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BISHOP ŽANIĆ IN “THE MYSTERY OF MEDJUGORJE”
Diocesan Chancery, 2011-12-31
In June 2011 the newspaper Večernji list published a book written by four journalists: Ž. Ivković, R. Bubalo, Z. Despot and S. Hančić, titled “The Mystery of Medjugorje: 30 years of the phenomenon. For the first time: the documents of the Yugoslav secret police”. On June 17, the day before the book's release, one of the authors wrote an ad in the same newspaper. The book was also mentioned on the website of the Italian vaticanist Andrea Tornielli, on September 9 and 20, 2011.[1] The Canadian psychologist Louis Bélanger responded to him on the internet, on September 19, 20, and 21 of this year.[2]
 
Tornielli writes that, according to the 1987 UDBA (Ured državne bezbednosti: Office of State Security) document called “Crnica”, it turns out that the principal tool seems to have been “Bishop Žanić, who in the beginning showed himself to be open to the possibility that there was a supernatural event taking place, but later became its most committed enemy”, and that Bishop Žanić's aversion toward Medjugorje “had been fed by a series of documents manufactured by the secret police.” In sum, according to the UDBA report, Tornielli says, it turns out that “Bishop Žanić was ready to accept any document against the Franciscans and against the apparitions, even if it was of suspect origin.” Very grave accusations. The author concludes that the Commission of the Holy See on Medjugorje will need to discuss these documents too.
 
Louis Bélanger reacted on September 19, primarily because Tornielli was attacking the “intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral integrity of the former Ordinary of Mostar, Msgr. Pavao Žanić”. The Italian vaticanist, said Bélanger, “doesn't 'document' anything, doesn't verify anything: he copies/pastes very serious allegations without granting his readers any factual historical retrospective.”
 
Tornielli then mitigated his assertions and, on September 20, wrote to Bélanger that it “is a fact that the Communists were trying to control and influence the Medjugorje phenomenon, and that they were trying to influence Bishop Žanić.”
 
Bélanger replied on September 21, agreeing that the Communists had tried to manipulate both Medjugorje and Bishop Žanić. “My main point is that you convey the allegation that the Secret Service so heavily influenced Mgr. Žanić's decision that he changed completely his position from January 1982 – does the choice of that date point to a specific historical document? – making him a tool of the communist regime, thus its marionette concerning Medjugorje. As if the Ordinary had no legitimate intimate intellectual, spiritual and pastoral motive for the change of his initial spontaneous and positive assessment of the supernatural quality of the Medjugorje events – completely independent of the regime's political stratagems.”
 
Tornielli did not respond further.
 
Since the late bishop Pavao Žanić is mentioned in numerous pages of the book “The Mystery of Medjugorje” (MM), and not in a complimentary way, it is our duty, for the love of truth and out of respect for Bishop Pavao, who was a bishop in Herzegovina for 23 years, to respond to such arbitrary claims and insinuations. But, as an introduction, another topic:
 
The first untruth: The journalist Ivković writes: “The day the seers met with the Gospa for the first time, June 25...” (MM, p. 120).
 
Which Six? It is commonly known that the “seers” met for the first time on June 24, 1981. This also turns up in the same journalist's writings on pages 9, 17, 29, 166, etc. This is a big untruth that creates confusion if this whole thing has been elaborated throughout the journalist's writing. But if the author is thinking of the stable Six, it is worth mentioning here that, in regard to the “seers”, the “mystery of Medjugorje” has not been resolved yet: who was present on the second day of the “apparition”? In fact, the first encounter was on June 24, and this Six was present: Ivanka, Mirjana, Milka, Vicka, Ivan Dragićević and Ivan Ivanković. The second day, June 25, Milka was not present, nor the second Ivan; and Marija, the sister of Milka, and Jakov Čolo were added. And then: Vicka states that Ivan Dragićević “stood with us and saw everything like us”[3] that second day, while the same Ivan categorically denied to Fr. Zrinko Čuvalo, on June 27, that he had been present at the “apparition” that second day, and he denied it three times.[4]To which testimony should we give credence?
 
Why is the anniversary the 25th and not the 24th of June? The same author reports the news that the Gospa said “this to the seers a month before the first anniversary of the apparitions, and then they conveyed it to the parish priest so that he could make it known to the faithful” (p. 17). This news was made public by Vicka in 1985. She added that it had happened in 1982, “about a month before the anniversary, or maybe more.”[5] It is strange that such a piece of news was not recorded in the Chronicle of the Apparitions, in which its scribe, and moreover the illicit head of the parish at the time,[6]Fr. Tomislav Vlašić, was accustomed to writing all sorts of banalities; and yet he must have left out such an important message. Otherwise, this would be a case of some false recollections and memories. It is much more probable that this choice was the fruit of a tacit understanding, as has since been recounted: Podmilačje at Jajce has been celebrating St. John the Baptist on the 24th of June for centuries, and it would not be opportune for the young Medjugorje to compete with that celebration. So it was all attributed to the Gospa who supposedly established, on the occasion of the first anniversary in 1982, that the anniversary be celebrated on the 25th of June, as was made public in the book A Thousand Encounters only in 1985. In any case, over time the group of the stable Six was formed.
 
Let it be said, incidentally: according to the Chronicle of the Apparitions at Medjugorje and in the vicinity about 120 people have affirmed that the Gospa appeared to them between 1981 and 1985, and that Jesus and angels from God also appeared to some of them. If necessary, we could call them all “seers”. Anyway, the Six were chosen.
 
In the article, “The secret dossier. How the UDBA suffocated Medjugorje” (MM, pp. 119-169), Ž. Ivković reports many untruths in regard to UDBA and he seems to accept them. The main piece of news goes back to November 17, 1987, six years after the start of the Medjugorje phenomenon. UDBA's informers in the province are said to have boasted to excess in front of their superiors in the metropolis about their “successes”. The rest is numerous untruths, one after another. It's impossible to rebut all the untruths here, but we cannot neglect the occasion to do so in regard to the matters that seem truly grotesque.
 
Bishop Žanić – enemy. The municipal Party conference at Čitluk in August 1981 “also energetically condemned the behavior of part of the clergy,” and the following names were mentioned: “Bishop Pavao Žanić, Fr. Jozo Zovko and Fr. Ferdo Vlašić” (MM, p. 121). Bishop Žanić is included here among the enemies of the state along with the two Franciscans. Should we accept this too? It will be useful to make note of it, because later Ž. Ivković will brand Bishop Žanić as a “collaborator” of the UDBA!
 
The second untruth: The aforementioned UDBA document, reported by the journalist as a discovery, states: “So Žanić in the course of 1986 alone went to Rome 14 times...” (MM, p. 127).
-- This is not true. According to the Liber intentionum, the journal of Masses celebrated, maintained conscientiously and methodically by Bishop Žanić, he went to Rome seven times in 1986: January 24, April 22, May 19, June 30, September 8, October 27, and December 5.[7]Even this may seem too much for someone, but we are refuting the lies reported in the UDBA document and repeated and published in “The Mystery of Medjugorje”.
 
The third untruth: In the same document, the UDBA informers write to their superiors: “That Žanić had lost authority in the eyes of his diocesan priests can also be seen by the fact that in August of this year [1987] he decreed a change, a transfer for ten priests, and none of them obeyed this decree from Žanić.” (MM, p. 127)
-- This is not true. In the Archive of the Curia there are copies of the letters of “intention” or proposal for transfers in conformity with canon 1748: “If the good of souls or the necessity or advantage of the Church demands that a pastor be transferred from a parish which he is governing usefully to another parish or another office, the bishop is to propose the transfer to him in writing and persuade him to consent to it out of love of God and souls.” The letters of proposal to the parish priests were seven and not ten. The Bishop asked for written responses, and seven responses arrived. Four left the decision to the Bishop. Three presented their reasons. To one of them the Bishop wrote that he had taken his reasons into consideration and was desisting from the intention to transfer him. And no act of disobedience appears, because there was no other “decision” or decree.
 
The fourth untruth: The same UDBA document of November 17, 1987 says: “With reference to the events of Medjugorje, Kuharić held an extraordinary meeting of the YBC [Yugoslav Bishops' Conference] on September 16, 1987, at which Bishop Žanić also took part. Kuharić attacked Žanić in his presentation regarding his positions on the case of the “apparitions”, which offended Žanić, who left the meeting in protest.” (MM, p. 128)
-- This is not true. Our Curia of Mostar also received the minutes of that meeting and it was filed with a regular protocol number [n. 1006/1987, October 16, 1987]. The meeting proceeded with a serene exposition on the part of the Cardinal and the Bishop; and of the 18 bishops present, 13, including Bishop Žanić, participated in the discussion. This is the truth. There were also other topics on the agenda of the day. But who will be able to rebut all the insinuations from UDBA, which the fans of Medjugorje pass along as the greatest discovery!
 
The fifth untruth: According to the aforementioned 1987 document, the boys from UDBA agreed to try to compromise Bishop Pavao Žanić as much as possible. To this end they drafted a letter that was to be sent “to Cardinal Franjo Kuharić in Zagreb, to Archbishop Frane Franić in Split and to Ratko Perić, rector of the College of St. Jerome in Rome.” The document states that the letter was sent to UDBA superiors for approval.
-- In response: This alleged letter was reportedly to be sent to rector Perić, supposing that he would have brought it to the Holy See, “which will in any case, diminish the reputation and authority of Žanić and will contribute to creating conditions so that concrete measures against him will be taken by the Holy See.” (MM, p. 129) It is not known whether the UDBA superiors approved such an anonymous letter or whether it was sent to the intended recipients. The journalist Ivković, who had access to UDBA's secret files, doesn't say either. In any case, the journalist oddly claims that the secret service “sent” the letter to the rector Perić (MM, p. 129). How does he know, if he didn't make the whole thing up?! Why has he reported no evidence? A photocopy of the letter? Perić, the former rector and current bishop of Mostar, affirms responsibly that he never received any anonymous letter, then or ever, against Bishop Žanić. And as regards the reputation and authority of Bishop Žanić in the eyes of the Holy See, this became quite evident the following year when, at the Pope's appointment, he carried out the functions of Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dubrovnik as well, from November 3, 1988 to January 14, 1990, until Dr. Želimir Puljić, a priest of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno, was appointed bishop.
 
Some false conclusions. The journalist Ivković, after reading the 1987 report, wrote: “Three possible conclusions follow from this document: 1. The bishop was being wiretapped, 2. He had a 'mole' in his immediate vicinity, 3. He was a collaborator of the SDB [Služba državne bezbednosti – Service of State Security] (MM, p. 130).

-- To the reporter's three possible conclusions we respond:
 
Ad 1. That the Bishop was wiretapped is not a “possible” conclusion, but a universally known fact. Not only he, but all the bishops. It was known then as much as it is now! At least this is known by everyone. And by reporting such a thing, the journalist is only reinventing the wheel! How could such an “enemy of the State” not be wiretapped!
 
Ad 2. That the bishop had a “mole” near him is not really a necessary conclusion. The Bishop often spoke and wrote publicly, especially in 1987, against the tales from Medjugorje; he wrote in his diocesan monthly “Crkva na kamenu”, he gave interviews in other newspapers and magazines, he also delivered homilies at Medjugorje, for example on the occasion of the feast of St. James, patron of the parish, on July 25, 1987.[8]So it was not totally necessary to have a “mole” near him to know what the Bishop thought and said about Medjugorje! He was even more decisive in his public appearances than in private meetings. He worked in the light of day: “But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God” (Jn 3:21). And he wasn't acting in the underhanded manner of the UDBA informers. For the rest, according to the known lists of UDBA agents that have circulated from hand to hand in this post-war democracy, before the “revelations” of Ivković, various informers spied on Bishop Žanić, considering him the greatest enemy of the State! Among the various pseudonyms used to identify them: Poseidon, Fides, Tomislav, Sijedi, and others.
 
Ad 3. The UDBA document doesn't absolutely show that the conclusion of “collaboration” with UDBA was “possible”, as the reporter states, but precisely the opposite! This should have been evident to the author of this “conclusion”, from the “conclusion” just preceding: if Bishop Žanić was really a “collaborator”, why were there “moles” around him? And, in particular, so many “moles”? And it is equally clear that the Bishop had nothing to do with UDBA, since Ivković reports the document of July 14, 1981, which states at the end that Bishop Žanić was not willing to receive the president of the Commission for Religious Affairs and his co-workers, after they were at the [Franciscan] provincial administration in Mostar. Ivković: “At the bottom of the document, there is an interesting note regarding Medjugorje: 'although they wanted to speak about the same thing with Bishop Žanić of Mostar also, a meeting with him never came about. One has the impression that Bishop Žanić did not want such a meeting and he wanted to avoid it at all costs at that time” (MM, p. 135). A “collaborator” does not avoid a meeting, but runs to it! We have already said that in August 1981 the Bishop was counted among the enemies of the State!
 
No one has ever heard in these twenty years, in which word of the archives of UDBA has filtered out, that Bishop Žanić had been in any form a “collaborator”, “an agent of trust”, “informer” of the secret services. We have heard from his co-workers in the Curia, Fr. Luka Pavlović and Fr. Ante Luburić, that at the Commission for Religious Affairs in Sarajevo they used to say when the subject of Bishop Žanić came up, “As long as Bishop Žanić doesn't come!” And again: Fr. Radoslav Zovko, the current hospital chaplain of Mostar, recounts that on some occasion in those years – more precisely in the period 1985-1986, when he asked for a passport to travel abroad, the UDBA asked him to furnish “information” about the editors of “Crkva na kamenu”, where he was working. Don Zovko answered them: “I'll ask Bishop Žanić. I promised obedience to him, at my ordination. And if he tells me to do so, I will work according to his direction.” After that, they didn't make any more requests of that sort. And, see, they could have had two “collaborators”!
 
We could therefore list and refute numerous other untruths and pieces of disinformation from the UDBA informers which “The Mystery of Medjugorje” is offering! And, for “The Mystery of Medjugorje”, that would be evidence that Bishop Žanić was a collaborator of the notorious UDBA. And these and so many other untruths would have to be forwarded to the Vatican Commission on Medjugorje (the latter is for the vaticanist Tornielli), so that the members would discuss them at their meetings!
 
Conclusion. The UDBA documents, reported by the journalist Ivković, do not prove the thesis of the book “The Mystery of Medjugorje”. The journalist wants to prove that the Yugoslav UDBA undertook everything possible to compromise Bishop Žanić, who had arguments against the “apparitions” of Medjugorje, which had been studied and not verified. Ivković reports the 1987 document as fundamental, but in reality it refutes the preconceived thesis of the journalist and the editor. Why?
 
From the beginning in 1981, Bishop Žanić was apparently open to the phenomenon, because, as a Catholic bishop, he believed in the possibility of apparitions of the Madonna in the world. In that context we can understand his struggle against the atheistic, unbelieving Communists with respect to his protection of the Franciscans and the “seers” of Medjugorje. But he was always very cautious regarding the phenomenon under way in that parish. One example is the moment in which he caught the “seer” Mirjana in a contradiction, when she lied under oath on July 21, 1981: “We went to look for the sheep...” no, no: “Sorry, we went out to smoke...” Or think of when he wrote to the Apostolic Nuncio on August 19, 1981: “In my soul a judgment about all this has not crystallized. Hallucinations? Supernatural?” Or when he wrote to Pope John Paul II on September 6, 1981: “I spoke with the young seers. They are seeing 'something', but to me it is not clear if this is a supernatural phenomenon or not”, as we reported in Mirror of Justice, 2001. Therefore he made the distinction between the seers' phantasms and subjective visions and the objective reality of the apparitions and messages of the Madonna which have been verified.
 
The real turning point for the bishop took place after January 14, 1982, when the three “seers” Vicka, Marija, and Jakov went to him to convey the “message from the Gospa” according to which the Bishop had been “rash” in the Herzegovina case. In that conversation, the Bishop asked the children several times if there had been any messages relating to the “curates”, about which he had already been informed. The seers denied it categorically.
 
But on April 3, 1982 Vicka and Jakov went to the Bishop, again at the Gospa's orders, to tell him that the disobedient curates of Mostar “did nothing wrong”! At this point when it became clear that the “Medjugorje phenomenon” was inserting itself into the “Herzegovina case”, there was a real change and rupture. And there was no longer a possibility of turning back. A long series of arguments persuaded the Bishop more and more that it was only a case of fraud and lies in service of the sad “Herzegovina case”. Bishop Žanić “crystallized” his attitude out of all this: with his message to the parish priests in December 1982, with the Position of October 1984, especially with the two diocesan Commissions (1982-1986). And also at Medjugorje, from the altar, during the Holy Mass, in the homily of July 25, 1987, on the occasion of the feast of St. James, patron of the parish, he solemnly affirmed with all clarity and resolution, that at Medjugorje there were no authentic apparitions!
 
The attitude of UDBA and the organs of government faced with Medjugorje was completely the opposite. In the beginning, the Communists disputed the phenomenon forcefully: they worked themselves up to investigate the “seers”, put some of the friars on trial and in prison, etc. But then, with the passage of time, finding themselves in a catastrophic economic situation, they grasped that it would be better to encourage the arrival of tourists bringing foreign currency to Medjugorje. In 1987 the Communists generally were hoping for the “recognition” of Medjugorje, for the sake of economic benefits from tourism, from foreign currency, from travel agencies.[9]So what aim could the agents of UDBA have had in the document of November 17, 1987? To compromise Bishop Žanić, who was against Medjugorje? We have seen that he, at that time, and already for a long time, had shown himself radically opposed to the stories from Medjugorje, while the Communists, at the time, were aiming to improve the sad economic situation even with the help of Medjugorje. What end will such a document serve now? Certainly, not the end assigned to it by the delusive book “The Mystery of Medjugorje”.
 
Službeni vjesnik Biskupija Mostarsko-duvanjske i Trebinjsko-mrkanske [Official Journal of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan], 3/2011, pp. 340-344.
(Translated from Italian by R. Chonak)
 
[1] An article was published previously in La Stampa, September 8, 2011.
[3] J. Bubalo, Mille incontri con la Madonna, Padova 1986, p. 24.
[4] I. Sivrić, La face cachée, p. 214, 217, 220; J. Bouflet, Ces dix jours qui ont fait Medj', Tours, 2007, pp. 51-53; M. Corvaglia, Medjugorje e' tutto falso, Torino, 2007, pp. 28-30.
[5] J. Bubalo, Mille incontri con la Madonna, Padova 1986, p. 179.
[6] T. Vlašić in a letter to M. K., December 15, 1981, writes from Medjugorje: “As you see, after the arrest of Fr. Jozo Zovko, I am the parish priest at Medjugorje“. It wasn't true. At the request of the Franciscan provincial administration on July 19, 1982, Bishop Žanić appointed Fr. Tomislav Pervan “parochial vicar”, i.e., parish priest, at Medjugorje on July 27, since until the new Code, the parish priest was the convent, the head of the parish was called the “parochial vicar”, and curates were “spiritual assistants”. After the publication of the new 1983 Code, a juridical person such as a convent can no longer be a pastor, can. 520 (1).
[7] Liber intentionum, January 1, 1982 to April 7, 1991.
[8] Crkva na kamenu, 8-9/1987, p. 2.
[9] The author Marco Corvaglia, in his 2009 article, also presents, among other things, the relations between Bishop Žanić and the Communists regarding Medjugorje: http://www.marcocorvaglia.com/medjugorje/medjugorje-i-comunisti-e-il-vescovo.html.
   

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