Bishop of Amsterdam’s statement on alleged apparitions

Bishop Johannes Hendriks of the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam has issued a statement in the wake of the CDF rejection of the alleged apparitions to Ida Peerdeman, from which the title “Lady of All Nations” was promoted. He writes that the title is, in itself, legitimate and can be used, but must not be treated as any sort of endorsement of the apparition claims.

The English text below was published on the diocesan web site. Where dates appear in numeric form in the text, the translation gives them in American format (month/day/year).

Clarification by the Bishop of Haar­lem-Am­ster­dam regar­ding the Lady of All Nations

Having consulted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and in accordance with it, I declare the follo­wing:

Through devotion to Mary, the Mother of All Nations, many faithful express their desire and their effort for the universal fraternity of man­kind with the help and support of Mary’s intercession. “Mary is our Mother, she is the Mother of our peoples, she is the Mother of us all” (Francis, Homily of 12/12/2019) and she invites us to collaborate with God’s plan and His desire that we all are, and become always more, brothers and sisters (cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, n. 42).

Pope Francis writes in his Encyclical Letter Fratelli tutti: “For many Christians, this journey of fraternity also has a Mother, whose name is Mary. Having received this universal motherhood at the foot of the cross (cf. Jn 19:26), she cares not only for Jesus but also for ‘the rest of her children’ (cf. Rev 12:17). In the power of the risen Lord, she wants to give birth to a new world, where all of us are brothers and sisters, where there is room for all those whom our societies discard, where justice and peace are resplen­dent” (n. 278).

In this sense, the use of the title Lady of All Nations for Mary is in itself theologically acceptable. Prayer with Mary and through the intercession of Mary, Mother of our peoples, serves the growth of a more united world, in which everyone recognizes themselves as brothers and sisters, all created in the image of God, our common Father.

Nevertheless, the recognition of this title cannot be understood—not even implicitly—as the recognition of the supernaturality of some pheno­mena from which it seems to have come. In this sense, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirms the validity of the negative judg­ment on the supernaturality of the alleged “apparitions and revelations” to Ms. Ida Peerdeman approved by St. Paul VI on 04/05/1974 and published on 05/25/1974. This judg­ment implies that everybody is urged to cease any propagation concer­ning the alleged apparitions and revelations of the Lady of All Nations. Therefore, the use of the images and prayer cannot in any way be consi­dered a recognition—not even implicitly—of the supernaturality of the events in question.

Regar­ding the mere title “Lady”, “Madonna” or “Mother of All Nations” the Congregation generally is not opposed to its use, provided that this is clearly separated from the recognition of the alleged apparitions. If the Virgin Mary is invoked under this title, pastors and faithful must ensure that all forms of this devotion refrain from any reference, even implicit, to alleged apparitions or revelations.

Haar­lem, the 30th of December 2020

+ Johannes Hendriks
Bishop of Haar­lem-Am­ster­dam

(Translation from the Dutch original)

More on Amsterdam

Journalist David Murgia, on his web site, has published a copy of the recent (July 20) letter about CDF’s position on the Amsterdam apparition case. The letter from the Apostolic Nuncio in Lebanon, addressed to the Maronite Patriarch, appears there, and here is my own English translation of the Italian text.

Apostolic Nunciature in Lebanon
Harissa, July 20, 2020

Prot. N. 2353/20

Your Eminence,

in response to the request of Your Most Eminent Beatitude on what is the official position of the Church regarding devotion to the Virgin Mary “Our Lady of All Nations”, this Nunciature has requested clarifications from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The aforementioned Dicastery explained that the Notification published on May 25, 1974, available on its web page, remains valid.

In the declaration it is stated that, after appropriate study, there was found “no evidence of the supernatural nature of the apparitions.” Therefore the faithful are invited to “discontinue all forms of propaganda with regard to the alleged apparitions and revelations of ‘Our Lady of All Nations'”, and are exhorted “to express their devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, Queen of the Universe […] by forms of piety which are recognized and recommended by the Church.”

The letter of the same Congregation to the Philippines Episcopal Conference of May 20, 2005 does not contain anything that could lead to thinking that the judgment of the Congregation on the matter had changed.

Taking all of that into consideration, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is of the opinion that it is not suitable to contribute to the spread of devotion to Mary as “Our Lady of All Nations”.

Remaining at the disposal of Your Most Eminent Beatitude for any further information in this regard, may I take the occasion to confirm with a sense of deep veneration, I am

Your Beatitude’s most devoted

+ Joseph Spiteri
Apostolic Nuncio

His Beatitude the Most Eminent
Lord Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï
Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites

Amsterdam: CDF says no

The news agency I.Media is reporting that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has denied the alleged apparitions of the “Lady of All Peoples” in Amsterdam from 1945 to 1959. The story appeared in French on the Aleteia web site on September 15, and apparently the statement was given in July.

The piece in Aleteia reviews the story of the claimed apparitions and its varied treatment by past bishops, so it’s informative for people who haven’t followed the case before. The unnamed writer, though, does succumb to cliché a bit, when he or she mentions for the third time that CDF was once called the “Holy Office”. Apparently even Catholic news writers feel the compulsion to allude to the Inquisition!

I haven’t found an English version of the report on the net so far, so for the convenience of readers, here is my quick and unofficial translation of the text.

Some of the expressions used in regard to the evaluating the alleged apparitions do seem unclear, so I hope there will be a more complete public statement by CDF.

Based on a screenshot from the promotional site

The Holy See rejects the apparitions of the Virgin to Ida Peerdeman

I.Media / September 15, 2020

The apparitions of Amsterdam are false. The ‘Lady of All Peoples’ may not be venerated and the faithful must cease all promotion,” declared the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a document dated July 20, 2020 that has only now become public. After multiple decades of controversies, the fifty-six alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Ida Peerdeman have been formally rejected by the Holy See.

Is the Peerdeman case at last closed? A young Dutch woman of the 20th century, Ida Peerdeman claimed to have witnessed, between 1945 and 1959, fifty-six apparitions of the Virgin under the name of “Lady of All Peoples”. These mystical revelations remained controversial until last July 20 when, at the request of Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), formerly called the “Holy Office”, clarified the position of the Holy See regarding the visions of Ida Peerdeman in a letter addressed to the prelate.

Although for some the Madonna that appeared to Ida Peerdeman presents many similarities to the Virgin who appeared to Catherine Labouré in 1830 (a globe below her feet, rays of light emanating from her down-turned hands), the former Holy Office confirmed a notification signed in 1974 that “considers that it is not appropriate to contribute to spreading the veneration of Mary as the ‘Lady of All Peoples’.”

The fifty-six pseudo-apparitions

According to the account given by the young Dutch woman, born on August 13, 1905 at Alkmaar (The Netherlands), the Virgin appeared to her for the first time on October 13, 1917, the day on which the Marian apparitions of Fatima came to completion with the famous episode of the “miracle of the sun”. The alleged seer, then twelve years old, reported that when she returned home in Amsterdam after a confession she saw a “luminous woman of exceptional beauty whom she immediately identified as the Virgin Mary.”

The first long apparition only took place on March 25, 1945, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. It was followed by fifty-six others until 1959. After some visions, the Virgin was said to have disclosed her name to Ida Peerdeman: “I am the Lady Mary, Mother of all the peoples.” She allegedly said she had been “sent by the Father and the Son to help humanity,” to announce the end of the war and warn the world of “degeneration, disasters, and war” and the danger of a third “worldwide catastrophe”.

There followed numerous predictions about political, economic, and social events of the 20th century: the Cold War, the dissolution of the USSR, the Korean War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the political chaos in Palestine and in the Near East, etc.

Starting in 1951, the Virgin reportedly showed Ida a vision of the Second Vatican Council, which was to take place a decade later. She allegedly confirmed the necessity of reforms and changes, and disciplinary changes that include the formation of priests and religious. She appeared to be particularly concerned for Rome and the Vatican, which were in danger according to her. Ida described one of the purported visions thus:

Now I notice that the Lady is holding her hand above the Pope and St. Peter’s. The Pope is seated, with his hands raised, and on his head is written ‘Fight.’ I see more and more fighting. Then suddenly I see soldiers wearing tall caps standing behind the Pope; they raise two fingers. Could this be a reference to freemasonry?

Ida Peerdeman, 1951

Controversies and recognitions

Traditionally, in the Catholic Church the task of judging the supernatural character of an apparition falls to the bishop of the diocese in which the apparition took place: in this case, the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The difficulty of the Peerdeman affair resides in the fact that the successive prelates of the dioceses have rendered contradictory judgments.

The first, Mons. Johannes Huibers, bishop at the time of the apparitions, gave his permission (nihil obstat) to the title and to the prayer associated with the apparition. However on May 7, 1956, after having attentively examined the case of the claimed apparitions and revelations of “Our Lady of All Peoples”, the same bishop reviewed his decision. He declared that he had found “no proof of a supernatural character of the apparitions”.

On several occasions, in 1957, in 1972, and in 1974, the CDF confirmed the position of the Dutch bishop. Meanwhile afterward, on May 31, 1996, one of his successors, Mons. Hendrick Bomers, with the authorization of the CDF, authorized public veneration of the same Virgin, maintaining that the question of the supernatural character of the apparitions themselves had not been resolved. He reiterated his decision in a letter dated December 3, 1997.

On May 31, 2002, Mons. Jozef Marianus Punt, the following bishop, declared that the apparitions were of supernatural origin. Since then, the question remains of knowing whether Mons. Punt had the power to annul the decision of his predecessor, having given that the latter’s decision had been confirmed by the CDF. In an unpublished letter of July 2005, the CDF asked that the prayer associated with the apparition be modified, replacing the words “who once was Mary” with “the Holy Virgin Mary”. The supporters of the alleged apparitions concluded from this that the CDF had tacitly accepted the approval by Mons. Punt.

Is the Peerdeman case closed?

At the inquiry of the Lebanese cardinal, the former Holy Office recalled, in a letter signed last July 20, that the judgment of the Church remained the one published by the diocese of Amsterdam on May 25, 1974, in which it is said – after an appropriate study – that Ida Peerdeman “was not conscious of the supernatural character of the apparitions.” This is why, one reads in the letter from of the Vatican Nunciature, the faithful are urged to “cease all promotion of the purported apparitions and revelations of the Lady of All Peoples and are exhorted to express their devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, Queen of the Universe, under the forms that are recognized and recommended by the Church.”

A leak from the Medj study commission

David Murgia, a religion journalist who has produced a number of projects for national television networks in Italy, and who is also a supporter of the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje, writes on his blog Il Segno di Giona (“The Sign of Jonah”) that he has come into the possession of a copy of the Ruini commission report. In this post I’ll present a draft English translation of his excerpts from the report.

This study group was launched under Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and led by Camillo Cardinal Ruini, the former head of the vicariate of Rome. It spent four years gathering information on the case and forwarded its result, a thirty-page document, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Pope Francis praised the group for its work and some leaks appeared about its conclusions, but neither the Pope nor CDF took any steps toward an official approval or rejection of the apparition claims. Instead, Pope Francis appointed a bishop – a rather sympathetic one to the Medjugorje phenomenon – from outside Bosnia-Herzegovina to provide pastoral supervision.

The document excerpts provided by Mr. Murgia are consistent with the story linked above, but go into some aspects of the commission’s positions. The first excerpt gives an example of rather typical academic prose in Italian: a preference for many nouns and few verbs, for impersonal expressions, and for length:

“Having identified the formal object and specific material capable of offering and outlining the physiognomy of a religious event of specific interest, from the point of view of its possible supernatural origin, this can then be recognized, in a sufficient and reasonable way, in the first seven alleged apparitions, which are attested to have taken place from June 24 to July 3, 1981 to Ivanka Ivanković, Mirjana Dragičević, Vicka Ivanković, Ivan Ivanković, Milka Pavlović and Ivan Dragičević (that is, the seers Marija Pavlović and Jakov Čolo, now part of the six seers, were added on June 25, 1981, while Milka Pavlović and Ivan Ivanković ‘left’ the group of the seers.)”

“the hypothesis of a demonic origin from the beginnings of the phenomenon appears gratuitous and unfounded… by the positive fruits derived from the phenomenon itself”

“On the basis of these data, the International Commission considers that it can affirm with reasonable certainty that the first seven apparitions prove to be intrinsically credible, as they were capable of fostering in those who saw them an awakening of faith, a conversion in their way of life, and a renewed sense of belonging to the Church.”

The commission’s members voted in agreement with the proposition that start of the phenomenon was “not attributable to human dynamics alone, but having a supernatural origin” [the vote was: 13 for, 1 against, with one member deferring on the question].

Considering the widespread promotion of belief in the phenomenon: “…. It can be affirmed, therefore, that the succeeding thirty-year history since the original events has spread so far and in such depth as to exclude an individual or mass manipulation. We are faced with a dynamic — with every possible caution for this analogy — of the little seed that bears great fruits.”

The Commission does not, however, think that everything claimed by the seers bears signs of heavenly authenticity: “The International Commission has had to consider the repetitive banality of some of the communications which the witnesses declare they received from the Gospa, and likewise the lack of elements of incalculability and of transcendence, which is proper to supernatural character – while the content of these communications remains generally in line with the fides Ecclesiae.”

The commission, despite its investigative mission, did not think it had authority to insist on any disclosure of the “ten secrets” allegedly entrusted to the seers: “The way in which the alleged witnesses speak of these realities, through some analogous aspects, recalls the function taken on by elements both in the course of phenomena authenticated by the Church – foremost of them, Fatima – and in the realm of phenomena not recognized as such by competent ecclesiastical authority but which continue, one way or another, to have credibility among some sectors of the Christian people. The International Commission has considered itself unable to order the alleged seers to reveal the content of the ‘secrets’, and thus it does not have the power to include this in its decisions…. Moreover the alleged seers describe them as hidden realities which, by order of the Gospa, cannot be revealed until the opportune moment, which will be shown to them exclusively by the Madonna.”

Hence the “secrets” and the “life of Mary” and analogous texts “cannot enjoy any ecclesiastical approval”.

The commission advises that for any ongoing events “the linguistic formulation of the alleged messages of the Madonna… should take place in the presence of the priest entrusted with the spiritual accompaniment of the alleged seer”. This is astounding advice, urging authorities to have the alleged messages from Heaven processed through a doctrinal inspection before they are ever spoken or written. It would become impossible to separate the mystical phenomenon itself from the human activity of its overseers, and so judging the authenticity of new messages on the grounds of their compatibility with sound doctrine would become practically impossible. An intervention like this did actually happen in the past: at the time in the 1980s messages were recorded in the parish’s “Chronicle of the apparitions” maintained by then-friar Tomislav Vlasić, eventually laicized in 2009 after his own doctrine and behavior were investigated by CDF. Some questionable points of doctrine were recorded in the Chronicle as messages from the Madonna with no apparent objection from him.

“What the International Commission has been able to ascertain, in regard to the accusation of a possible seeking of profit, is that the witnesses of the supernatural sign originally addressed to them now effectively have a relation, ambiguous in certain aspects, with money (and with what in general can be called a preoccupation with their own ‘wellbeing’). Yet this ambiguity, rather than being located on the side of immorality, is found on the side of the structure of the person, often lacking a solid discernment and a coherent orientation, and also because an available and steady spiritual guide has been lacking to them in the course of these thirty years. If anything, there have been many signs exhibited of spiritual self-promotion and of a lack of pastoral relationships.”

“In other words, it is fitting to recognize that, for long years, neither the bishops of Mostar-Duvno, nor the community of Franciscan friars of Medjugorje established relations with these persons of sufficient regularity and in-depth discernment of the meaning of the events which they claim and even now claim to experience. This circumstance has probably accented the current relative ‘impenetrability’ of the witnesses: innocent at times and calculated in others, through the protecting effect of repetitive formulas and stereotypes defending their mariophanic ‘experience’.”

In presenting quotations from the report, Murgia the journalist chooses to shield the subjects of the report from full disclosure, opting to leave out the name of one seer whose behavior the Commission finds particularly suspect. “This lack of spiritual and human accompaniment is surely one among the causes of certain ambivalences and ambiguities that have been manifested among the protagonists of the phenomenon underway. This negative dynamic reaches its apex in the case of [Redacted], whose continuing meetings and conferences on the Medjugorje phenomenon seem to constitute [his or her] only work and support. [Redacted] has also lied multiple times and is also less credible in the way [he or she] speaks of experiences with the Gospa.”

“The alleged seers have appeared substantially credible in their witness of the first seven apparitions, and also through the succeeding alleged apparitions, it does not seem possible to deny their subjective good faith, independent of judgment on the reality of the event. This positive evaluation, however, does not extend to [Redacted], on whose credibility serious and demonstrated reservations have emerged. Also, as regards moral conduct and in particular the question of the quaestus lucri, the position of [Redacted] is more compromised than that of the other alleged seers.”

“Church authority must keep watch over the economic activities of the alleged seers connected with the Medjugorje phenomenon, especially in the case of [Redacted].”

“Attention and pastoral care must be addressed to them above all, toward the development and deepening of their spiritual life and their sense of belonging to the Church. They do not in fact appear mature either in their faith or in their ecclesiality, and at certain times not even in their psychological consistency. The fact that none of them have been really followed by a spiritual director in their personal journey can at least explain these lacks in part.”

I find it puzzling that the commission found the first seven alleged apparitions were able to arouse faith and a sense of belonging to the Church, so well that the commission considered it a sign of the events’ supernatural origin; and yet the ensuing 38 years have not brought the seers to mature faith or self-understanding as members of the Church.

The commission “recognizes that the alleged seers, in their public statements, do not intend to take the place of the Church, and they do keep her doctrine in mind, in a sufficiently balanced way. However, there are strong tendencies to draw attention to themselves and their current alleged visions, rather than on the Christocentric and ecclesial substance of Marian spirituality.”

The commission offered some advice for the local pastors: “The Franciscans are ensuring good pastoral care” which must be “integrated and strengthened (if necessary with a greater contribution even from non-Franciscans).” “The catechesis of the Franciscans is conducted very well, in particular from the pedagogical point of view,” according to the commission.

As part of that pastoral care there has been an increase in “confessionals, guaranteeing the conditions, including physical conditions, for respect for the secret”; and “a precise discipline of confessors, verifying their identity and suitability” is being ensured.

In addition, the Commission wrote, “an enlargement of the size of the parish church” was to be hoped for.

Thanks to David Murgia for making these excerpts available; one can only hope that he will go on to publish the entire content of the report.

As for the Medjugorje question, it is left without a determinate conclusion, as with quite a few issues in the current papacy: the supportive papal visitator Abp. Hoser continues to watch over activities in the parish, including what are now officially approved pilgrimages, while the skeptical theologian-bishop Ratko Perić remains in office, even at the age of 76 governing the dioceses of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan.

Medjugorje: focus on the first ten days

One would think that the ardent promoters of Medjugorje would be overflowing with Christian virtues, given that they supposedly get the benefit of so much spiritual guidance in the form of frequent sermonettes from Heaven: over 1000 messages by now. But some of them responded quite bitterly to the recent interview given by Fr. Manfred Hauke in the “Tagespost” Catholic newspaper in Germany: one Austrian news site headlined its piece “If a ‘Mariologist’ fights against the Mother of God”, presenting attacks from the physician and Medjugorje devotee Dr. Christian Stelzer of Vienna.

Ah, well. One must be patient and persistent, and so the professor is. Here, in an interview published at August 27, 2018, Dr. Eva Doppelbauer gives Fr. Hauke the opportunity to go into some detail, telling the story of the first ten days of the alleged apparitions: facts which Medjugorje devotees aren’t going to find very much in the promotional literature. The translation is mine. Thanks to Fr. Hauke for permission to publish it here.

[Updated: 9/14/18 with a corrected citation.]

Is the Medjugorje phenomenon authentic? Exclusive interview with Prof. Manfred Hauke

Q: Professor, you find it unimaginable that the Mother of God has been appearing in Medjugorje since 1981. Why?

There is a whole series of arguments that have to be viewed together. The most weighty are the internal contradictions of the messages connected with the “Mother of God”. These began as early as the first days of the phenomenon and are documented in detail in tape-recorded interviews with the seers.

For example?

On the question of how long she would continue to appear, the “Gospa” answered on June 29, 1981: “As long as you want.” A day later on June 30, she answered the same question: “Three more days”: or, three times. That was witnessed not only by five seers (with the exception of Ivan Dragicevic, who was absent on June 30), but also by two women who were present at this “apparition” and had heard the clearly spoken words of the seers (who were not at all in ecstasy). Because of that, the seers expected the end of the apparitions to be on July 3.

The two “apparitions” contradict one another…

Not only that. The first answer binds the duration of the “apparitions” to the subjective will of the seers, which contradicts the heavenly origin of authentic apparitions – as for example in Lourdes or Fatima. The second answer contradicts the factual outcome of the events, since the “apparitions” did also continue after July 3, 1981. Hence it is a false prediction which, according to the testimony of Deuteronomy, speaks against the authenticity of a prophecy. Deuteronomy asks: “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” The answer is: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the Lord has not spoken” (Dt 18:22).
I have no doubt that in the first days “apparitions” took place. I do doubt that the Mother of God appeared to the young people in Medjugorje. A whole series of further indications speaks against it; I will come back to those.

You wrote in the Tagespost that Cardinal Ruini’s Medjugorje commission overlooked the interview tapes. What kind of tapes are they?

This is about interviews with the seers, recorded on tape, that were conducted from June 27 to 30, 1981, by Fr. Zrinko Cuvalo, OFM, at the time the vicar of the Medjugorje parish, on the morning of June 27 and afterward by Fr. Jovo Zovko, OFM, then the parish priest, from the afternoon of June 27 onward. In addition there are taped excerpts of the “apparitions” of June 28 and 29, 1981.

What has been done with these interviews?

Fr. Ivo Sivric, OFM (d. 2002), a Franciscan born in Medjugorje, working in the United States, published a French and English translation from the Croatian tape transcripts in collaboration with the Canadian parapsychologist Louis Bélanger.[1]
The distribution of these books was in fact boycotted by interested parties. Copies that were sent to France, for example, never arrived. The book is very hard to get in Europe. When I ordered it in 2010, I had to contact Bélanger personally, who arranged for me to get both editions. Sivric and Bélanger do not consider the “apparitions” authentic.

Are there any other editions of the taped interviews?

The publication of the texts in Canada inspired a Croatian-born supporter of the “apparitions” living there, Daria Klanac, who published her own edition of the taped interviews in order to check the work of Fr. Sivric.[2] The result doesn’t show any significant differences from the content of Sivric’s previous publication.
After Donal Anthony Foley had published a painstaking analysis of the tape transcripts (first in 2006, with a second edition in 2011), this alarmed Medjugorje devotees in the English-speaking world. So James Mulligan published a further English edition of the texts that adds a few additional recordings and confirms what was already known.[3]

Did the unavailability of this publication cause the Ruini commission to not take it into account?

The difficulty of obtaining the source texts is certainly a factor that one has to take into account, as well as the difficulty that the transcripts are not available in Italian translation. But they absolutely should have evaluated them closely. These earliest texts are closer to the origin than later interviews (such as those of Fr. Bubalo with Vicka from 1983-84). Failing to basically evaluate a historical source of this rank is scandalous from a scholarly point of view, especially if a recognition of the “first days” (and only those) is recommended by the Ruini commission.

What problems present themselves on the basis of the tapes?

I mentioned the unfulfilled prediction of the end of the apparitions “in three days” and that it was contradicted by the assertion that the duration of the apparitions depended on the will of the seers. The seers also asked the “Gospa” for a sign, but there was none given. The fact that the hands of a watch belonging to one of the seers had allegedly moved on its own was not given any great importance later by the seers.

Were there other “signs”?

There was the case of Daniel Setka, a disabled three-year-old boy. On June 29 the “Gospa” promised a healing for him. However, Fr. Zovko determined on June 30 that this had not succeeded.[4] According to the testimony of the parents (April 3, 1983) there was a gradual improvement, but no immediate and complete healing, as would be expected of a miracle recognized by the Church (according to the guidelines of the medical bureau at Lourdes).

What is the content of the “message” of the first days?

In contrast to what happened later, there is no clearly identifiable message in the first days of the “apparitions”, as Fr. Zovko stated on June 29 in a communication to the members of the parish at Medjugorje. Instead the “Gospa” responded to the private questions of the seers.
On June 29, she spoke of the “unbelieving Judas”, which the French Mariologist René Laurentin (principally responsible for the worldwide spread of the “apparitions” of Medjugorje) modified to “unbelieving Thomas”. The expression “unbelieving Judas” is plainly heard on the tape recording that was taken during the apparition itself.

How does the “Gospa” present herself?

The appearance of the “Gospa” contains numerous unusual details that we do not find in authentic Marian apparitions. Her hands tremble. Whenever people step on her overly long veil, she disappears over and over and then comes back. She allows herself to be grasped and laughs at it. Whoever grasps her has the feeling of grasping steel. The color of her garment is gray. There is no cincture in her garment and her foot cannot be seen. As in spiritualistic phenomena, her face becomes visible slowly and gradually. When she is asked whether she would like to appear in the church (which was Fr. Zovko’s preference), she hesitates. When holy water is sprinkled, three of the female seers faint. The seer Marija complains on June 26 of having ice-cold hands as a result of the encounter with the “Gospa”.
Donal Anthony Foley’s commendable work Medjugorje Revisited[5] illuminates some of these aspects.

The Ruini commission wants to recognize the first days of the “apparitions”. Where do they draw the boundary?

The content of the Ruini commission’s assessment is under the obligation of papal secrecy. At the same time it has become known, through press reports that were not denied, that the commission recognized the first seven “apparitions” in the first ten days as worthy of belief.

Are there reasons for drawing that boundary?

It is meaningful to set off the first ten days, that is, from June 24 to July 3, and it has been done already by multiple scholarly studies, because the “apparitions” were supposed to end on July 3, according to the statement of the “Gospa”.
But, to my knowledge, no researcher familiar with the sources has set off the first seven apparitions from the later ones. Sivric regarded the first seven days as distinct (they were dealt with in the taped interviews), without excluding the later ones from the investigation; Bubalo only mentions the meaning of the first week of apparitions (eight days, up to July 1). The number of apparitions and the number of days also do not match. On June 29, the sixth day of the “apparitions”, there is talk of the “apparitions” to come on the next three days. If someone wants to recognize the seven days from June 24 to 30 as authentic, he cannot logically exclude the time from July 1 to 3, because the prediction on June 29 refers to it.
If someone wants to set off the first “seven” apparitions, then (depending on how you count them), that runs up to June 29 or June 27. Perhaps the “apparitions” from June 24 to 29 were grouped together because they took place on Apparition Hill (Podbrdo), while the “apparitions” afterward took place in the area of Cerno (June 30), or in the rectory and in other places (in a car, etc.) But there were also later “apparitions” on Podbrdo, so that drawing such a boundary would be problematic.

What happened in the first days of the “apparitions”?

In the following, I would like to attempt an overview. To take a more precise position, one should compare the sources I have mentioned and especially Foley’s presentation.
The events did not begin on June 25 (i.e., according to the anniversary dates given on the web sites of Medjugorje devotees), but on Wednesday, June 24, on the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist. In the late afternoon Ivanka Ivankovic (15 years old) and Mirjana Dragicevic (16) were at the Podbrdo, between Bijakovici (a section of Medjugorje) and Cilici, on the way to listen to rock music and smoke cigarettes without permission. All at once Ivanka says: “Look, the Gospa!” Mirjana doesn’t even look at the place indicated by her friend: “What you do mean? Do you really think the Gospa would appear to us?”

And when did the second apparition happen?

The second “apparition” takes place on the evening of the same day, after Ivanka and Mirjana have gone to the home of Milka Pavlovic, a younger sister of Marija Pavlovic, who was later to be a seer. Milka asks Ivanka and Mirjana to help her drive her sheep back home from the hill. While climbing the hill (Podbrdo), the three girls see the form of a woman from a distance (about 200 meters), holding a white bundle that could be a child (though no one sees a head or hands or feet). The figure repeatedly covers and uncovers the “child”; she makes a gesture that the girls should come nearer. In front of the “apparition”, Vicka Ivankovic, a friend of Ivanka and Mirjana, happens upon the group.
At the cries of the girls, two boys who were gathering apples nearby approach: Ivan Ivankovic (who later does not take part in the “apparitions”) and Ivan Dragicevic, whose description of the vision deviates somewhat from that of the other seers. He reports having seen a woman with a blue cape, a white veil and a silver crown, while according to Mirjana the dress was gray and the veil whiteish; she also mentions a shining crown. There is no message.

What happens then?

The third “apparition” takes place on Thursday, June 25, at 6 p.m. on Podbrdo. Since people had said that Mary had appeared 18 times in Lourdes, Ivanka, Mirjana, and Vicka go to the hill in the evening in the expectation that the “apparition” could perhaps repeat itself. Milka and the two Ivans (from the previous day) are not there. In the taped interview on June 27, Ivan Dragicevic emphasizes three times that he was not present at the apparition. According to an interview on June 28, which was first published by Mulligan in 2013, the Mother of God is said to have asked: “Where is that boy?” (without using a name), and afterward had appeared to him separately.
While Ivanka runs to the “apparition”, Vicka turns back to the village to fetch Marija Pavlovic and Jakov Colo. As they run to the hill, they feel themselves as though “carried” through the thornbushes by a superhuman power, similarly to what the seers of Garabandal reported, where there was a comparable problem. This time, for the first time, the seers are quite close to the “Gospa” and can touch her. The seers perceive a sort of fog that draws ever nearer to them and gradually the body becomes visible.
Vicka describes touching the “Gospa” with the expression ‘grasping steel’, while Marija has the opinion, it was like air. As the seers touch the figure, it itself begins to laugh. According to Ivanka’s description the apparition is wearing a white veil and a very long gray cape, as well as a crown upon the head, with stars; she wears no belt; she has blue eyes and black hair. Ivanka asks where her mother (who had died two months previously) is. The “apparition” answers that her mother is well, and she should obey her grandmother. Mirjana asks for a sign and says that she saw the hand of her wristwatch turn. When asked if she would come again, the “Gospa” answers with a nod and says, “Go in peace”. When Marija returns home, she is deeply frightened; she cannot eat, and her hands are ice-cold.

The fourth apparition?

At the fourth “apparition” on Friday, June 26, all six seers, who subsequently form a group, are together for the first time (Ivanka, Mirjana, Vicka, Marija, Jakov, Ivan Dragicevic). It is again the start of evening, around 300 meters from the apparition site of the previous days. Three lightning flashes announce the “apparition”. For the first time, a large crowd of people is present. When Marija greets the figure with the words “My Gospa” as it appears, the “Mother of God” nods repeatedly (so it seems) with her head and makes the sign of the Cross several times. Ivanka asks the “Gospa” why she has come and receives the answer: “Because there are many believers, who should be together.” The people and the whole world should be reconciled to one another.
Upon Vicka’s interior request to give a sign, the “Gospa” answers: “Come again tomorrow”, to the place where she had appeared before. Mirjana asks about her deceased grandfather and receives the answer: he is doing well. She should visit the cemetery. According to Ivan the “Gospa” says, before the crowd: “You, who have gathered here around me, are the best of believers.”
Vicka sprinkles holy water (made with blessed salt, added to water which was not blessed), in order to test whether it might be the devil who was appearing. Jakob relates that instantly three of the female seers (Ivanka, Marija, Vicka) faint, in contrast with him and Mirjana. In 1983 (or 1984) Vicka, in her interview with Fr. Bubalo, mentions that the “Gospa” smiled. This detail, which may possibly be derived from the description of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes, according to which the Mother of God is said to have smiled during the sprinkling of holy water, is absent in the taped interviews.
After the end of the (repeated) fainting, the seers pray seven Our Fathers, seven Hail Marys and seven Glory bes, as the grandmother of one of them had recommended; and also the Creed. This means: the initiative for the prayers did not come from the “Gospa”, but arose from Croatian popular piety.

The following apparition?

On Saturday, June 27, the fifth “apparition” takes place, or rather, the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. The differing possibilities for counting them arise from the account (by Jakov and Marija), that the “apparition” had gone away three times: that it had removed itself twice because people had trod on the veil. According to Mirjana’s count, in contrast, there were not three but four “apparitions” on the same evening.

And then?

The sixth (or 9th-10th) “apparition” takes place on Sunday evening, again on Podbrdo. The seers ask for a sign twice. The first time, the “Gospa” smiles and disappears, but returns again. At the repeated request for a sign, the figure says, “Go in the peace of the Lord”, before disappearing.

Then the seventh or eleventh “apparition” follows…

The seventh or eleventh “apparition” takes place on Monday, June 29, the seventh day of the apparitions. The “Gospa” promises the healing of the disabled three-year-old boy Daniel Setka, while on the next day Fr. Zovko determines that the healing did not occur. But there was, as mentioned above, a gradual improvement.
When a physician (Darinka Glamuzina) wants to touch the “Gospa”, it answers: “There are always unbelieving Judases! She should come.” The physician herself later gave contrary testimony about whether she had touched the “Gospa” or not; according to Ivanka, she was able to touch the “Mother of God”. Fr. Zovko intervenes to say that Judas was not unbelieving, but rather Thomas; the seers, however, insist that the word was “Judas”, as the tape recording of the “apparition” itself confirms.
When Vicka asks the “Gospa” why she had come there, in particular, she gets no answer. At Ivanka’s question of how long the apparitions would continue, the “Gospa” answers: “As long as you want.”
She says yes to the question of whether she would also come on the next day (thus on June 30, in the vicinity of Cerno). If someone were to judge only the “apparitions” thus far on the hill as genuine, the question poses itself: why that does not apply to the “apparition” at another location, announced on June 29.

What happens on the seventh day of apparitions?

The eighth or twelfth “apparition” on the seventh day of “apparitions” is the first to take place away from Podbrdo, namely in the vicinity of Cerno. Accompanied by two young women, the seers (with the exception of Ivan) undertake a car trip, in order – so it says in the taped interview – to “try out” whether the “Gospa” would also appear in another place. At this “apparition” Mirjana asks how long the “Gospa” would remain with the seers, and receives the answer: “Three more days”, that is, until Friday, July 3.
Fr. Zovko would like the “Gospa” to agree to appear not on the hill but in the church. The corresponding question from the seers seems not to please the “Gospa”. “Apparently she didn’t like it. But finally she said she wasn’t angry.”
Half an hour later, Fr. Zovko is already interviewing the seers in the rectory at Medjugorje. The women accompanying the seers had no apparition themselves, but confirm the words spoken aloud by the seers during the “apparition”, referring to the end of the “apparitions”.
The taped interviews end on June 30. Other sources give information about the first three days in July, especially the interviews of Fr. Bubalo with Vicka (1983-84, published in 1985). According to that, on July 1 there was an “apparition” in an auto, on July 2 and 3 in the rectory instead (so all together about 12-16 “apparitions” during the first ten days). On July 3, the seers declared before many witnesses that the “apparitions” of the “Gospa” had ended.

The Vatican wants to overlook the question of the authenticity of the “apparitions” and concentrate on “good fruits”. Is that legitimate?

I hope that the Vatican does not overlook the question of authenticity in the future. Placing practice ahead of theory is questionable in any case. An apostolic visitor for Medjugorje has been named without first declaring a position on the question of authenticity. The phenomenon should first be clarified in its various dimensions, and only then can the practical conclusions be drawn for pastoral care. Wherever people set out to pray, there are good fruits. But there are also bad fruits that are inseparably connected with the “apparitions”.

What are the bad fruits?

The disobedience fomented by the “Gospa” against legitimate church authority (particularly on the part of prominent Franciscans), the linking of Medjugorje with hundreds of alleged “seers” and obvious pseudo-mysticism, a kind of dependency on “daily” “apparitions”, the ties to economic interests, and a neglect of authentic apparition sites recognized by the Church.

Are there things in the Gospa messages that contradict the faith?

The collection and filtering of the “messages” constitutes its own problem. In the “Chronicle of the Apparitions” produced in the rectory at Medjugorje, there is a series of doctrinal errors.

For example?

On September 16, 1981, as an example, one can read there that the seers didn’t need to pray for themselves, but only for others. This assertion recalls the erroneous Pelagian doctrines condemned by the Church, according to which it was not necessary to pray the Our Father for ourselves with its petition “And forgive us our trespasses”, but only for the sins of others.[6]
Under May 6, 1982 it says, according to the message of the “Gospa”, the saints are in heaven with soul and body. This contradicts the doctrine that ties the resurrection of the body with the second coming of Christ (see, for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1001).
On October 1, 1981, it is noted that the “Gospa” said the following: “Before God all the religions are equal …” One can compare that, in contrast, with the declaration “Dominus Jesus” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, from the year 2000.

Medjugorje devotees say that the “Gospa” cannot be saying anything new, but only recalling what is old, as a patient mother.

The count of over 40,000 “apparitions” with around 1000 “messages” is a verbose opposite to the authentic Marian apparitions recognized by the Church, e.g., four in Guadalupe (1531), three at the Rue du Bac (Paris, 1830), one in La Salette (1849), 18 in Lourdes (1858), three in Champion (Wisconsin, USA, 1859) and six in Fatima (1917).
Medjugorje devotees often cite the apparitions in Le Laus (France), which spanned 54 years, as a counter-example. But there were no daily Marian apparitions underway for 54 years there, but rather – except for individual mystical experiences – a cycle of apparitions in four months (May to August 1664), with a conclusion on September 29-30 of that year.

The physician Christian Stelzer from Vienna accused you in the Tagespost (August 10) of simply echoing the arguments of Bishop Peric of Mostar.

Bishop Peric is certainly an important witness with a comprehensive knowledge of the phenomenon. My study of Medjugorje is, however, not limited to the observations of the current bishop. Even if that were the case, it is not important who presents an argument, but rather the truth contained in it should be put to the test. Two times two is four, regardless of whether a ten-year-old child or a professor of mathematics affirms it.

Stelzer says that the claim that the Mother of God was born on August 5, 16 B.C. does not come from the Medjugorje seers.

According to Stelzer the “Gospa” only named August 5 as her birthday, but did not designate the year 1984 as her 2000th birthday, which would give her birth in the year 16 B.C., so that Mary would have been 9 or 10 years old at the birth of Jesus (around the year 7 B.C.)
But the “Chronicle of the Apparitions” says this expressly several times. This fact, which is known in the research, was brought to mind again in a publication from the Diocese of Mostar on August 2, 2018.
On May 28, 1984, Fr. Vlasic writes in the Chronicle, “Today I visited Bishop Pavao Zanic. I brought him the last part of the ‘journal’ from Jelena and Marijana Vasilj. I also brought him the message from the Gospa that was given to Jelena for him, for the Holy Father, and for the Christian public, according to which the 2000th birthday of the Mother of God is August 5, 1984.” The entries of June 14, and July 27, 29, and 30, 1984 also refer to the 2000th birthday in 1984.[7]

There was also moral misconduct surrounding the “apparitions”.

Moral misconduct should only be mentioned here when it stands in connection with the alleged “apparitions”. This relates to disobedience against legitimate church authority, as well as misconduct against the eighth and the sixth commandments (“Thou shalt not bear false witness”, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”). There is an extensive dossier here, but I would like to limit myself to three Franciscan fathers closely connected with Medjugorje: Jozo Zovko, Slavko Barbaric, and Tomislav Vlasic.

What is the problem with Fr. Jozo Zovko?

At the beginning of the apparitions, Fr. Zovko was the parish priest of Medjugorje. By “inviting” the “Gospa” to “appear” in the parish church, he took it upon himself to lend the phenomenon a quasi-official recognition, which is only up to the Bishop. Zovko claims to have had an “apparition” of the “Mother of God” himself on July 1 and 19, 1981. He was imprisoned by the Communists because he had compared the 40th anniversary of Communist dominance in Yugoslavia to the 40 years of the Babylonian captivity.
During his time in prison, he himself “appeared” to the “seers” multiple times together with the “Gospa”, who says this about him, according to the “Chronicle of the Apparitions” on October 21, 1981: “He is a saint; I’ve said that to you already.” He also appears as a “saint” in the reader comments to one of the articles on August 10, 2018.

What is Zovko’s ecclesiastical status?

This “saint” repeatedly brought church sanctions on himself because of his Medjugorje activities and because of controversial “charismatic” practices that began before the “apparitions”. At present he is not allowed to live in Bosnia-Herzegovina or to speak publicly about the alleged “apparitions”.
The testimony of Mark Waterinckx from Belgium, who made numerous pilgrimages to Medjugorje since 1984, came into public view. In the summer of 1989 he uncovered the sexual molestation of an American pilgrim, and learned of similar cases.
In connection with other negative experiences, this was the impetus for him to distance himself from the Medjugorje “apparitions”. Waterinckx has made part of his related experiences public.[8]

The second Franciscan is Fr. Tomislav Vlasic.

Exactly. Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, OFM (b. 1942) visited the seers as early as June 29, 1981. He worked as parochial vicar in Medjugorje from 1982 to 1984 and described himself as the “spiritual director” of the seers, assigned by the “Gospa”. Vlasic continued to be closely connected with Medjugorje after his removal from the parish. The “Kraljice mira” community connected with him to this day has a gigantic presence there with a big four-story building and an amphitheater for gatherings. Before coming to Medjugorje, Vlasic had lived in a mixed Franciscan community (1976) and got a religious sister pregnant, who was sent away with her child to Germany. There was an attempt in the order to deny his fatherhood and attribute it to a former Franciscan who had emigrated to the USA.
Vlasic, of all people, was the object of a “prophecy” by two well-known figures in the “charismatic movement”, during a May 1981 meeting in Rome. An Irish “charismatic” sister saw him on a seat surrounded by a great throng, and from there streams of living water flowed out. Another “prophet” spoke: “Do not be afraid, I am sending you my mother.”
During his presence in Medjugorje, Vlasic maintained the “Chronicle of the Apparitions”, which was turned over to the Bishop later, after the texts had been purged. Despite this, many “problems” in the “messages” remained visible. For example, Vlasic recorded the words of the “Gospa” that placed her 2000th birthday on August 5, 1984.
On February 28, 1982, these words of praise from the “Gospa” to the seers are in the “Chronicle” “Third Diary” of the seer Vicka: [9] “You can thank Tomislav; he is leading you so well.” Vlasic did not create the Medjugorje phenomenon, but he channeled it.

What has happened to Fr. Vlasic?

Things came to a break with the mainstream of the Medjugorje movement when Vlasic, of all people, founded a mixed Franciscan community in 1988 and arranged for the seer Marija Pavlovic to write a message from the “Gospa” in support of the new foundation. On July 11, 1988, Marija made an official declaration that she had written that message under pressure from Vlasic. Vlasic then entered into a “mystical marriage” with a German seer, who left him after a few years. Currently he is closely connected with UFO messages with a decisively spiritualistic background from the seer Stefania Caterina. In those messages, Medjugorje is bound up with an imaginative world history and the preparation for a future visit by space aliens. Pope Francis is urged to announce the Good News of the presence of other brothers in the universe.
The problem with Vlasic is the connection with pseudo-charisms and a moral conduct that is at least very ambiguous. Bishop Zanic, in 1984, called him a “mystificator and charismatic magician”. On January 28, 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith applied disciplinary measures on the ground of dubious mysticism and transgressions against the sixth commandment. The Franciscan order laicized him in 2009.
If one is to believe Dr. Stelzer, this case has “nothing to do with Medjugorje”.

And there was also Fr. Slavko Barbaric.

Yes, Fr. Slavko Barbaric, OFM worked in Medjugorje for many years, from 1984 until his death in the year 2000. As the successor of Fr. Vlasic he functioned as the spiritual director of the seers. When he took a stand against the Bishop’s directive that the “apparitions” no longer take place in the church, he was removed. The “Gospa” spoke against that directive herself on February 3, 1985, saying: “I wish Slavko to remain here to take care of all of the details and the transcriptions, so that we have a clear picture of everything at the end of my visit.” It is hardly credible that the “Mother of God” would support canonical disobedience against a justified order from the bishop. Furthermore the “message” stated that Barbaric would still be living at the end of the “apparitions”. But Barbaric died and the “apparitions” are still going.
After his removal Barbaric worked in Medjugorje despite the bishop’s prohibition (I encountered him there in October 1985). He supervised the publication of the “monthly messages” of the seer Marija, and fewer theological problems popped up in them than in the visionary texts under Vlasic’s direction. In the year 2000, he signed a declaration that he was leaving Medjugorje, but remained there. Hence the bishop (again) withdrew his faculties to hear confessions. Fr. Barbaric died in that irregular situation on November 24, 2000. The “Gospa” announced the beatification of the rebel Franciscan on that very day: “I am happy with you, and would like to tell you that your brother Slavko has been born into Heaven and intercedes for you.”

Medjugorje devotees make reference to medical investigations of the seers that would point to extraordinary phenomena. Have you looked into those?

I have. There are several studies that claim to have established “ecstasies” with no natural explanation, and hence conclude that the “apparitions” have a supernatural origin. Even if these studies were convincing, such a determination would not say anything about a supernatural origin. The devil can also produce phenomena that have effects upon the natural powers of human beings.
In any case, it does appear that during the first days of the “apparitions” there were no real ecstasies to certify. The seers remained in contact with their surroundings, took questions from bystanders and shared answers from the “Gospa” with them. The seers saw and heard things that those around them did not perceive, but they themselves spoke in a loud voice. Only later did this change, as it seems, through a process of learning.

Is that different from, for example, St. Bernadette of Lourdes?

St. Bernadette did not feel the flame of a candle during an apparition of the Mother of God, because she was in a real ecstasy. In contrast, with the seers of Medjugorje, we find rather the experience of a trance or incomplete ecstasy. For the Medjugorje fan Jean-Louis Martin, his world fell apart on January 14, 1985 during the seers’ allegedly complete ecstasy, when he moved his spread fingers at the eyes of Vicka and the seer jerked and moved backward. Later she put out the information that she had wanted to catch the infant Jesus, whom the Mother of God had allowed to drop. This information was not convincing to Martin, who had wanted to test the ecstasy: “Why, then, did you move backward and not forward?”

How do you explain the origin of the Medjugorje phenomenon?

There are various hypothetical explanations. Based on what has been said, a supernatural origin is excluded. A psychological or parapsychological explanation is also not sufficient, especially to explain the beginning of the phenomenon. “Collective hallucinations”, which Bp. Zanic brought up in the early years, are not the case. Hallucinations are always individual. In my assessment, the first “apparitions” (and probably a good part of the subsequent phenomena) are of “preternatural” (i.e., outside of nature) origin, that is, they derive from evil spirits whose fruits show themselves in disobedience, lies, and other moral failings. There is also human influence, even including the business dealings of the Camorra from Naples, if one believes the papal visitator Archbishop Hoser.

How were things able to get so far?

The priests active in the parish should have exercised restraint, to make a discernment of spirits possible for the seers. Fathers Zovko and Vlasic particularly were not capable of that, and they let loose a pseudo-charismatic avalanche, which has led to a great chaos in the Church.
Failing to name these evils by their names is worse than the bishops’ silence about sexual misconduct in Chile.
The “pastoral” practice of promoting visits to Medjugorje without clarifying the authenticity first, is playing with fire, which can have uncontrollable effects, not least for the successor of St. Peter. We should pray for Pope Francis, that he can recognize the duty to clarify and discern according to the principle he treasures: “see, judge, act”. First, to see and judge, then to act.

[1] The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, Saint-François-du-Lac (Quebec): Psilog, 1988. (See
[2] Aux sources de Medjugorje, Montréal, 1998.
[3] Medjugorje. The First Days, Medjugorje, 2013.
[4] Svetozar Kraljevic, The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1984, 181-185.
[5] Medjugorje Revisited, Theotokos Books, Nottingham 2011.
[6] Synod of Carthage, 418, canon 7: DH 229.
[7] (in Italian)
[8] “The ‘Saint‘ Jozo Zovko and his Many Sex Affairs”, 2004:; also, E.M. Jones, The Medjugorje Deception, South Bend, 1998, 164-165.
[9] [This citation was corrected September 14, 2018 by Fr. Hauke.]