From Mr Michael Davies Sir, Having read the excellent article on Medjugorje by Simon Caldwell, I was not surprised at the negative and emotional response that it evoked among some of your readers. Medjugorje is a topic upon which I can write with some authority as since 1987, with the help of my Croatian wife, I have worked closely with the two bishops of Mostar who have occupied that see since the alleged apparitions began in 1981.
My wife has translated many of the episcopal statements and other official documents which I have published in a book which has been through five updated editions, and will appear in a considerably updated sixth edition in the spring of 2003. In a letter concerning my book the present Bishop of Mortar, Mgr Peric, was kind enough to remark: "You write with Catholic conviction and Christian frankness...In your book you base yourself upon the official documents and teaching of the Church. There are far too many inaccurate versions of events spread throughout the world, above all through the efforts and the agency of those in the service of the so-called apparitions at Medjugorje."
The reaction of Mgr George Tato is typical of those who have been deluded into accepting what may be the greatest confidence trick since World War II. Those who point out the facts are always unchristian, vociferous, malicious, guilty of untruths and distortions. In stating that public pilgrimages to Medjugorje are forbidden Mr Caldwell is not lying, and he is not guilty of "a malicious attempt to hurt and confuse many believers", nor is he talking "nonsense" when he states that "the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has forbidden all public pilgrimages to the shrine since 1995". On 23 May 1985, Mgr Bovone, then secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to Mgr Caporello, secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference stating that it should "discourage publicly the organisation of pilgrimages to Medjugorje". On 23rd March 1996, then in June 1996, Msgr Bertone, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith informed two French bishops that the cult of Medjugorje "is not authorised". Mgr Tutto is correct in stating that Msgr Bertone informed Bishop Aubry, Bishop of Saint-Denis-deLa-Reunion, that "private pilgrimages are are permitted on condition that they are not considered as an authentication of events in course which still necessitate an examination by the Church".
Could Mgr Tutto deny that the pilgrimages to Medjugorje advertised in the Catholic press are organised on the presumption that the events that have taken place there "are of a supernatural origin", and are therefore forbidden?
In a statement made on behalf of the entire French Episcopal Conference, printed in La Documentation Catholique of 7 January 2000, Mgr Henri Brincard concludes by stating:
"I do not see how I can go to Medjugorje without giving my support, by the very fact of having come there, to the events the discernment and assessment of
which rests henceforth with Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such support would fly in the face of the traditional teaching of the Church, recalled in Lumen gentium, and applicable to all the successors of the Apostles."
This is a complete justification of the position taken by Simon Caldwell.
As regards the alleged "second untruth" by Mr Caldwell, the fact that Father Prusina's expulsion from the Franciscan order had been revoked, does not alter the fact that the expulsion of Fr Ivica Vego, who made a nun pregnant, was not. The self-styled seers informed Mgr Zanic on 13 occasions that the Blessed Virgin had told them that Fr Vego was innocent. Let me quote from the diary of Vicka, a diary which on frequent occasions she insisted did not exist, but of which I have a photocopy: Saturday 3rd January 1982. "All we seers together asked the Madonna about Father Ivica Vego. The Madonna replied: `Ivica is not to blame. If he is expelled from the Franciscan order, let him remain steadfast. Every day I say: "Peace, peace", but there is ever more strife. Let him remain, Ivica is not at fault. She repeated this three times. We all heard it, and we told him (Fr Vego).' The bishop is not maintaining order and that is why he is to blame. He will not be bishop for ever. I will show justice in the (heavenly) kingdom."
I urge readers of The Catholic Herald to take careful note of this. Our Lady is alleged to have stated 13 times, that this scandalously
immoral Franciscan was in no way to blame, and that the guilty party was Mgr Zanic. who remarked correctly that this fact alone should convince anyone "well instructed in the faith to come to the conclusion that the apparitions are not of the supernatural".
What explanation would Mgr Tutto give for the rejection of the authenticity of the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje not simply by Mgr Zanic and Mgr Peric but by every current member of the hierarchy of the former Yugoslavia? Are they inspired by malice? Is this a conspiracy? Are they possessed by Satan?
If Mgr Tutto wishes to challenge me I would have no problem in providing him with more examples of blatant untruths uttered by the self-styled seers. I cannot recollect a single instance of lying on the part of St Bernadette or the children of Fatima.
I was so shocked at the claim by Mr Bernard Ellis that Mg Peric had stated "that he personally did not believe in the apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima" that I telephoned him at once, and he denied with indignation that he had ever made such a statement. He confirmed this in a fax dated 12 July in which he stated: "Never in my life did I say to anybody that I do not believe in Lourdes or Fatima." It appears that there are no lengths to which devotees of Medjugorje will not go to denigrate this erudite and profoundly Marian successor of the Apostles. In his fax, Mgr Peric stressed the fact that: "The three canonical commissions which were engaged in examining the Medjugorje phenomena came to the conclusion that there has been no sign, no message, and no miracle, by which it could be concluded that this was a case of supernatural apparitions and messages. That is why pilgrimages to Medjugorje are not permitted if they attribute a supernatural character to the events that have taken place there. This remains true to this day."
Perhaps Mgr Tutto and Mr Ellis could explain why we should accept their personal opinions rather than the carefully evaluated statements of the three commissions. The investigation into the authenticity of the alleged apparitions has been placed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the hands of the bishops of Herzegovina who all agree with Mgr Zanic and Mgr Peric that nothing supernatural has occurred or is occurring at Medjugorje. To the best of my knowledge, no alleged apparition has ever been deemed worthy of credence by the Church without first obtaining the approval of the diocesan bishop.
No such approval will ever be forthcoming in the case of Medjugorje. What is taking place there is a calculated and cynical financial fraud.
Yours faithfully, MICHAEL DAVIES, Bromley, BR2 9AQ
The case for Medjugorge is put in Paul Burnell's article on page 7. Many other letters have been received, on both sides of the argument; some of these will be published next week — Editor