by Marco Corvaglia
Go to the page The Communists and the Bishop [Part 1]
The journalist Žarko Ivković, a supporter of the alleged apparitions (he also worked for the magazine "Medjugorje Tribune"), published in June 2011, with three other colleagues, the volume Misterij Međugorja (The Mystery of Medjugorje).
In it, a classified document is made known: a "Special Informative Report" of the UDBA (Yugoslav Communist police), dating back to 17 November 1987 and relating to the facts of Medjugorje.
Actually, the document constitutes another (and even unnecessary) confirmation of the firmness of Msgr. Žanić before the government, but the author of the book does not highlight this aspect and, besides, incredibly continues to present insinuating "hypotheses" (he himself presents them in this form), without being able to provide any real argumentation. In Italy, all this was spread by Paolo Brosio, in his book Viaggio a Medjugorje (Piemme, Milan, 2011), with the same frame of comment, substantially unrelated to the effective contents of the document.
In 1987, the police did not worry so much about Medjugorje (considering it, on the contrary, at the time, in a substantially favorable way, as we have seen in the first part of this article). The police worried about the clergy being enemies of the state. Among these enemies were both Father Jozo Zovko (defender of the visionaries and former pastor of Medjugorje) and Bishop Pavao Žanić.
Indeed, as we shall see, the Informative Report clearly says that the police wanted to use the opposition of the bishop against the apparitions, in order to discredit him in the eyes of the local clergy and of the hierarchy.
As to Father Jozo, he was considered a political enemy regardless of the facts of Medjugorje, as evidenced by police reports against him, dating back to 1977 and 1978, the period before the beginning of the apparitions, when the Franciscan was pastor at Posušje (related documents are quoted in Misterij Međugorja).
Some important preliminary remarks: from the Informative Report one can clearly deduce that the intelligence used to intercept and read the letters addressed to the enemies of the state (hence to the Bishop Žanić and to Father Jozo Zovko). It is apparent that the same procedure was used for the letters sent by the Bishopric of Mostar.
We can read in the document:
Žanić has received from the Congregation for the Propaganda of the Holy See the news of a complaint of an Italian pilgrim (Augusta Croci from Cavalese) [the exact name was Augusta Croce – Note is mine. MC], which shows that Zovko "morbidly kissed" the pilgrim at issue, in the church during her stay in Yugoslavia in the second half of 1986.
["Special Informative Report" of the SDB, 17 November 1987, in Ž. Ivkovic et al., Misterij Međugorja, Vecernji List, Zagreb, 2011, published in Italy in P. Brosio, Viaggio a Medjugorje, Piemme, Milan, 2011, p. 367]
Žanić asked the Archbishop of Trent about it, in whose diocese the town of Cavalese is. He responded in writing:
There is no reason to think that she invented it.
The internal and confidential document of the communist police continues:
We discovered an interesting information about the behavior of Father Jozo Zovko. An Austrian pilgrim (Hermina Koppler, from Salzburg, Austria) at the end of September [1987 - Note is mine. MC] sent a letter to Zovko in which, among other things, she said to be afraid that someone might have seen them when they were together one evening outside the church. She asks him to reply to her and warns Zovko to destroy the letter, once he has read it.
[Ibid., p. 368]
Therefore, the authors of the Informative Report suggest the heads of the Police send an anonymous letter to Bishop Žanić:
We propose to use the most recent data regarding the behavior of Zovko with the already described Austrian pilgrim, who in her letter speaks of the fear that someone may have been able to see them together near the church. In this respect we suggest to send the letter (handwritten) from Tihaljina near Grude, where Zovko is pastor. The content should say that a married couple, residents of Tihaljina, noticed Zovko in a romantic encounter and they can not understand how he can perform priestly services. We suggest to send the letter to the bishop Žanić and to the provincial Jozo Pejić on behalf of an anonymous faithful.
[Ibid., p. 370]
It is quite clear that if the police have to resort to such gimmicks to inform the bishop of this story, it was because the police know they have no direct persuasive power on the bishop.
As to whether Augusta Croce and Hermina Koppler were compulsive liars, this is entirely another matter, not related to the subject of this article.
Some important preliminary remarks: from the Informative Report one can clearly deduce that the intelligence used to intercept and read the letters addressed to the enemies of the state (hence also to the Bishop Žanić). It is apparent that the same procedure was used for the letters sent by the Bishopric of Mostar.
In 1976, a nun became pregnant. At the time, she used to live in Jablanovac, Zagreb, in a “mixed” Franciscan house, whose superior was Tomislav Vlašić.
On 25 October of that year this woman, to escape the scandal, was housed in Starnberg, Germany, with a very old man, whose housekeeper she became. There, on 25 January 1977, the child was born.
In November 1984, Msgr. Žanić received a letter from Germany (signed with the name of this woman), in which was written that the child’s father was Tomislav Vlašić.
Bishop Žanić found the former Sister in Germany, visited her in person that very month, and saw the child too. On this occasion, she denied being the author of the letter. Nowadays, it is rather clear that it had been written by the Communist police.
Later, however, the old employer of the woman found at home the letters that Vlašić had sent her and forwarded them, on 14 October 1985, to Rome, to the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who then delivered the correspondence to Msgr. Žanić. The latter summoned Vlašić to the Bishopric on 12 December 1985 [cf also R. Laurentin, Le apparizioni di Medjugorje continuano, Queriniana, Brescia, 1986, p. 46].
What is relevant here to emphasize is that, in 1987, the police rejoiced that the allegations of Msgr. Žanić against Vlašić (code name: "Oto"), besides damaging the latter, damaged the bishop himself, outspoken opponent of the apparitions since 1982:
After bishop Pavao Žanić, OO of this sector, with the implementation of our first measure in this action, went to the GDR [German Democratic Republic, but, as a matter of fact, Starnberg was in the German Federal Republic – Note is mine. MC] with the aim to verify the affair of "Oto" with the former nun Kozul Manda and established the truth of the information received, he immediately committed himself to compromise "Oto". [...] Already in November 1985 he summoned the priests and nuns of the parish of Medjugorje, and also the “seers”, to the episcopal ordinariate of Mostar, where, by showing them some documents (letters and correspondence between "Oto" and the former nun Manda), officially made them aware that "Oto" had an illegitimate son with the former nun Manda. [...]
We got to compromise also the bishop Žanić, both in the eyes of the priests and of the church hierarchy, because of the position he assumed in the "Oto" case and against the "apparitions" of Medjugorje. With regard to the above, every day we are aware of confirmed news about the reactions of the Franciscans, both internally and abroad, against the local bishop.
["Special Informative Report" of the SDB, 17 November 1987, in Ivkovic et al., Misterij Međugorja, published in Italy in Brosio, Viaggio a Medjugorje, pp. 362-364]
We think that, with this framework, conditions favorable for further operational measures against Žanić have developed themselves. The aim of these measures, in the first place, was to create new disagreements and make them more profound than those existing between the reactionary part of the Franciscan clergy and of the diocesan clergy in Herzegovina, and especially to cause further distrust towards bishop Žanić. With regard to this issue, we propose to send a letter whose content says that Žanić does not have a proper relationship with the diocesan priests, that he abandoned the faith and the Church in Herzegovina and is unable and powerless to be a competent Ordinary. The letter has been wrote on behalf of an anonymous priest of the Diocese of Mostar, and we recommend to send it to Cardinal Franjo Kuharić [President of BKJ, Episcopal Conference of Yugoslavia – Note is mine. MC] in Zagreb, to archbishop Frane Franić [the biggest supporter of Medjugorje in Yugoslavia – Note is mine. MC] in Split and to Ratko Perić, rector of the St. Jerome boarding school, in Rome. [...] We think that the content will stimulate the Cardinal Kuharić in taking some action against Žanić. For this he will probably use the BKJ and also some representatives of the Holy See.
[Ibid., pp. 368-369]
It 's all very clear.
Even the first historian and chief propagandist of Medjugorje in the world, Father René Laurentin, honestly admitted, when the bishop was retired on grounds of age:
As to Bishop Žanić, he was neither bad nor communist. He is a man of integrity, impulsive, but a man of heart. I very much appreciated and admired him from this point of view.
[René Laurentin, Dernières nouvelles de Medjugorje, No 15, F.-X. de Guibert, Paris, 1996, p. 63]
On 12 January 2012, the News Agency of the Curia of Mostar (KIUM) issued a communiqué (The Twelfth Anniversary of the Death of Bishop Žanić) [it was published in Croatian with the title 'Vidjelica' Marija i istina, "Službeni vjesnik", 1/2012, pp. 102-103]:
Last November, the local Bishop Ratko Perić asked the honourable Mr. Almir Džuvo, Director of the Intelligence and Security Agency of B-H in Sarajevo, to allow him access to the UDBA reports in connection with Bishop Pavao Žanić and Medjugorje. The Director kindly complied and made available in photocopy more than 30 documents from the years 1981 to 1988. [...]
Being a persistent opponent of the communist system, it is explicitly mentioned that he [Bishop Žanić] is a “bearer of enemy activity” under number 1 in the documents dated: 31 January 1983; 7 November 1983; 8 December 1983; 4 January 1984; 7 March 1984; 24 April 1986.
In relation to the story of Vlašić and Sister Manda, see the documented article Medjugorje: The unbearable sadness of duping the faithful – 2) Fr. Laurentin’s fabrication concerning the father of a nun’s child – Part 1 – The libel, by Louis Bélanger.
Updated on 12 February 2012