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Responses to Saverio Gaeta (Part 1): What Happened on the First Day at Medjugorje?

by Marco Corvaglia


Saverio Gaeta

Saverio Gaeta.

In 2020, Catholic journalist and essayist Saverio Gaeta, for many years a vocal supporter of Medjugorje, published through Edizioni San Paolo, the largest Italian religious publishing house, Medjugorje: La vera storia (Medjugorie: The True Story), described on the back cover as a “detailed account of 40 years along with answers to objections from critics”.



The objections that were addressed to me personally are, for the most part, minor. Below, I will lay them all out along with my counter-arguments. I will also deal with two or three objections where I was not directly or expressly called into question.

Naturally, if Saverio Gaeta has points to make, I will post them and update the pages.

​In March 2018, Gaeta contacted me, scholar to scholar, and expressed that, "although we are on opposite sides, I believe we are both operating in good faith.” (I thank him for this recognition and also for now giving me express consent to publish this bit of private communication between us).

Between the serious and the facetious, Saverio Gaeta and I told each other that we were nitpicking one another. I would’s a good and proper thing. I have, of course, no preclusion in considering the merits of any objections.


Let’s now examine Saverio Gaeta’s objections.

Did Ivan Ivanković "see"?

In addition to Ivan Dragićević, one of the “visionaries” in the story of the Medjugorie "apparitions", another Ivan entered the scene on the first day only. His last name was Ivanković (21 years old), but he did not, however, return to Podbrdo (the hill where the apparitions took place) the next day and did not join the group of "visionaries".


According to "visionary" Vicka, he, on that first day, saw "something completely white, turning" [S. Kraljevic, The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medugorje, Franchiscan Herald Press, 1984, p. 8].

Medjugorje supporters give a lot of weight to Vicka’s statement, because, if true, they believe it serves as confirmation of the authenticity of the phenomenon.


Actually, as I have documented in my book, the authors (supporters of Medjugorje) who, at the time, had the opportunity to speak with Ivan Ivanković (notably, Fr. Ljudevit Rupčić and Father René Laurentin), clearly understood that he did not see anything significant [cf. R. Laurentin, L. Rupčić, La Vierge apparaît-Elle à Medjugorje ?, O.E.I.L., Paris 1984, p. 35; Laurentin, Dernières nouvelles des apparitions de Medjugorje, O.E.I.L., Paris 1984, p. 10].


After all, Ivan Ivanković did not return to the site of the apparitions the next day, because - as Vicka herself said - "he's a bit older than we and what does he want to hang around with us punks?" [J. Bubalo, A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. The Seer Vicka Speaks of Her Experiences, Friends of Medjugorje, Chicago 1987, p. 14].


Already, all this would seem to be enough. However, in my book I also added the following:

Moreover, thanks to Father Sivrić, we know that on May 18, 1986, another Franciscan, Milan Mikulić, who would become friends with Mirjana (he would officiate her wedding ceremony with Marko Soldo), asked Ivan Ivanković if he had seen the Madonna, and he replied, “I told you yesterday that I never saw her!”
[Marco Corvaglia, La verità su Medjugorje. Il grande inganno, Lindau, 2018, p. 24]

Saverio Gaeta writes that I present this as a "smoking gun" (when, actually, I present it instead as an aside, as is also understood from the initial phrasing of “moreover") and argues that the story doesn’t appear reliable. In fact, Gaeta points out the detail that Fr. Sivrić did not learn of it directly from Father Mikulić, but from a witness that Sivrić himself described as "reliable".


Furthermore, Gaeta (incorrectly) writes that Sivrić’s statement “is in the [journalistic] conditional" (i.e., the conditional used in Italian and in French for suggesting the information reported is uncertain). In reality, as we shall see, Saverio Gaeta has confused two different verb tenses and modes of the French language.


Here is a reproduction from the source (Ivo Sivrić, La face cachée de Medjugorje, Psilog, 1988, p. 177):

Particolare di pagina 177 del libro di padre Sivrić


Gaeta translates as follows (with his own italics):


“A reliable witness (who?, nda) informs me that at Pentecost, when Fr. Milan Mikulic allegedly asked Ivan if he had seen the Gospa…”
[Saverio Gaeta,
Medjugorje. La vera storia, Edizioni San Paolo, 2020, p. 20]


Of course, we have this story from Fr. Sivrić because he told us. If we trust him as a scholar, we also trust the sources he deems reliable. If we didn’t trust him, we also wouldn’t trust the sources he deems reliable.


Additionally, in 1989 Sivrić also published the English translation of his book, and there is no evidence that Father Milan Mikulić (deceased in 1997) ever denied the information regarding it.


Moreover, Sivrić’s statement (which he wrote in 1988) obviously traces back to the immediacy of the events, because in the original text, the French expression m'informa contains the verb informer in the passé simple (past historic) tense, which does not mean in Italian "m'informa" (he informs me as translated by Saverio) but "mi informò” (he informed me).


Remaining on the topic of translation, as I mentioned, Saverio Gaeta confused the past anterior tense of the verb demander (to ask) actually used by Sivrić (eut demandé; literally "had asked") with the past conditional tense (which, instead, in French, would have been aurait demandé, and in English would correspond to "allegedly asked").

Here is the relevant text from the English version of Sivrić's book:

A credible witness told me that on Pentecost Sunday, May 18, 1986, when Father Milan Mikulic, O. F. M., of Portland, Oregon, asked Ivan if he had seen the Gospa on June 24, 1981, the latter told him: "I told you yesterday that I never saw her!"

[Ivo Sivric, The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, Psilog, Saint-François-du-Lac, 1989, p. 185, note 4]


I know how difficult it is to write a documentary essay and how many potential risks are hidden around every corner, so I don't argue. To err is human. However, I cannot refrain from reflecting on how enormously more difficult it is to be on the side I’m on. Saverio Gaeta can count on everyone's understanding (including mine) for these translation errors. But if it were me who had made them...


The majority of the audience listens willingly and "adores" those who tell them what they want to hear. Consequently, it has the opposite feelings for those who say opposite things.

A possible "trigger" for the event

The second argument seems to be aimed at CNR [Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche] physicist Valerio Rossi Albertini, whose statement I quote in my book regarding the recordings he made at Medjugorie, on behalf of RAI (Italian Radio and Television) in 2010. However, in essence, the argument is also aimed at me, because I report the scientist's statements "without expressing any astonishment" [Gaeta, Medjugorje, p. 29].


What did Rossi Albertini say?


Having aimed special equipment at the Podbrdo (the hill where the first apparitions allegedly took place), he provided this account (taken from the broadcast La storia siamo noi [The Story is Us], which was aired on RAI 2 on January 20, 2011):


Where the crest of the hill met the background of the sky, at certain points in some frames, there's a higher intensity than that of the sky's background, demonstrating - translated into more understandable terms - that there's an excessive brightness or a glow, that was actually recorded by the measuring equipment. Most likely, this phenomenon can be justified in terms of air currents producing temperature changes on the hilltops, and changes in temperature also correspond to changes in the visual properties of air.


Reporting this statement, Saverio Gaeta comments, "and would that be the explanation for what the visionaries said?" [ibid.].


In a private communication sent to me on June 30, 2020 (after the publication of this page), Gaeta added:


The question concerns what I have placed in italics: "in some frames, at certain points". There are typically 24-25 frames per second. How long can a few frames last? One or two tenths of a second? Would a flash like that be the trigger for this event? Frankly, to me, this sounds like a totally absurd explanation, and since I know that you think carefully about what you write, I indicated my surprise at a citation like that in your book.


It must be mentioned that Rossi Albertini, as a scientist, is merely reporting what the equipment recorded and is formulating a plausible scientific explanation and nothing more.


As to me, it's important to remind, for readers who are less familiar with the event, that the first alleged apparition took place in two distinct phases: in the first, the only one to "see" it is Ivanka, who tells Mirjana, who doesn't pay any attention to her. Ivanka doesn't push the issue and the two leave.

When we were returning home, for some reason I looked toward the hill and saw a bright figure. I said, "Mirjana, look, the Madonna!" Mirjana waved her hand and said, "Come on! You think the Madonna would appear to us!" And we continued on our way home.

[Kraljevic, The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medugorje, p. 7]

In fact, if things indeed happened more or less in this way, it's presumable that Mirjana at least had a look, as any human being would instinctively do but evidently didn't see anything significant. And Ivanka herself was evidently not too sure of it.


Rossi Albertini's quote was from me related, in a completely hypothetical manner, only to this first moment (and thus to Ivanka alone).



As a result, I mentioned it only as a possible "trigger" (the actual word I used), and thus a starting point from which the event may have arisen.



In essence, Ivanka's genuine and fleeting impression (moreover, traumatized by the recent death of her mother) may have been the instance, the suggestion, the idea, on which everything else was then built.


In fact, what I wrote is this:

If Ivanka actually sensed something, on a purely hypothetical level, the trigger may have been provided by a natural phenomenon which was recorded by CNR physicist Valerio Rossi Albertini, aiming his equipment at length toward Podbrdo.

[Corvaglia, La verità su Medjugorje, p. 16]


Even half-second glimmers could perhaps have influenced her at that time (it may also be worth noting that, in the collective imagination and local history, those hills were already associated with alleged apparitions of Our Lady, organized as a joke to mock believers, as Jozo Zovko, the pastor of Medjugorje, reminded Fr. Pietro Zorza, who reported that "communism immediately after the war lit up the mountains, saying it was Our Lady and when people were there, they would reveal the trick, blaming the church and the priests..." [P. Zorza, Cari figli, grazie per aver risposto alla mia chiamata, Eurostampa, Leno, 1991, p. 100])).


Approximately an hour later, there would be the alleged apparition shared by Ivanka, Mirjana and the other "visionaries" on that first day.


Consequently, I never asserted that the phenomenon recorded by Rossi Albertini was "the explanation for what the visionaries said."

Go to the page Responses to Saverio Gaeta (Part 2): Visionaries Unaware of Apparitions?

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