Let Hector Avalos tell us the backstory,

Medjugorje, once a sleepy little town in the province of Bosnia- Herzegovina (old Yugoslavia), became in the 1980s one of the world's most visited destinations, attracting perhaps as many as fifteen million visitors. The attraction had nothing to do with amusement parks or hotel casinos, but with claims that Mary, the mother of Jesus in Christian tradition, was making special appearances in Medjugorje. Cover stories have been published about the phenomenon in Life (July 1991), Time (December 30, 1991), and other respected publications, which are not always as critical or accurate as they should be.

For the past few years I have been studying reports and videotapes of supposed Marian apparition experiences, and I have spoken to some of the people who claimed to have witnessed them or who believe in them. The most frequent defense of Marian apparitions among believers whom I have encountered usually revolves around one central question: How can a group of seemingly honest and apparently normal people report seeing Mary if she is not appearing there? Other defenders point out that a "scientific" team has supported the authenticity of the apparitions at Medjugorje. Ironically, it is the dramatic events themselves at Medjugorje that support a nonsupernatural explanation.

The Medjugorje reports are different from those of earlier sightings of Mary in a number of respects. First, written accounts have been produced while the series of apparitions were still occurring. Second, most of the principal witnesses are still alive and have made themselves available for extensive interviews. More important, modern video and audio equipment has recorded the visionaries as they are supposedly experiencing their visions. Finally, the visionaries have submitted to various medical and scientific tests such as encephalograms during their experiences.

The first reported apparitions at Medjugorje began on June 24,1981, when six Croatian-speaking children claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them on a hill. They were met with initial skepticism and harassment from some authorities. Surprisingly, one of the most vocal skeptics was Pavao Zanic, their own bishop, who, according to one transcript of an interview, declared, "In my opinion Medjugorje is the greatest deceit and swindle in the history of the Church." In particular, Zanic complained that the apparition stories were part of a conspiracy instigated by a group of popular Franciscans who have protested efforts to replace them with secular clergy in the parish of Medjugorje.

Despite the political conflicts caused by the apparitions within the local diocese, and despite the fact that the Catholic church has not officially affirmed the authenticity of the visions, thenumber of pilgrims who have gone to Medjugorje since 1981 has been placed by some at over fifteen million. This number of Marian devotees at Medjugorje far surpasses the believers of the Jesus apparition stories of early Christianity. Only the recent civil war in Yugoslavia has discouraged massive visits.

Now to what I want to say. 

The bishop ordered the visionaries to have the visions in private in 1985 and not to promote the messages.  The Church has the right to ban messages from being promoted unless they are checked out.  Even if they are it might determine that it is wiser to wait until some clear indications of the apparition being from God are found.  His command was disobeyed completely

Here is the March 25, 1985 official letter of Bishop Zanic to the parish priest, Father Tomislav Pervan, of St James parish of Medjugorje

Reverend Father Tomislav,

Most certainly the Pastoral personnel of the Medjugorje parish know about the newest developments and the circumstances of the letter of the "visionary" Ivan Dragicevic on the sign that he described on May 9, 1982 during his stay in the seminary in Visoko. With a copy of that letter we are also supplying you with a copy of the Minutes of the last meeting of the Commission on the Events of Medjugorje held in Mostar on March 7, 1985, on the occasion of the opening of Ivan Dragicevic's letter. This letter contains the described sign which would occur in order to confirm the "apparitions" of the Madonna in Medjugorje. Last year, in a conversation with the investigating Commission, Ivan Dragicevic declared that the sign we speak of will be the Madonna's shrine and that sign will appear suddenly one morning.

Even before this, the Ordinary had come to the firm conclusion that the apparitions of the Madonna in Medjugorje are not a reality. Meanwhile, in 1982, the Bishop's Office had formed the Commission to investigate the events and to study the case thoroughly. Because of it, the Bishop's Office has refrained from making any official statement on the real state of affairs. However, several times through letters, the Bishop's Office expressed its desire, and even demanded, that the propaganda stop because of the disobedience of the pastoral personnel and the "visionaries." This was a futile attempt. I present the documents which have been sent to you, and the subject of each one of them:

—December 13, 1981, (N 977): attitude toward the events in Medjugorje;
—April 12, 1983, (N 241): letter to the parish priest, instructions to be followed;

Invitations for meetings:

—March 31, 1983, (N 297);
—September 27, 1983, (N 982);
—July 19, 1984, (N 777);

Following a two-day session, the Commission on the events of Medjugorje declared that the pastoral personnel and the seers in Medjugorje are requested to abstain from any public statement or declaration to the press about the contents of the visions and the alleged miraculous cures.

At our meeting, held in the Chancery Office in Mostar on October 31, 1984, I demanded that Medjugorje's occurrences "be toned down and eliminated little by little."

In the meantime, matters remain as they were, and a great disgrace is expected to befall the Church. Now, without any delay, after all this, I demand from you that you remove the "visionaries" from public display and put an end to their "visions" in the parish church. They have had "visions" in Mostar, and earlier in Sarajevo, Visoko and Dubrovnik. Let them now have them at their homes: people say that they had them at their homes during 1981. In ten days the new statue of the Gospa in front of the main altar ought to be discreetly removed late one evening and replaced by the old one. You must stop talking about apparitions and also cease publicizing messages. The devotions that grew out of the "apparitions" and their messages must be eliminated, sales of souvenirs and printed material which propagate the "apparitions" must also stop. The faithful can go to the sacrament of reconciliation and attend Mass. I do not allow the other priests, especially Fathers Jozo Zovko, Tomislav Vlasic and Ljudevit Rupcic, to celebrate Mass for the faithful or to preach.

The "visionaries" must give you whatever they wrote, especially what pertains to the so called "Biography of the Madonna." No excuse that that's a secret can justify them from not handing over that material to you. Since there was so much public talk about their Diaries and their other writings, and since all this had a great influence on the events of Medjugorje, thus all these documents and written materials fall under the supervision of the Ordinary and become subject to the investigation of the phenomenon of Medjugorje.

We do hope that you will execute what we demand from you in this letter. With greetings and a prayerful wish for God's blessing.

Msgr. Pavao Zanic,
Bishop of Mostar-Duvno and Apostolic Administrator of Trebinje-Mrkanj.


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