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@Spirit Daily

Those are the words John Paul II reportedly used in a hushed tone when an Italian cardinal mentioned the happenings at Medjugorje and if true join a pantheon of such statements attributed to the Holy Father on the monumental apparition site in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

"I spoke with the Holy Father on the 24th of February, 1990," said Bishop Murilo Krieger of Brazil. "I told him I had been to Medjugorje three times and that I was going to return the following week. He said simply: 'Medjugorje is a great center of spirituality!'"

That's according to a booklet, Medjugorje: What Does the Church Say.  We have heard the same from other bishops. We have talked to men like Bishop Sylvester Treinen and Archbishop Philip Hannan about their own conversations with the Holy Father. And there is no doubt: while bishops and others wrangle over the apparitions, and while the authentication is currently in the hands of a national commission (as well as Vatican observers), the Pope has time and again expressed his strong support for a site that may one day rank with Lourdes -- and that has indicated the world is approaching a critical spiritual period.

"Yes, it is good for pilgrims to go to Medjugorje," the Pope told Bishop Treinen on May 14, 1989. "It is good!"

According to a Cardinal Joseph Gray of Scotland, the Pope called for a Marian Year in the 1980s "because of the message of the Mother of God in Medjugorje. I know the Pope himself accepts the apparitions." Indeed, it is reported that the Pope regularly read the monthly messages from seer Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti in a publication called Echo of Medjugorje. Earlier this month Marija told us that when she met the Pope in 1982, he said, "If I were not Pope, I would be there hearing Confessions [our emphasis]." The seer noted that many times the Pope says things in a way that uncannily resembles messages from Mary. The same feeling was conveyed to seer Mirjana Dragicevic Soldo, who told us that at a brief private meeting with her the Pope likewise indicated to her his wish to be in Medjugorje.

As the booklet, by a Medjugorje proponent named Denis Nolan, points out, in 1988, Bishop Michael Pfeifer of Texas gathered the same impression from John Paul. "In a private conversation I had with our Holy Father, I asked his opinion about Medjugorje," related the bishop. "The Pope spoke very favorably about the happenings at Medjugorje."

One of the most dramatic quotes attributed to the Holy Father came from a papal advisor who said the Pope told a group of pilgrims heading to Bosnia from the U.S. that "Our Lady of Medjugorje will save America."

According to the Korean Catholic, in November 1990, when Archbishop Angelo Kim, president of the Korean Episcopal Conference,  thanked the Pope for freeing Poland from Communism, the Holy Father replied, "No, not me, but by the works of the Blessed Virgin, according to her affirmations at Fatima and Medjugorje"!

And according to a Montreal newsletter, the Message de Paix, John Paul, when asked if pilgrimages should be permitted, told Archbishop Patrick Flores of San Antonio, "Let them go... Sometimes the people follow the bishops. Sometimes the bishops follow the people."

To former Medjugorje Pastor Father Jozo Zovko the Pope said on June 17, 1992, "I give you my blessing. Take courage. I am with you. Tell Medjugorje I am with you. Protect Medjugorje!"

Still, there has been no final Church approval of Medjugorje, nor has there been a rejection. When such an attempt at a negative ruling was made in 1986 by the Bishop of Mostar, it was negated by the Vatican. That itself stood as an indication of the Pope's views.

Could this change? Yes. The Vatican could always decide negatively. There is a long way to go. But so far it has judged Medjugorje on its fruits and has seen it as a site that has created more converts and vocations than any other known situation since World War II.

"Authorize everything that concerns Medjugorje," the Pope told yet another prelate, Archbishop Felipe Santiago Benitez of Asuncion, Paraguay -- and indicated his own desire to visit the site during conversations with both bishops and government delegations. "I want to go to Split, to Maria Bistrica, and to Medjugorje," the Pontiff told a delegation from Croatia in 1995. That same year, when asked by the Bishop of Mostar when he was going to visit Sarajevo, the Pope responded, "Oh, I thought you were going to ask me, `When are you coming to Medjugorje?'" The same was expressed two years later to the president of Croatia -- the country neighboring Bosnia-Hercegovina. 

And indeed during his historic visit to war-torn Sarajevo the Pope mentioned the "Kraljice Mira" ("Queen of Peace," the title Mary uses at Medjugorje), and referred to the pilgrimages that continued there despite the war.

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