The news has reached America: Medjugorje promoter Jozo Zovko, OFM, suspended in abuse case

And it only took 13 years for church officials in the U.S. to notice.
Once upon a time in the land of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in a peaceful little town called Medjugorje (where they manufactured hand grenades during the recent war), some teenage would-be seers claimed that Our Lady said — among many other things — that their own parish priest Jozo Zovko, OFM, was already a saint.
An endorsement like that is pretty good at boosting your reputation as a writer, speaker, and retreat master. Probably Fr. Zovko’s high point came when Martin Sheen portrayed him in the Medjugorje movie. I know: Sheen’s been involved with as many religious bombs as Osama, so maybe that’s not much of a high point.
Later on, the news about Fr. Zovko was not quite so good: in 1989 his faculties to hear confessions were lifted after several women pilgrims accused him of sexual assault. He persisted in hearing confessions and, it appears, ended up suspended. Medjugorje supporters engaged in some obfuscation and some full-strength denial about it all, but finally in 2002 the news has reached America through official channels: as the WashPost reports, this week the Archdiocese of Washington scotched Fr. Zovko’s plan to speak at the National Shrine after getting official word of the suspension from the Diocese of Mostar.
The denial is pretty thick, though: a priest who recently hosted a Zovko event told the Boston Herald that “he believed Zovko’s suspension only prevented him from public prayer within Bosnia.” I guess when somebody does a really good job of “tickling your ears” (2 Tim. 4:3), it’s hard to give it up.


  1. Check out the TRUTH at
    under the subheading: “Father Jozo Zovko”
    Who is Fr. Jozo Zovko?
    Fr. Jozo was the pastor of St. James in Medugorje when the apparitions began in 1981. In the beginning, Fr. Jozo did not believe in the apparitions. He wondered why the people went to the hill to pray when they did not come to the church. Eventually he saved the children from the hands of the Communists while he was praying in the church and heard a voice say “save the children”. From that point on he became the protector of the children and the apparitions. Fr. Jozo was a centeral figure since the early days and remains so today. Thousands of pilgrims to Medugorje travel to hear him speak and pray with them. Fr. Jozo travels throughout the world, speaking Our Lady’s messages and encouraging people to change their lives.
    Fr. Jozo Zovko’s Status (Provided by the official Medugorje Information Center at St. James Church)
    21.11.2002 – Many people contact us regularly with questions concerning the status of the Franciscan Fr. Jozo Zovko, OFM. This is why we publish the “Attestation of Good Conduct” by Fr. Stefano Ottenbreit, OFM, Vicar General of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) and a letter by Fr. Slavko Soldo, OFM, Provincial of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the BVM.
    Fr. Stefano Ottenbreit, Vicar General of the Order, writes:
    “I Fr. Stefano Ottenbreit, the undersigned, Vicar General of the Order of Friars Minor, testify that Fr. Jozo Zovko is a member in good standing of the Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Herzegovina of our Order. I, also, declare ,to whom it may concern, that he has never been suspended from our Order.”
    Signed and sealed with the seal of the Order at our General Curia in Rome on this 21st day of November in the year of the Lord 2002.
    In fide, Fr. Stefano Ottenbreit, OFM, Vicar General
    (See the original document)
    Fr. Slavko Soldo, OFM, Provincial of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the BVM, writes:
    “Fr. Jozo Zovko is a member of our community in good standing. He was the pastor at Medjugorje when the apparition of the Blessed Mother started in 1981. It was the time of the communist regime in our country. As pastor of Medjugorje, Fr. Jozo was put in prison by the communist court. After he was released from the prison, he continued to spread the message of the blessed Mother Queen of peace.
    In our community Fr. Jozo Zovko is known as a charismatic priest who suffered for his faith and continues suffering. He spends long hours in prayer, counseling and preaching. Most of the time he is in the church; often for 10 hours a day.
    Those who oppose the apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje are constantly after Fr. Jozo, trying to stop his mission, but those who accept Medjugorje, consider him a dedicated priest and are inviting him to lead retreats for them and pray for them in their needs. Among those who are inviting him are many priests and bishops. Fr. Jozo is tireless in that service. He did ask permission to travel to the United States, and it was granted to him. I hope that this will be of help to you.
    Peace and all things good!”
    Mostar, November 14, 2002, Fr. Slavko Soldo, provincijal
    (See the original document)

  2. (1) Whatever the “official Medjugorje Information Center” is, I can guarantee you it is not an official organization of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno.
    (2) The statement from the Franciscans is beside the point. Nobody claims he was expelled from the Franciscan order.
    It appears he was first forbidden to exercise priestly ministry in the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno: in church-speak, his “faculties” were withdrawn. Then later he was apparently suspended from priestly ministry, a punishment which has effect everywhere.

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