On The Medjugorje Zelots, or how the “Gospa” Contradicts the Madonna and that there is no need to add anything to this. The large amount of evidence presented by the Chancery Office of Mostar simply leads to the conclusion that the phenomenon of Medjugorje is a fabrication, hence any further discussion on this would become interesting only if somebody were able to disprove this evidence. Along with this, we only wish to point out here, that the work done thus far by archbishop Hoser regarding Medjugorje, appears to us to have been completely flawed, because he went about the work that was entrusted to him in a superficial, biased and unprofessional way. We have written on this earlier in the texts: Medjugorje Fanaticism and the Papal Envoy Archbishop Hoser and By what authority is Archbishop Hoser proclaiming Medjugorje a Shrine? To these texts as well, we do not feel any need to add or subtract anything from them. However, we do feel we have to comment on some new circumstances, which are primarily focused on Bishop Perić, Archbishop Hoser and Pope Francis, or the Holy See as the main actors.

We ask ourselves the question: how can one properly understand the decision of the Holy See to appoint an apostolic visitor and thereby, probably, completely relieve bishop Perić of his jurisdiction over the parish of Medjugorje? Even though the mandate of archbishop Hoser has been provided by the Holy See, and although it is exclusively of a pastoral character, we do not believe that with this appointment, bishop Perić is left with any authority for administering that parish but that it has, de facto, become a parish under the jurisdiction of the Holy See. This might itself seem unfair to bishop Perić, even as a sign of his downgrading and a reflection of incompetence, but it really does not have to be so.

Before we discuss what we mean by this, we would like to say a few words about Bishop Ratko Perić himself, and how we see his role in the context of the Medjugorje phenomenon.


The role of Bishop Perić within the Medjugorje phenomenon


Bishop Perić and his closest associates, as well as his predecessor, bishop Žanić and his associates, have done a great deal to reveal the lies of Medjugorje, though very slowly. While there are still a far greater number of those who unquestionably accept the Medjugorje apparitions as credible, one should not ignore the fact that many are asking more and more questions and coming to one of two conclusions: that they are a simple manipulation or that it is not a question of the apparition of Our Lady, but of an apparition of the Devil, as “Fra” Bože would say. However, this time not in the person of bishop Perić, but of “the One who divides” from head to toe.

In this light, the role of bishop Perić, and his closest associates are praiseworthy, because they have shown incredible strength and faithfulness in the defense of orthodoxy, while the sacrifices and insults they have had to bear and keep on bearing, confirm their level of concern in defending the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje, who is spreading unrest all around her. For us then, as we have already mentioned in a previous text, bishop Perić, due to his clarity and strength, is similar to St. Athanasius, who in defense of true faith, had to flee into exile five times due to the attacks of the Arian heretics of his time. Or even more beautifully, the title of “Athanasius of Mostar” belongs to him, as was attributed to him for the same reasons by the President of the Croatian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Želimir Puljić.

These words of praise to the Athanasius of Mostar and his associates are not a sign of bootlicking or subjugation. On the contrary, they are our firm conviction that they deserve this recognition for their truly great sacrifices, so much so, that they are often left alone to struggle for the true faith against everyone else. And not only with the challenge of Medjugorje, but also in many other fields, such as with bishop Ratko Perić’s circular letter of 22 October 2016, under the title: “A Reminder to Confessors”, in which, as the only bishop of the Croatian speaking area, he provides clear and orthodox instructions in the interpreting of Pope Francis’ Exhortation Amoris laetitia, without hesitation and fearful silence and waiting, as the majority of bishops in the world have done. We are certain that such clarity regarding the original Church teachings and courage in its defense, has been largely attained by bishop Perić in his aforementioned battle with Medjugorje.

However, we want to emphasize that we feel a certain respect and perhaps even praise, towards those Franciscans who are ready to defend the Gospa of Medjugorje with all their strength, because throughout this story they are also experiencing humiliations and innumerable blows (though it is also true that they themselves are regularly to blame for them). To us, they simply seem to be fanatics who are ready to die for their truth. And yet, that is not something that can easily be disregarded, regardless of the fact that we are convinced that their Truth is actually a simple Lie. Yet even though they are ready to fall into the most base forms of disobedience, we hold that such actions on their part, are most commonly derived from a solid belief that they are acting properly.

Once again, we come back to the problem of Christian love and even more to love towards enemies, because the Medjugorje story is showing a scandalous level of intolerance, which thereby darkens the merciful face of our Master and the gentle heart of his and our Mother, and as a result makes the events around Medjugorje appear to external observers as somewhat of a circus. And then, this Medjugorje paradigm, unfortunately, is being copied to many other sectors of the Church, thereby making the Church lose its reputation, credibility and the value of its mission.

We wish to emphasize once again that the responsibility for such a situation does not rest with bishop Perić and his associates, as is often credited by the proponents of the Medjugorje apparitions, but only on those who started the lies, those who have persisted with these lies and who through media manipulation have allowed them to spread throughout the world. Since he is the bishop in charge of the parish of Medjugorje, bishop Perić had to react to such lies due to his ministry, and we maintain that he did exactly what would be expected of any bishop of the Catholic Church.

Has then, the appointment of archbishop Hoser as Apostolic Visitor downgraded bishop Perić; and has the placing of a person who unquestioningly accepts the Medjugorje apparitions humiliated him; and has the direct intervention of the Holy See disqualified all his efforts towards the truth; and has all this taken place a half-year before his regular retirement in order to deliberately remove him from the public scene to prepare the ground for a new bishop who will support the Medjugorje apparitions – time will tell. Yet it seems to us that things could develop very quickly in a direction that bishop Perić would wish for.


The Medjugorje phenomenon between the Athanasius of Mostar and Henryk of Medjugorje


First and foremost, one must be honest and admit that, in essence, bishop Perić (not due to his responsibility or any omission on his part) was the bishop of the parish of Medjugorje only in name. Accordingly, one should also be honest and admit that not all of the Medjugorje friars have obstructed the jurisdiction of the Chancery Office in Mostar. Yet in principle and in view of the intricate circumstances, it can be said that the Medjugorje friars led the parish in the way they wanted, without acknowledging the bishop’s authority or respecting his decisions. And oftentimes they disrespected the authority and decisions of the General of the Order, and the authority and decisions of the Holy See.

Amongst other things, this claim can be supported by the fact that with the explicit or tacit blessing of the Franciscans, without any prior knowledge and approval of the local Ordinary, many communities of suspicious character have sprung up, from the Central Nucleus of the current New Age movement and the former initiator and brains of the “Medjugorje operation” “Fra” Tomislav Vlašić, up to a series of other unrecognized religious, charismatic and charitable communities and associations considered dangerous to ecclesiastical communion.

The same applies to the highly praised International Youth Festival – The Mladifest, which is held every year from 1 to 6 August, in which tens of thousands of exhilarated Medjugorje pilgrims flow, though probably none of them know from what kind of blasphemous event it developed, which therefore cannot have the support of any of the bishops of the world. Its founders and organizers of course, have no need for such support, for they find it in the vast crowds that participate in them, who do not ask for anything more than to feel something in that Oasis of Peace. The event that we are referring to is linked to an alleged revelation of the Medjugorje Gospa in 1984, in which the Gospa informed the visionaries that she was born on August 5th, and that in that very year, on that date she was celebrating her 2,000 years. Enthused by this revelation, the visionaries, according to the testimony of the visionary Marija Pavlović, decided to bake a big birthday cake for her, decorated with candles and many sugar roses, and to carry it to the hill of the apparitions. The Gospa was so touched by this birthday wish, that she even took one of the sugar roses offered to her spontaneously by one of them. To such a bizarre mixing of the natural with the supernatural, from which the Mladifest has grown, there is nothing to add, except that, bishop Perić would not approve of such a heathen activity even if he were dead. But of course, nobody asked him to either.

Our intention in emphasizing all of this, is to show how in reality bishop Perić’s hands were tied, that is, how against such a big propaganda machinery that unscrupulously made a monster out of the conscientious bishop, he did not have any maneuvering space for the regular administration of Medjugorje. For this very reason we believe that things will now, and not only in the pastoral sense, move in the right direction.

Even though archbishop Hoser in his previous visit to Medjugorje did not notice any of the things that we have said, but on the contrary, provided unreserved support to the Franciscans, to the extent that after only three days in Medjugorje he identified himself with them by addressing the faithful with the salutation “We Medjugorjans“ [English], we are convinced that he will soon begin to change his mind. For as soon as the pastoral problems force him make the slightest move that will not be acceptable to the Franciscans and the common sectarianism, he will encounter obstruction and back-turning. That is why we think that the appointment of an apostolic visitor and especially of such an apostolic visitor, is an act of the Holy Spirit, because the intentions of many hearts will be revealed through him.

Moreover, given that the Medjugorje phenomenon exists to provoke tension or the creation of the general impression that all those who believe in the Medjugorje apparitions, especially the (disobedient) Herzegovinian Franciscans, are persecuted martyrs due to the conscience and the malevolence of bishop Perić, the appointment of an apostolic visitor then, makes the cause of these many injustices to cease. Hence, it will be interesting to observe what will happen.


The Appointment of an Apostolic Visitor – a mistake or wise decision of the Holy See?


We predict that this will be the beginning of the end of the interest of the masses for the destination of Medjugorje and that when the sources of this religious tourism dry up, we expect that even the Franciscans themselves will abandon the Queen of Peace. In addition, since the visionaries are already in their mature years, it is to be expected that after their deaths, just the mentioning of apparitions will not be adequately interesting, because the pilgrims have learned that the Gospa appears by request and that she is so considerate that she even postpones a pre-agreed time, according to the changing needs of the client.

Of course, one must also be prepared for a scenario of attempts to continue to maintain the Medjugorje fairy-tale, because the centuries-old resourcefulness of the Franciscans could find new ways, for instance, of provoking tensions with the Holy See according to the already tried and successful method, if and when relations with archbishop Hoser become strained. Or they could pray to the Gospa for the grace of newcomers, that is to say, that she starts appearing to others who will ensure that the apparitions continue from age to age. We expect the final decision will be made only after carefully considering what gives them the greatest benefit.

In this light, it is good to mention the words of Henryk of Medjugorje before his departure from Poland, that is, before coming to Medjugorje and commencing his ministry as apostolic visitor, on the issue of the mafia that flourishes in Medjugorje, particularly that from Napoli which he emphasized. We do not doubt that the mafia has truly found its place in Medjugorje, yet we wonder who opened the doors to them and who are firmly supporting them? Furthermore, we fear that the mafia mentioned by archbishop Hoser is only an infant in comparison to another, concealed in charismatic-charitable cellophane, which Msgr. Željko Majić, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno as a well-informed person, mentions in his sharp and interesting article entitled: Razlikovati pšenicu od kukolja (Distinguishing Wheat from Weeds). Has this mafia caught by the throat, influential high-ranking Vatican dignitaries, who have the power and interest to call Lies the Truth, maybe time will tell, but many little pebbles thrown along the way lead to that murky source.

To make no mistake, we here clearly emphasize that we are not thinking of Pope Francis or Archbishop Hoser, but rather through our intuition we sense that the foreseeable future will show that the pope’s decision is much wiser and far deeper than it seems in this moment. That is, that we as observers are missing a lot of pieces to complete the mosaic, while he has a complete or at least a more complete picture and, in this light, he knows why he is doing what he is doing. We could say that the naive and harmless Henryk of Medjugorje is ideal in serving the pope’s purpose in accomplishing what he intended, far from the camera lights.

This conclusion can be supported by the fact that the pope has repeatedly, in a direct and sarcastic way, publicly spoken on the apparitions of Medjugorje, as mentioned by Msgr. Željko Majić in his article. Thus, on 14 November 2013, in his morning homily during Mass he said: “Our Lady is a Mother! And she loves all of us. She is not the headmaster of a post office sending messages out every day”. That this statement was not said recklessly, but rather thoughtfully, can be seen in the fact that he repeated it almost entirely three and a half years later, on 13 May 2017, when he said: I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, not Our Lady as the headmaster of a telegraphic office, sending out daily messages at a specific hour. This is not the mother of Jesus. And these alleged apparitions have no value. I am saying this as a personal opinion. Along with this, an excerpt should be added from his conversation with the Union of Major Religious Superiors on 25 November 2016, when he said: “This fashion of Our Lady as a super-star, who as the protagonist places herself in the center, is not Catholic.” Even though in none of these statements the pope did not explicitly mention that they refer to Medjugorje, from the contents of the messages and the circumstances of the apparitions of Medjugorje, it is more than obvious that they refer to it.

We also come to this conclusion by the fact that the pope appointed archbishop Hoser ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, which means that his ministry may take years, but that it can at any time, whenever the Holy See decides, also cease. This means that archbishop Hoser will not be able to easily take steps that would go hand in hand with the Franciscans, which he would probably want with all his heart at this moment, but that he will have to think well in advance whether his moves will please the pope, always keeping in mind that the pope does not view the phenomenon of Medjugorje with the same eyes of Hoser. In addition, the pope has limited his ministry even further by having determined that it is purely pastoral, as stated in the press release of the Holy See’s Press Office of 31 May 2018, and thus made it clear that he was no longer to rush out with statements outside of this context, as he had previously done.


In lieu of a conclusion


Given all this, we truly believe that the pope’s decision is far wiser and far-reaching than what seems now, and that as such it balances both the doctrinal and the pastoral side of the Medjugorje phenomenon. In other words, it seems to us that Pope Francis has opened a new and possibly final chapter of Medjugorje, which might seem outwardly to be siding with the supporters of the Medjugorje apparitions and heading towards recognizing Medjugorje as a shrine, which also appears as a downgrading of bishop Perić and a gross rejection of everything he has been doing through these past decades. But it is possible that, in actual fact, through the sufficient yet very limited faculties given to archbishop Hoser, he is only trying to create an ordinary and regular situation in Medjugorje, knowing well that the interest in the Medjugorje phenomenon will be significantly reduced, with the rivers of those pilgrims who are searching for miracles more than for God alone, as well as in all those powerful charismatic-charitable-catering-trade interest groups, whose every reason for existence ceases the moment when interest in their “products” decreases.

Whether we are right or not, we nevertheless wish to express to bishop Perić our deep gratitude for his perseverance in the true faith, at the dusk of his episcopal ministry, by paraphrasing the words of Holy Scripture: You have fought the good battle; your (episcopal) race is (almost) completed, you have kept (your and our) faith! (2 Tim 4:7). With further gratitude to him and his associates, we add: From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing (cf. 2 Tim 4:8).


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