What Is Medjugorje

Davide A. Bianchini,


When dealing with such a sensitive topic as the alleged presence of the Mother of God in our midst, we ask our readers to forgive us if we overstep our bounds on these proceeding pages. We have tried to remain as objective as possible in our analysis, ruling out any unreferenced or sensational claims, as well as hearsay and propaganda, in the hopes to remain faithful to history, to the Church, and to serious scholarship. It is our hope to approach this topic with the reverence due to it, asking the protection of Our Blessed Mother not to misrepresent any detail.

A short introduction clip from the movie “The Madonna of Medjugorje”

We have also equipped this website with scientific apparatus, namely; fully referenced notes to verifiable sources, so that our readers–whether skeptics or supporters–will be able to follow up with further study. We believe this is the only credible method of research, and we hope that our readers will appreciate our efforts in this regard.

Some have speculated that Medjugorje is the most misunderstood and misrepresented apparition in the history of Christianity. And while we cannot validate this claim, we nonetheless have developed a kind of sympathy for its sentiments. Indeed, Medjugorje is an unprecedented apparition for these unprecedented times in which we live. As a result, the precedent with which it also has been maligned is without equal, far overstepping even the Church’s position on the issue.


1400~1981: Although the apparitions do not begin until 1981, we nonetheless encourage our readers to read about the historical context leading up to the apparitions, in what became known as the “Herzegovinian Affair”. Due to the complex nature of its history, we have dedicated a separate page to its exegesis. See; The Herzegovinian Affair Explained.

June 24th-25th, 1981: Six young children, ages10 – 16 (Marija, Mirjana, Vicka, Ivan, Jakov, and Ivanka), allegedly begin receiving visions in the small village of Medjugorje, located in Bosnia-Hercegovina (diocese of Mostar). [1]

[1] Just a few days after the apparitions began, the communist government began to persecute the children, believing that they were anti-socialist nationalists, and hostile to the Communist Party. The police took the children by force to the Mostar mental facility, to a morgue, and to various other places intended to scare the children into confessing the staging of lies to subvert the government. 1 At one point, the police even held a gun to Vicka’s head, believing her to be the leader of the children and the mastermind behind the hoax. They also proceeded to harass the parents of the children as well, taking them into custody and ordering them to forbid their children from going to the church. 2

1981: The local parish priest, Father Jozo Zovko does not believe the children at first, and even warns the bishop not to be so haste in his acceptance of the apparitions. [1]

[1] Father Jozo was skeptical of the apparitions at first, since the people were gathering on the hill leaving the church empty (The madonna later corrected the people, gently telling them that if they had to choose between gathering on the hill to witness an apparition, or going to the church to pray, they should choose the church). 2b It wasn’t until one morning while in prayer, he heard a voice say, “Protect the children.” At the same moment, the children ran into the church in tears, fleeing from the communist soldiers. Fr. Jozo then hid the children in a small room in the church, and went out to speak to the soldiers. It was in this moment that he knew he had to protect the children. 3

1981: July 25th. After interviewing the children, the local Bishop of Mostar (bishop Zanic) is initially sympathetic to the apparitions, stating in a homily that same day; “Six simple children like these would have told all in half an hour if anybody had been manipulating them. I assure you that none of the priests has done any such thing. The accusation is insulting and must be firmly rejected. Furthermore, I am convinced the children are not lying. They are saying only what they most profoundly believe. […] One thing is certain; something has stirred in people’s hearts. Confession, prayer, reconciliation between enemies – that is a most positive step forward.”[1] 4

1981: As Fr. Jozo begins to believe in the apparitions, he becomes more and more outspoken in his protection of the children against the unjust Communist persecutions. He is soon targeted as a primary suspect, arrested, and placed on a mock trial for conspiracy to overthrow the Communist constitution. False witnesses are brought in to testify against him, without the ability to make his own defense. He is then sentenced to three and a half years in prison. 5 [1]

[1] The Communist regime redoubled their efforts in suppressing the Medjugorje phenomenon. They banned the children from going to the hill of the apparition site, set up around-the-clock police guard, planted informers and false pilgrims to incite an uprising, set up blockades to prevent cars from passing, detained pilgrims for questioning, and, in an effort to control all the media, they imprison the only two journalists who supported Medjugorje. 5

Clip from the movie “The Madonna of Medjugorje”

1981: Bishop Zanic, still favorable to the apparitions, protests the atrocities committed by the Communists, stating; “…these irresponsible calumnies and these attacks whose bad taste will in no way facilitate a calm appraisal of the events which have been taking place in Medjugorje. Such behavior violates fundamental human and civic rights.”6 [1]

[1] Bishop Zanic was later summoned to Sarajevo by the Communist State Police and interogated over his involvement in Medjugorje. The interogators, being true to form, also threatened the bishop with imprisonment, just as they had to Fr. Jozo, if he did not stop supporting the apparitions. 6b Ap1

1981: With Fr. Jozo now in prison, there is no one to protect the children against the Communist guards. However, another Franciscan priest, Father Tomislav Vlasic, is soon transferred to Medjugorje, who acted as a temporary replacement to Fr. Jozo. For two years he remains the children’s spiritual director, before deciding to leave Medjugorje for Italy. [1]

[1] Critics of Medjugorje seem to want to cast doubt over the apparitions by attacking the character of Fr. Vlasic, in an attempt to convince readers that he and Fr. Jozo were somehow the mastermind behind Medjugorje, manipulating the children at will. Due to the pervasive and paranoid nature of these charges, we have addressed them in more detail on our page entitled; Common Misconceptions.

1981: At the same time when these events are unfolding in Medjugorje, Bishop Zanic and the local Franciscans are in continual tension over the Herzegovinian Affair. Like the bishop Ule before him, bishop Zanic too begins pressuring the Franciscans to hand over more of their parishes to him. The Franciscans, after already handing over nearly half of their parishes, feel it unjust for the bishop to continue demanding more, and thus resist his efforts while at the same time petitioning Rome for assistance. Out of this conflict, the bishop targets two Franciscans priests (Fr. Ivica Vego and Fr. Ivan Prusina), and, ultimately, sees to their expulsion from the Franciscan order and the dissolution of their vows. [1]

[1] Normally this incident would have no relevance to Medjugorje, and would thus not be included in this timeline. However, the local townspeople, sympathetic to the two priests, encouraged them to approach the children to ask Our Lady for counsel. Upon inquiry, the Lady instructed them to relay the following message; “The Gospa wants it said to the bishop that he has made a premature decision. Let him reflect again, and listen well to both parties. He must be just and patient. She says that both priests are not guilty.” This admonishment, according the bishop Zanic, is what compels him to change his opinion from favorable to negative on the apparitions (see; “But the Blessed Virgin would never admonish a bishop“). Furthermore, since the Lady said that the two priests were not guilty, their innocence was then implicated in the evaluation of the apparitions. And as we will see, 12 years later in 1993, the Holy See indeed affirmed their innocence by dropping all the charges against the two priests, indirectly siding with the Lady.

Oct. 30, 1984: Bishop Zanic changes his position on Medjugorje, issuing a Positio (public statement) to the press in writing, stating that he had a “moral certitude that the Medjugorje events are a case of collective hallucination”. 7 According to the bishop, his change of mind was on the grounds that “the Blessed Virgin would never admonish a bishop.” [1] As he stated; “This support given against the authority of the Church, proves that it is not the Virgin.”And again, he states; “That fact convinced me that it did not deal with the Madonna, and that she could not defend the two priests expelled by the Order and released from their vows. That would be to destroy the hierarchy and the Church”  8

[1] As the bishop notes, his position on Medjugorje hinges on the fact that the Lady admonished him over his actions against the two guilty Franciscan priests, Fr. Ivica Vego and Fr. Ivan Prusina. According to him, this was sufficient proof he needed to determine the falsity of Medjugorje. And for the remaining years of his episcopate, he routinely returns to this position when other recourse fails. However, as we shall see, the Holy See opened an investigation into this matter in 1993, and over-turned the decree by the bishop, vindicating the two priests (see 1993).

1984: Higher authorities in the Church urge bishop Zanic to open a formal investigation into the events before arriving at a final judgment (in accordance with the CDF’s 1978 “Norms in Judging Alleged Apparitions“). Bishop Zanic obeys by forming a local commission of fourteen members, including theologians and medical professors. However, of the fourteen members, ten of them were known opponents of Medjugorje. [1] 9 Fr. Gandic, a member of this local commission, states in an interview; “They were so prejudiced–some members of the commission–that they went on an on about the Herzegoninian Case, and hadn’t time to discuss the Medjugorje phenonmenon.” 9b

[1] We must be clear to our readers, that while we strive to give due reverence and respect to a shepard of the Church, we must nonetheless remain faithful to history. At the time, it had been common knowledge to everyone involved that bishop Zanic had one goal in mind; to prove Medjugorje false. This was no secret. Even bishop Zanic himself on a number of occasions let his sentiments be known. For example, when asked about whether the Commission will approve Medjugorje, he responded; “I am the Commission”. 9 And on another occasion, he stated; “Either I or Medjugorje must die”. 9 Furthermore, when he formed a preliminary four-person commission to investigate the aparitions, all four theologians he selected had already announced prior that they believed the visionaries were frauds (the one member who actually met with the visionaries, changed his mind from negative to positive, after which he was dismissed from the comminion by the bishop). 9c Despite this opposition, however, the Lady continually reminded the children to pray and fast for the bishop, and to respect him; “Pray very much for the Bishop and for those who are responsible for the church. No less than half of their prayers and sacrifices must be devoted to this intention. Pray my dear children…he is tormented by anxiety. He has taken upon himself all the problems of the diocese…I will ask Almighty God for the grace to be able to comfort the bishop. […] It is necessary to respect the leaders and to obey them.”  10

1984: While the Commission is meeting, a number of medical doctors and professors request permission to perform various tests and experiments on the children. The children are questioned and subjected to numerous tests by doctors from all over the world. They are poked with needles, burnt with matches, and tested with various medical equipment. All the doctors, without question, agree that the children are not in any way hallucinating, hysteric, neurotic, cataleptic, or pathological. Furthermore, they also rule out the possibility of deception on the part of the children. Instead, the doctors are continually impressed by how level-headed, well-mannered, and ordinary the children seem, especially under such stressful circumstances. 11

[1] Despite the positive findings of science, the bishop’s Commissioner rejected this evidence as inadmissible, since the foreign doctors did not speak Serbo-Croatian and had to rely on interpreters. 12

Oct. 30, 1984: While ten of its members had known prejudices against Medjugorje, the local commission eventually becomes deadlocked. Bishop Zanic, anxious to stop the influx of pilgrims, pre-empts the commission by circulating a new decree to all the bishops around the world on the “Actual (Unofficial) Position of the Diocese of Mostar on the Medjugorje events”, in which he asserts again the verdict of “collective hallucination”. 12b This decree, though unofficial, is given to the media as well, which in turn publish articles that Rome has condemned Medjugorje.

In an official memorandum of the Vatican State Secretary Office, Cardinal Casaroli charged Cardinal Franjo Kuharic to convey to bishop Zanic that he should “suspend the airing of his own personal statements and renounce making judgments, until such time as all the elements could be conclusively gathered together, and the happenings could be clarified” 13

1984: Fr. Rene Laurentin, a known proponent of Medjugorje, writes to the bishop, asking him why he willfully ignored the results of the scientific experiments performed on the children, which proved that they were neither hallucinating nor pathological. The bishop responds;

“The word hallucination is too flattering for what goes on in that apparition room. There are witnesses to testify that there are no ecstasies, no hallucinations, but simply parrot-like performances of a comic show. Therefore, I declare the word “hallucination” too generous a description for such wicked play-acting. It will all blow up in your face sooner or later, and then your precious encephalograms and cardiograms and all your scientific apparatus will sink without trace.”  14

Dec. 1984: Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar, after reading bishop Zanic’s unofficial decree, responds with the following;

“My Lord, what a sorry document you have sent throughout the world! I have been deeply pained to see the episcopal office degraded in this manner. Instead of biding your time, as you were recommended to do by higher authority, you fulminate and hurl thunderbolts like Jupiter. While you denigrate renowned people who are innocent , deserving of your respect and protection, you bring out accusations that have been refuted a hundred times over.”  15

1986: Bishop Zanic submits a negative decision to Cardinal Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith. Instead of accepting the negative decision by the bishop, Cardinal Ratzinger dissolves the bishop’s Commission, and convenes a new Commission of all the Yugoslavian Bishops in the region.

According to bishop Zanic, Cardinal Ratzinger told him forthright; “No, you are going to dissolve your diocesan commission. The verdict is transferred to the Bishops Conference.”  16

Dec. 23, 1990: Now out of the hands of bishop Zanic, the new Yugoslavian Commission initiates a formal investigation into the apparitions, which continue over a course of three years. Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, President of the Yugoslav Bishops’ Conference, gives a general report of the progress of the Commission, stating that the bishops “have a positive opinion of Medjugorje events.”  17

1991: The Yugoslavian Bishops Conference votes to classify Medjugorje in one of three ways; 1) certain of supernatural origin, 2) not yet certain of supernatural origin, 3) certain of no supernatural origin. The conference rejects the 3rd classification by a vote of 19 to 1, and after much deliberation between the 1st and 2nd classification, decides that Medjugorje cannot yet be confirmed supernatural, but also expresses its favorability to the apparitions; “The Church is not in a hurry. We, the bishops, after three years of examination by the Commission, have declared Medjugorje a place of prayer and a Marian sanctuary. This means that we are not opposed to people coming on pilgrimage to Medjugorje to venerate the Mother of God there, in conformity with the teaching and faith of the universal Church. As to the supernaturality of the apparitions, we have declared: Up to this moment, we cannot affirm it. We leave it for later. The Church is not in a hurry.” 18

[1] This statement is the most concise summary of the Church’s position on Medgjugorje in layman’s terms, and provides us with the proper context for reading the “1991 Zadar Declaration” (the formal decision of the commission in church language). Without the proper context above, one can easily misinterpret the Zadar Declaration, and in fact many critics have fallen into this error, believing the commission held a negative position rather than one of cautiously optimistic neutrality. In reality, the Commission was largely amiable to the apparitions, but tempered its favorability due to the strong opposition of bishop Zanic (see “Overview and Findings of the 1991 Commission“).

1991: Cardinal Ratzinger (prefect of the CDF), quotes the Yugoslavian Bishops as stating the following; “We want to be concerned that this place, which has become a place of prayer and faith, remain and come to be even more in the most interior unity with the entire Church.”  19

1991: The local bishop (now bishop Peric) voices his disagreement with the progress of the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference, stating; “My conviction and my position is not only ‘non constat de supernaturalitate’, but likewise, ‘constat de non supernaturalitate’ of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje“.

Like bishop Zanic, his predecessor bishop Peric, also does not believe in the apparitions, and considers the decision of the Yugoslav Bishop’s Commission and its acceptance by Rome to be an error. However, the CDF later responded to the bishop’s statement with the following; “What Bishop Peric said…declaring: “My conviction and my position is not only ‘non constat de supernaturalitate’, but likewise, ‘constat de non supernaturalitate’ of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje”, should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.20

1993: Having no other choice, bishop Peric concedes to the findings of the Yugoslavian bishop’s conference, stating; “Medjugorje is officially accepted as a place of prayer and pilgrimage.”  21

1993: The two Franciscan priests who were unjustly expelled from the order in 1981, finally receive vindication from Rome, after 12 years of failed appeals and delays in the lower tribunals. After the case was elevated to the Apostolic Signatura, the Tribunal responded definitively, declaring that Bishop Zanic’s expulsion and laicization of the two priests was done illegally and unjustly. [1] 22

[1] The results of this investigation are monumentous, since it was bishop Zanic himself who based his negative judgment on the supposed guilt of these two priests and the Lady’s declaration of their innocence. While the findings of the Tribunal have been made public, the Tribunal has forbidden the publishing of its 13-page report on the investigation. Thus, we cannot post the details of the report publicly. However, certain individuals who have read this report (Fr. Laurentin being one), have verified conclusively how damaging it really is 23 Ultimately, what we can say with certitude, is that the laicization of the two priests was revoked and the priests were permitted to return to their community in good standing. However, one of the priests, Ivica Vego, had since married. Thus, tragically, a priest was robbed of his priesthood through this ordeal.

1998: The secretary of the CDF responds in a letter of inquiry from Bishop Gilbert Aubry on the status of Medjugorje. He re-iterates the Church’s position by stating it; 1) he defers all authority to the 1991 Bishop’s Conference, 2) the bishop’s opinion is merely his own opinion, and should not be considered the judgment of the Church, 3) private pilgrimages are permitted “so long as they are not regarded as an authentication of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church” (complete text).

[1] We have seen some critics argue that the Church as prohibited private pilgrimages to Medjugorje, based on a faulty interpretation of the above statement; “So long as they are not regarded as an authentication of…” This statement means exactly what it says; that the presence of pilgrims from all over the world should not be regarded as proof of the supernaturality of the events still taking place. As we have seen, the Church expressly permits, and even encourages pilgrimages to Medjugorje (being a “place of prayer and Marian sanctuary”), while she continues her investigation of the phenomenon.

2002: The pope elevates Sister Emmanuel’s community (the same sister who Bishop Zanic condemned and said that as she was not a nun, she had no right to call herself ‘Sister’) to full recognition.

2008: Cardinal Bertone of the CDF writes; “Bishop Peric’s statement expresses a personal opinion of his own. It is not a definitive official judgment on the part of the Church, The Church defers to the Zadar statement issued on 10th April 1991 by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia and the statement leaves the door open to further investigations of the affair. So the process of verification needs to move forward.”  24

2010: The Holy See forms a new commission to investigate the apparitions of Medjugorje. [1]

[1] The stated objective of this Commission is principally of a technical matter; to disseminate and publicize the details of the 1991 Yugoslavian Bishops Conference, which as we have also seen, had a positive view of the events. Therefore, we should expect a likewise positive result from this Commission.

2014: The Vatican commission completes its investigation of Medjugorje and submits its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The judgment awaits final approval from pope Francis.

2016: (see special update above)


1. Mary Craig, Spark From Heaven: The Mystery of the Madonna of Medjugorje, Ave Maria Press 1988, p41,54,68-77. (impartial BBC journalist)

[See also Mirjana Stanislava Vasilj-Zuccarini Our Lady’s Call from Medjugorje, p76, 116-124. (local villager and eye witness)]

2. Vasilj-Zuccarini op. cit., p35,68,72.

2b. Fr. Rene Laurentin, Messages and Teachings of Mary at Medjugorje: Chronological Corpus of the Messages, The Riehle Foundation 1988, p314. [complete text]

3. Craig, op. cit. p56.

4. Craig, op. cit. p68.

5. Craig, op. cit. p76, 71, 72.

6. Craig, op. cit. p74.

6b. Fr. Ljudevit Rupcic, The Truth About Medjugorje, p. 70-75 (Fr. Rupcic served on the Theological Commission of the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference from 1969 to 1980 and also was imprisoned by the Communists for a number of years).

7. Antonio Gaspari (EWTN), Medjugorje: Deception of Miracle? (“Inside the Vatican”, Nov. 1996) [link]

8.Laurentin, op. cit. Ap. 329-331. [complete text] (note, appendix is missing in the linked source)

9. Craig, op. cit. p124, 129

9b. The Madonna of Medjugorje, Franciscan University of Steubenville, 1987 [see clip of interview here]

9c. Randall Sullivan, The Miracle Detective, Grove Press 2004, p.122 (impartial journalist for Rolling Stone)

10. Laurentin, op. cit. p.203, Ap. 336, 340

11. Among the professors, psychiatrists, and medical doctors who have tested the children, are; Nicolas Bulat, Professor of Dogma at the University of Split, Dr. Mario Botta, Dr. Lucia Capello, Dr. Enzo Gabrici, Professor Maria Franchini, Professor Henri Joyeux, Dr. Jacques Philippot, Dr. F. Rouquerol, Professor Santini, Dr. Paolo Maestri, and Professor Margnelli. See Craig p125, 133, 134, 135,

12. Glas Koncila, Oct. 20th, 1985 issue.

12b. Craig, op. cit., p144.

13. Vatican State Secretary Office, Cardinal Casaroli, No. 150.458, April 1st, 1985.

14. Laurentin, Dermieres Nouvelles de Medjugorje, op.cit. [see also; Craig p.145]

15. Kevin Delvin, The Medjugorje Story, RAD Background Report/72.

16. Laurentin, The Position of Medjugorje in the Church, July, 1997, sec. The Local Bishop. [link]

17. Interview on Croatian public television, Dec. 23, 1990] [link] [link]

18. Declaration printed in Vecernji List, August 1993, Latest News 13, page 41. [see also; Glas Koncila, August, 1993]

19. Gebetsaktion, #22, 1992, p.4.

20. Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Tarcisio Bertone (Secretary) to Bishop Gilbert Aubry of Saint-Denis de la Reunion [complete text]

21. Laurentin, Medjugorje-13 Years Later, The Riehle Foundation, 1994, p36.

22. Apostolic Signatura Tribunal, Case No. 17907/86CA ly.

23. Laurentin, Medjugorje-13 Years Later, The Riehle Foundation, 1994, p43, 42.

24. Cardinal Bertone, The Last Secret of Fatima, p.94

Appendix I:

(fn. 6b.) While bishop Zanic and father Jozo were both threatened with imprisonment if they did not stop supporting Medjugorje, it was only Fr. Jozo who ultimately went to prison. Just after Fr. Jozo was released from prison, he met with the bishop, who explained to him that he was forced by the Communists to change his opinion on Medjugorje from open/supportive to negaitve, saying; “I could not have gone to prison for Medjugorje”, and “How could I have acted differently?”, and “nor did I wish to go from being bishop to assistant pastor of a village” (referring to the pressure from his diocesan priests, who were insisting that he condemn the apparitions). 6b Due to the serious nature of this evidence, however, and based on the testimony of one man, we purposely ommitted it from the main body of the timeline. Although Fr. Jozo is a realiable witness with no credible blunders against his character, this evidence alone will not suffice in the mind of a critic, nor do we wish for our readers to imitate the methods of some critics by reducing the issue to a deragatory soundbyte by saying; “The bishop was a coward!”. Our Lady has shown us the example by which we should live by; pray for our shepards, fast for them, respect them, obey them. She will take care of the rest.

Davide A. Bianchini, Contact

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