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@Spirit Daily

We're trying to get to the bottom of a mystery. On October 10, we carried an article from Catholic World News, or CWN, a major newswire that was reporting from the Vatican [see article]. In the article CWN reported that at the recent synod of bishops, Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo complained about divisions caused by Franciscans associated with Medjugorje.

We're confused because there is no mention of Medjugorje in an official text of Cardinal Puljic's talk (which was faxed last week to Spirit Daily from the Cardinal's own office). For the most part, the speech was a general one about unity, hope, and spreading the Gospel message. 

The Cardinal did emphasize the problems with some Franciscans "who are spoiling" the good work of other priests. "We need to overcome these divisions," he said. But it did not appear to be a reference to the Franciscans at Medjugorje. While there are still tensions between secular priests and Franciscans (who for decades have been vying for control over certain parishes in Bosnia-Hercegovina), the Franciscans at Medjugorje itself have been trying to smooth relations with the secular Bishop of Mostar and the previous pastor, Father Ivan Sesar, reportedly signed a loyalty oath to the secular diocese. (Meanwhile forty other priests from the region were disciplined for not complying, see story). 

The Mostar bishop, Ratko Peric, appeared at Medjugorje last spring for Confirmation and although sources say he remained critical of the apparitions themselves, he is said to have complimented the Franciscans on their conduct. "He expressed his satisfaction about the way the parish priest is administering this parish," said the official parish website.

Thus, it came as a shock when CWN -- widely regarded as reliable -- reported that Cardinal Puljic, "speaking at the Synod of Bishops, has complained that the reported apparitions of Medjugorje are becoming a source of division in the Church. " It said that Puljic, "turning his attention to his own land of Bosnia-Herzegovina," remarked that "the unity of the Church is threatened by the disobedience of the Franciscan monks serving at Medjurgorje, who 'impose their own points of view' with the aid of 'pseudo-charisms.'" 

When we called Sarajevo to try to check this, Father Ivo Tomrcevic, the Cardinal's translator, did not seem to think  that Medjugorje was mentioned, and like we said, it's not in the official text. 

We're aware of the possibility that Cardinal Puljic may have diverted from his prepared text, but it still remains confusing. From what we could gather, the Cardinal was not referring to current Franciscan leadership at Medjugorje but rather to other Franciscans in the general vicinity and to an old dispute dating back to the 1980s when two Franciscans were disciplined by the Mostar bishop for not relinquishing control of their parishes. This may have caused CWN confusion.

"I highlight that all Franciscan priests serving in the parish of Medjugorje have been commissioned by the local Bishop," notes Father Branko Rados, the new pastor at St. James Parish in Medjugorje, who likewise noted no reference to Medjugorje in the official text.

We have other comments from sources at the Cardinal's office and are discerning the way in which we will report it. The issue is crucial because unless the Vatican directly intervenes, the acceptance or rejection of Medjugorje is in the hands of a commission of four bishops in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The commission is headed by Cardinal Puljic and includes an auxiliary bishop in his diocese as well as Bishop Peric of Mostar. The fourth bishop is from Banja-Luka. 

As we reported last summer [see this story], several members of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments visited Medjugorje during its twentieth anniversary.  It is too early to tell if this indicates that the Vatican is again ready to intervene. In 1986 the Bishop of Mostar sought to formally condemn the apparitions but his ruling was rejected by the Vatican's second most powerful official, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, possibly at the Pope's behest. (John Paul II is known to have made many comments favorable to the apparitions and has stated that if he was not Pope he would have visited there already.)

Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that two Medjugorje seers, Vicka Ivankovic and Jacov Colo, are currently in Rome at the invitation of a priest, but no indication it's tied to any formal investigation.

More to come shortly...

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