The Remnant Press
9. ROME STUDIES THE NEW REPORT AND THE
Rome Studies New Medjugorje Report
This was the heading of a report in the Catholic Herald of 25th January 1991, from their correspondent Viviane Hewitt in Rome, with the additional information that "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is now said to have imposed a ban on further information on the issue of Medjugorje . . . The report coincides with a new campaign by some Italian bishops against pilgrimages to Medjugorje, pending a Vatican ruling."
The Medjugorje Industry
In a letter to Father Hugh Thwaites, dated 17 August 1987, Mgr. Zanic stated bluntly that Our Lady does not appear at Medjugorje, that there are no miracles, and that the "messages" cannot come from Our Lady: "They are the fruit of a fabrication, fraud, and disobedience to the Church. It is about big money and personal interest too." When he wrote this letter in 1987 the good bishop can scarcely have imagined the extent to which what can only be described as the Medjugorje industry would expand by 1993. It must now be considered primarily as a multi-million dollar business operation, particularly in the United States.
The amount of money made by travel operators would be impossible to calculate. Many of the so-called Medjugorje centers are, in reality, quasi travel agencies. Section 3 describes the manner in which a certain Terry Colafrancesco paid for Marija Pavlovic to bring her brother to Birmingham, Alabama for a kidney transplant in 1989. In 1986 he had founded an organization named Caritas to promote the Medjugorje messages. Colafrancesco will have been pleased but not surprised when Pavlovic agreed obligingly to help her benefactor by having a vision on Thanksgiving Day of that year in the field that he had bought for $400,000, and on precisely the day that he had announced in advance. Since then Colafrancesco has not looked back.
Colafrancesco's organization Caritas has expanded considerably, and in 1993 he was appealing for more than one and a half million dollars to build a "Medjugorje Tabernacle". On page 15 of his May-June Newsletter, which has a circulation of 150,000, he described the proposed tabernacle as follows:
The "Tabernacle of Our Lady's Messages" is a 32,000 square-foot building that will house the six different ministries at Caritas. It will have three floors, all dedicated 100 percent to Our Lady of Medjugorje. Through this tabernacle will flow the messages of Our Lady through the printing, producing and shipping of newsletters, tapes, booklets, textbooks, flyers, researching the messages and researching history, etc., all over the United States as well as into sixty-five foreign countries.
In order to build his tabernacle Mr. Colafrancesco would like $1,600,000. He requests his readers to "pray to the Holy Spirit" before reading his fundraising "pitch", which bears an uncanny, or perhaps not so uncanny, resemblance to techniques employed by Protestant T.V. evangelists who spread a gospel composed almost entirely of admonitions to make sacrificial donations. Mr. Colafrancesco warned his readers that the building of the tabernacle would be "in jeopardy" unless many of them were moved to help. Those who might be in doubt about donating are told to pray to Our Lady as he has heard from many people who "after prayer felt Our Lady urging them to do so." Satan, it would appear, would do anything to persuade Catholics not to donate to the tabernacle. "We know times are difficult for many of you, but they are going to get more difficult and Our Lady's plan is what will reverse that in the long run. We are at a point in construction where decisions have to be made to proceed to the next steps and we need your response immediately. The people of this nation and the world need the security of Our Lady, not savings." The alleged tens of thousands of messages of Our Lady which are to be housed in Mr. Colafrancesco's tabernacle are almost invariably truisms of such utter banality that any ten your old could compose them:
Dear children, today I invite you to live in humility all the messages which I am giving you. Do not become arrogant, living the messages and saying, "I am living the messages." If you shall bear and live the messages in your heart, everyone will feel it so that words, which serve those who do not obey, will not be necessary. For you, dear children, it is necessary to live and witness by your lives. Thank you for having responded to my call.
Can one seriously imagine the Mother of God appearing on earth four to six times a day if she has nothing more profound than this to say?
Celestial Book Reviews
Mr. Colfrancesco sells the first two volumes of the Poem of the Man God at $35.00 dollars each. It would appear that sales had been adversely affected by Cardinal Ratzinger's admonition that the book should not be read. Mr. Colafrancesco consulted Marija Pavlovic whom he describes as "a close personal friend." Miss Pavlovic demonstrated her friendship yet again with a promptness equal to that she had displayed in arranging the Thanksgiving Day apparition for her benefactor. Miss Pavlovic used her direct line to Heaven to consult Our Lady concerning the book, and was assured that we are free to read it. I understand that her actual words were: "It makes for good reading." Mr. Colafrancesco assures us that there is "no question that she spoke to Our Lady". As is proved conclusively in Section 4, Pavlovic is a self-confessed liar.
"Remarkable Things" and "Miracles"
Mr. Colafrancesco claims that Our Lady speaks directly to his Caritas community through her daily messages. Each morning they read a randomly chosen message which results in "remarkable things" such as the following "remarkable thing" which concerned a retreat for children in "the Field" (note the upper case "F"):
An area Catholic grade school had planned a retreat day at Caritas and the Field (the site of Our Lady's apparition to visionary Marija Pavlovic in November 1988). Several hundred children from kindergarten through the eighth grade joined the Caritas community and staff for our daily rosary as well as assisting at a Mass they had planned for the Field. That day at morning prayer, before the students arrived, we opened up the following message: April 29, 1983-----Concerning a group of young people as they leave for their pilgrimage: "I wish that you pray throughout your trip and that you glorify God. There you will be able to meet other young people. Convey the messages which I have given you. Do not hesitate to speak to them about it."
Not only does the Caritas community experience "remarkable things", but cites what it claims are "miracles" at Medjugorje. An account of a "Eucharistic Miracle" appeared in the May-June 1993 Newsletter. A non-Catholic lady accompanied a Caritas from Birmingham pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Pilgrimages to Medjugorje have, of course, been forbidden by the Bishop, the lawful authority in the diocese, and so every organized pilgrimage there constitutes an act of disobedience to lawful authority. This Protestant lady was annoyed that she could not receive Holy Communion. Non-Catholics are permitted to receive Catholic Holy Communion only on very rare occasions with specific permission after a number of stringent conditions have been fulfilled. But, it would appear, Our Lady was more concerned at the displeasure of the Protestant than with adherence to the law of the Church, and so she arranged for the lady to receive Communion in circumstances which Mr. Colafrancesco describes as miraculous:
When distribution for Communion came, the first priest off the altar came toward the group leader. He and the others around him expected to be given the Eucharist, but instead the priest walked through the crowd which opened up. The leader, as well as the group, watched stunned as everyone was passed by while the priest walked directly to the spot where the woman was sitting in the pew. He held up the Eucharist for her to receive. The leader and the group and she herself stared in disbelief at what they were seeing. Though it was but a moment, it seemed the hesitation lasted for minutes. While she sat there and Jesus in the Eucharist was held up before her, she hesitated at first, not being sure, then willfully (sic) received Him. Everyone around her who was not weeping were (sic) fighting back their (sic) tears because all knew the priest could not have seen her until he was before her, much less known that she was not a Catholic. Only a few months later, the pilgrim who did not want to become a Catholic, received the Holy Eucharist a second time as a new Catholic.
Millions are Deluded
What is most alarming about the Medjugorje phenomenon is the number of Catholics who have been deluded into believing it. It would be a serious matter if a few thousand or even a few hundred Catholics were wasting their time and their money, and giving their credence and their cash to a fraud that detracts from the dignity of Our Lady, presenting her as possibly the most garrulous woman in history. But millions of people have now visited Medjugorje and are now supporting the ever-expanding Medjugorje industry. Every month Twin Circle and the National Catholic Register publish what amounts to a Medjugorje colour supplement with a monthly message such as the following for August 1993:
I want you to understand that I am your Mother, that I want to help you, can call you to prayer. Only by prayer can you understand and accept my messages and practice them in your life. Read Sacred Scripture, live it and pray to understand the signs of the time. This is a special time, therefore I am with you to draw you close to my heart and the heart of my Son, Jesus. Dear little children, I want you to be the children of the light and not of the darkness. Therefore live what I am telling you. Thank you for having responded to my call.
This particular issue listed no less than 177 Medjugorje Centers throughout the U.S.A. which included, of course, Caritas of Birmingham together with Medjugorje Information Centers, Peace Centers, Resource Centers, Message Centers, Ventures, Centers for Love, Centers for Peace (many of these), Messengers of Peace, Queen of Peace, Hearts for Peace, Pilgrims for Peace Video Ministry, Mary's Touch by Mail, Friends, Coalitions, and Book Centers. There is no little irony in the fact that the area in Bosnia where Our Lady is alleged to have appeared with the title of "Queen of Peace" is a center of one of the most vicious wars of this century, of which she gave not the least warning in tens of thousands of messages.
There are now many Medjugorje newsletters serving the needs of the industry, including the Medjugorje News which is circulated throughout Canada. It reports in its issue number 5 in 1993 that 20,000 people came to hear the "seer" Ivan when he came to Marmora in Ontario, where Our Lady is also alleged to appear to children and adults of various ethnic backgrounds, including a member of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. It is claimed that Angels and deceased members of families appear there and converse! The literature which circulates among Medjugorje devotees lists literally hundreds of apparitions of Our Lady allegedly taking place throughout the world, including twenty-five in Ireland alone. News of every new apparition is greeted with uncritical enthusiasm by many thousands of devotees. One can only say that whatever all this represents it is not Catholicism.
The appearance of Ivan in Ontario indicates the current policy of the Medjugorje "seers", i.e. that as due to the war in Bosnia the people cannot come to the seers, the seers will come to the people. One can refer with complete accuracy to a Medjugorje "road-show". It has even reached Kent, the county in England where I live. The Autumn 1993 issue of The Children of Medjugorje (published in Scotland) recounts the appearance of Ivan at "The Medjugorje Ecumenical Day of Prayer" on 28 August 1993 at the Carmelite Priory at Aylesford in Kent. The customers came expecting an apparition, and:
The mother of Jesus appeared in "an indescribable light, wearing a grey dress with a white veil over her dark hair", according to the visionary, 27 year old Ivan Dragicevic. Her eyes are blue and she has rosy cheeks, he told the gathering of 5,000 Christians. Ivan said that Mary "was joyful and prayed over all of us with outstretched hands. She blessed us all."
He added that, "She then prayed for peace in a special way for a long time." The Virgin gave no special message having given one for the world only three days before in Medjugorje. She simply said, "Go in peace, my dear children", before departing in the light of a shining cross.
Ivan's script could well have been written by Walt Disney! The report was accompanied by a picture of Ivan wearing pajamas and kneeling by a radiator looking extremely pious. The message given at Medjugorje on 25 March 1993, to which Ivan referred, reads as
Dear Children, I want you to understand that I am your Mother, that I want to help you and call you to prayer. Only by prayer can you understand and accept my messages and practise them in your life.
Read Sacred Scripture, live it, and pray to understand the signs of the time. This is a special time. Therefore I am with you to draw you close too my heart and the heart of my Son, Jesus.
Dear little children, I want you to be children of the light, not the darkness. Therefore, live what I am telling you.
Thank you for your response to my call.
Speedy Condemnation Needed
It would seem that the Vatican is delaying its announcement that nothing supernatural has occurred at Medjugorje for fear of the reaction among its devotees, but the longer it delays the announcement, which must inevitably come, the greater will be the number of those devotees and the greater their disillusionment. When the announcement comes many souls will be lost to the Church as they will prefer the authority of spurious messages to the authority of the Magisterium. It is therefore imperative that all who have a true devotion to Our Lady do everything possible by praying and by writing to persuade the Holy See to publish the verdict of the former Yugoslav Bishops' conference without further delay (see Section 6). They should also try by prayer and by persuasion to convince those who have been duped by the propaganda of the Medjugorje industry that the whole scandalous affair represents, as Mgr. Zanic expressed it, "the fruit of a fabrication, fraud, and disobedience to the Church. It is about big money and personal interest too."
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