.- Most Rev. Ratko Perić, the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno in Bosnia-Herzegovina, released a statement in which he criticizes Vienna, Austriaâs Cardinal Christoph SchÃ¶nborn for making a highly publicized âpersonal visitâ to the region where Mary is said to have been appearing since 1981.
In his statement, released on January 2, Bishop Perić noted that it was his âduty, as diocesan bishop, to provide information to the faithfulâ regarding the nature of the apparitions, the divide they have caused in his diocese and the official position of the Church on the anomaly.
The apparitions have not been officially recognized by the Church.
Perićâs statement explained that due to the ongoing apparitions and the ensuing debate, his diocese now unwillingly hosts a number of ânew communities and associations of the faithful who, in disobedience, live at Medjugorje.â These communities, he said, âmay become encouraged in their ecclesial disobedience because of the cardinalâs visit.â
The statement also called into question a November 13, 2009 statement from Viennaâs Kath.net claiming that during SchÃ¶nbornâs visit, âthere will also be a meeting with the local bishop and the critics of Medjugorje.â However, the bishop stated, as of the release of the his Jan.2 remarks, the Diocese of Mostar had received no official communication from SchÃ¶nbornâs office of the cardinalâs intent to visit the parish. This absence of notification, Perić said, displays the lack of a âcertain ecclesial courtesyâ among prelates who are want to inform their brother bishops when one is about to visit the otherâs diocese.
The bishop concluded that SchÃ¶nbornâs visit, especially his actions and statements, âhave added to the current suffering of the local church.â
Bishop Perićâs complete statement is as follows:
On the occasion of the visit of Cardinal SchÃ¶nborn to Medjugorje
Since the media have announced, and been present during the visit and the public presence of Cardinal Christoph SchÃ¶nborn, Archbishop of Vienna, to Medjugorje, which has thus sparked a wrong impression that the Cardinal, by his presence, has recognized the authenticity of the âapparitionsâ of Medjugorje, I regard it to be my duty, as diocesan bishop, to provide some information to the faithful, noting that I have already sent a personal letter of similar content to the cardinal.
1. Before we begin, some media have propagated the news story that, on Sept. 15, 2009, at the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna a meeting took place, at which his eminence Cardinal SchÃ¶nborn was present and during which Marija PavlovÃc-Lunetti, the daily âvisionaryâ who has allegedly witnessed the daily âapparitionsâ of June 1981, spoke of how the âapparitions had influenced the changing of her life. On that occasion, the Cardinal, responded in a speech: â It is a great gift that the Mother of God wants to be so close to her children! She has demonstrated this in so many places in the world. And she has been demonstrating this in a very special manner at Medjugorje for years and years.â
2. Then, on Nov. 13, 2009, Kath.net of Vienna announced: âThe Archbishop of Vienna will visit the well-known Marian shrine at the end of the year, including the parish and the Cenacle Community. There will also be a meeting with the local bishop and the critics of Medjugorje.â The curia of this diocese was not informed by the office of the archbishop nor by the Medjugorje parish office of the Cardinalâs visit.
3. On Nov 16, 2009,the Catholic News Agency published the news story: âCardinal Christoph SchÃ¶nborn will visit Medjugorje, the small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina where six young people have allegedly been witnesses of apparitions from the Virgin Mary. But according to the Archdiocese of Vienna, the trip is 'completely private' and does not imply a statement from the cardinal on the veracity of the apparitions. It was supposed to be a completely private visit, it was not supposed to go out to the Internet,' said Fr. Johannes FÃ¼rnkranz, personal secretary to the Archbishop of Vienna.â
4. On December 29, 2009, Cardinal SchÃ¶nborn arrived in Medjugorje. The media accompanied him the next day and on others as well. According to the news, he delivered a speech at the church of St. James the Apostle that highlighted the mercy of God the Father. In that speech, he said: âWho could put these things in motion? Who could invent them? A man? No, this is not the work of a human being.â
On December 31, 2009, journalists transmitted: âWhile some were expecting that the Cardinalâs visit to Medjugorje would be private, he has nevertheless surprised the locals by being very visible. He has spent time celebrating Mass at the Church of St. James the Apostle, walking up the hill where the apparitions occur with the visionary Marija Lunetti, praying in the silence of Adoration, and perhaps the most significant thing, delivering a speech at the parish church in the company of the Franciscans.â
5. In all of this, I have to admit that, as diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, I have remained very surprised. I understand that a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church enjoys the faculty to confess and preach the gospel in all the Catholic Church. But when it comes to public appearances outside of his own diocese, there is, among us bishops, a certain ecclesial courtesy: the bishop or the cardinal who is planning on coming to another diocese and appearing publicly, announces himself to the local bishop first, something suggested by ecclesial prudence. I believe that such ecclesial prudence, and such a rule, deserved to be applied especially in this case.
6. I am surprised that the office of Cardinal SchÃ¶nborn has not, to the day of the publication of this statement, contacted us. I suppose that the Cardinal is aware of the Churchâs position regarding Medjugorje, a position based on the investigations and conclusions according to which it is not possible to say, âThe apparitions or revelations are supernatural.â His visit to the Cenacle Community, that is to say, to Sister Elvira, who obiter dicendo, as a religious does not have the permission to live or work in this diocesan territory, could be interpreted as a support for her. It can not only be interpreted as support to her, but also to the conspicuous number of new communities and associations of the faithful who live in Medjugorje in disobedience, and may read an encouragement to their ecclesial disobedience into the Cardinalâs visit.
7. As bishop of the diocese, I will highlight and repeat some painful facts:
Â· First of all, I highlight the painful âHerzegonvinian caseâ of the parishes which are linked to the âMedjugorje phenomenon:â from the beginning, some Franciscans, who were then in disobedience, have decisively taken the side of the figure of Medjugorje, accusing the then-diocesan bishop of causing the local crisis. One of them has since left the order and the priesthood.
Â· In the territory of the diocese, we now have nine ex-Franciscans who were dismissed by the superiors of the Order of Friars Minor. The Holy See has confirmed such their dismissal. Despite being suspended a divinis, they operate in the usurped parishes as legal priests. While the alleged figure of Medjugorje responds to the most frivolous questions of the curious, we have never heard a word against the grave abuses that are damaging the unity of this local church.
Â· We have had a tragic experience in 2001: A few Franciscans, some of whom had already been dismissed by their order, and some others who had not yet been dismissed, invited an âold-Catholicâ (a small European schismatic community) deacon who introduced himself as an âarchbishopâ who âconfirmedâ more than 700 young people in the usurped parishes. All of this occurred invalidly and sacrilegiously. He also celebrated the Mass invalidly as a deacon in some parishes. The apparition of Medjugorje doesnât even mention this abuse of the Sacrament of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Eucharist!
Â· We have also had another sad episode: Two of these priests have gone to an âold-Catholicâ bishop in Switzerland requesting to be ordained bishops and to separate themselves from Mostar and from Rome in order to create a formal schism. This is something the âold-Catholicâ bishop has declined to do.
Â· We also have had problems with the presence of two particularly charismatic promoters of the âMedjugorje phenomenon.â One of who is the profoundly disobedient Tomislav VlaÅ¡ić, who was dismissed from the Franciscans last year, and who the Holy See has relieved, upon his own request, from any priestly duty or responsibility. The other is Brother Jozo Zovko, who has been deprived from any priestly duty in the territory of this diocese since 2004, and who, according to news stories, has been pulled out of the territory of Herzegovina by his religious superiors and has been forbade from any contact with Medjugorje.
8. The Cardinal remained enthusiastic about the many confessions heard at Medjugorje where the Fatherâs mercy was expressed. We believe that the mercy of the Heavenly Father is equally expressed in Medjugorje as in any other parish of our diocese, before or after the Medjugorje phenomenon. Just take a look at the long lines of faithful in front of the confessionals in all of our parishes, especially before Christmas, Easter, liturgical feasts, or confirmations. Many claim that the confessions at Medjugorje are a strong proof that our Lady âappears.â According to such conclusions regarding to the numerous confessions, our Lady would appear in all of our parishes, and not only to those three persons to which she appears once a year at Medjugorje and the other three to whom she appears every day, both inside and outside of Medjugorje, and even at the Vienna cathedral, as they say. In total, up to now, some 40,000 âapparitions!â Moreover, we have the impression that some of the âvisionariesâ decide where and when Our Lady will âappear,â since she appears where and when they want. Isnât this an unacceptable manipulation of Our Lady, and of the sacred in general?
As diocesan bishop, I wish to inform the faithful with this statement that the visit of Cardinal Christoph SchÃ¶nborn does not imply any recognition of the âapparitionsâ related to Medjugorje, I am saddened by the fact that the Cardinal, with his visit, presence, and statements, has contributed to the current suffering of the local church, and even added to it, which does not contribute to the much needed peace and unity.
Ratko Perić, bishop