Archbishop says he informed the Pope of strong support for Medjugorje
Retired Archbishop Philip M. Hannan, one of the nation's most prominent prelates, has indicated strong support for the famous apparition site of Medjugorje and says that he conveyed those feelings during a lunch with John Paul II.
The archbishop, now 87 but still working full-time, expressed his views to us last weekend during a dinner in New Orleans. He said he has visited Medjugorje three times and is strongly impressed by the "powerful" effect it has on young people as well as the inclination to evangelize that it inspires in pilgrims.
"My reason for supporting the visits to Medjugorje, especially by our young people, is the program that is encouraged in Medjugorje," said Archbishop Hannan, who last visited in 1999. "Everything in the program at Medjugorje is very highly approved by the Church and is in support of some of the basic duties of Catholics -- for instance devotion to the Blessed Mother, the frequentation of the sacrament of penance, the reception of Holy Communion and attendance of Mass, and the recitation of the Rosary. Those practices are very strongly not only encouraged but commanded by the Church, and I have told everyone I have met -- including the Holy Father -- that I believe in the words of Scripture: 'by their fruits you will know them.' The people who have been to Medjugorje, especially the youth, have really experienced a great awakening of their faith."
Hannan celebrated Mass at Medjugorje and said "the feeling of devotion was intense. I experienced a great deal of inspiration from that." While he saw no supernatural phenomena, the archbishop attended an apparition by one of the seers, Marija Pavlovic.
It was just before retiring as archbishop in 1989 that Hannan spoke personally to the Pope about it. The occasion was a lunch at the Saint Martha Building. "It so happened that I was the senior bishop there, which according to their protocol in seating placed me right opposite the Pope," recalled the archbishop. "That made it very easy for me to talk to him. It was the central point of my conversation with him. I had heard that he was interested in it and somehow or another a mention of Medjugorje came up in a general discussion, so that enabled me to explain fully to the Holy Father why I not only permitted but actually urged young people to go to Medjugorje."
Hannan said he didn't expect the Pope to make any comment. "But what he did was almost as good as a comment, because he bowed his head up and down as I recited the things that were traditional for Catholics to do and which were encouraged by their presence at Medjugorje. And he was nodding in assent the whole time. It was a serious nod because he knew that I was very much interested in giving him that message."
Hannan said most bishops believe there is something supernatural at Medjugorje but "many of them are disturbed by the fact that the visionaries see the Blessed Mother every day. Those who are slow or unwilling to exhort people to go there say that there has never been such a series of apparitions before. They also say the bishops there do not approve it."
Hannan believes that the Church may not formally approve of the apparitions but instead simply "let the custom go on. There are several ways the Church can handle it by indicating that it is good and approved but they don't want to make a formal announcement." He said the historic friction between secular bishops and Franciscans has spilled into the situation and tainted the view of some prelates, including Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, "who said there isn't anything supernatural going on there."
But added Hannan, "If supernatural isn't the presence of a lot of people going to Confession, especially youth, attending Mass, receiving holy Communion, saying the Rosary -- if that isn't supernatural in essence I don't know what is."
It was Archbishop Hannan who, as an auxiliary in Washington during the Kennedy years, delivered the eulogy at the President's funeral after the historic assassination. He was also close to Jackie Onassis and presided at her funeral.
E-mail this site to a friend