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7. The Madonna of Medjugorje Sides with the Rebel Friars

by Marco Corvaglia

Go to the page Responses to Saverio Gaeta (Part 1)

Copertina del libro di Saverio Gaeta

Saverio Gaeta thus titles the ninth chapter of his book: “The actual reasons for the hostility on the part of the two bishops of Mostar”.
His argument is that of an alleged preconceived hostility toward Franciscans for the so-called "Herzegovin issue".

Specifically, the actual evidence of this hostility would be in the decisive manner in which Bishop Žanić handled the case of Ivica Vego and Ivan Prusina, the rebel friars of Mostar, and in the "excessive" way - according to Gaeta - in which his successor, Msgr. Ratko Perić (in office from 1993 to 2020), expressed himself when commenting on this contrast, all while having “well in mind the conclusion of the affair” [S. Gaeta, Medjugorje. La vera storia, Edizioni San Paolo, 2020, p. 140].



Without repeating what the so-called “Herzegovin issue” consisted of, let’s just say in a nutshell that for well-known historical reasons, the parishes in Herzegovina (Mostar-Duvno diocese) are partly assigned to diocesan clergy and partly to the Franciscans (Medjugorje falls among the latter). The Franciscan provincial, when transferring friars, gets approval from the diocesan bishop.


In 1975, Pope Paul VI had approved the Romanis Pontificibus decree by which, among other things, the following was established:

6. The parish of Mostar, until now completely entrusted to the pastoral care of the Franciscans, according to the agreement reached between the two parties, will be divided within a year, and in the meantime a cathedral parish will be established in a separate territory, to be entrusted to diocesan clergy.


The actual implementation of this measure began a few months prior to the “apparitions” in Medjugorje. At that time, two young friars from Mostar, Ivan Prusina and Ivica Vego, rebelled against the reduction in size of their Franciscan parish and their subsequent relocation.


On December 19, 1981, Ivica Vego went to Medjugorje to seek counsel from Our Lady through “visionary” Vicka.


From that moment on (and for two years after), a long series of messages came from the Gospa (the Madonna of Medjugorje), siding with the two rebel friars and against the bishop.


On January 29, 1982 a suspension a divinis was issued to Vego and Prusina, reducing them to lay status (as sanctioned by the Vatican Congregation for the Religious), and expulsion from the Franciscan Order (as sanctioned by the General Curia in Rome).


The two friars submitted appeals to Vatican authorities but received no response.
In the end, Ivan Prusina alone submitted further appeal to the Apostolic Signatura (the Supreme Vatican Tribunal).


Ivica Vego, however, had meanwhile renounced religious life, having fathered a child with a nun from Mostar named Leopolda, whom he met in the official souvenir shop in Medjugorje, where they both served [cf. R. Laurentin, Dernières nouvelles de Medjugorje, no. 13, OEIL, 1994, p. 49].


In 1993, the ruling was issued. Saverio Gaeta writes:

The ruling [...] acknowledged that the punishment imposed on the two friars was contrary to Canon Law and then declared their expulsion from the Order and demotion to lay status as invalid.
In essence, the claim that the bishop's measure was "excessive" was acknowledged as correct.
Medjugorje, p. 140]


A few pages earlier, Saverio Gaeta had also pointed out how, in some of the Gospa's messages, the bishop, who had initiated the disciplinary measures, had been described as “hasty” [cf. ibid., pp. 137-138].





As a first observation, we see that the “messages” conveyed by Vicka certainly don’t attribute only haste or excessiveness to the bishop: they are harsh to him.

December 19, 1981:

I made a request to Our Lady on the problem of Herzegovina, in particular as regards Father Ivica Vego. Our Lady said that for these disorders the more guilty is the Bishop Žanić. Relating to Ivica Vego has said that he is not guilty, but that the bishop has in hand all the power. She said to remain in Mostar and not to leave from there

[Ogledalo Pravde. Biskupski ordinarijat u Mostaru o navodnim ukazanjima i porukama u Međugorju (The Diocesan Curia of Mostar on the Alleged Apparitions and Messages of Medjugorje), Mostar, 2001, p. 75]

January 3, 1982:

The Bishop does not arrange the situation and therefore he is guilty. And then he will not always be the bishop. I will show the justice in Paradise.
[Ibid., pp. 75-76 and René Laurentin,
Message et pédagogie de Marie a Medjugorje. Corpus chronologique des messages, O.E.I.L., Paris 1988, p. 304 ]

April 15, 1982, to rhe rebel friars:

Do not obey anyone! Do not blame yourselves for anything at all, and, above all, do not go away from Mostar.

[Ogledalo Pravde, p. 77 and Laurentin, Message et pédagogie de Marie a Medjugorje, p. 306].

At the beginning of 1983, a Slovenian Jesuit, Fr. Radogost Grafenauer, met the visionaries Vicka and Marija. He recorded the conversations and left a copy of the tape to the parish, to Bishop Žanić and to the Episcopal Conference of Zagreb.
Here is a passage of the interview with Vicka:

Grafenauer: Did you tell the bishop that he is to blame and that those two [Vego and Prusina] are innocent and can perform their priestly duties?
Vicka: Yes, I did.
Grafenauer: Can they hear confessions? Did Our Lady mention this?
Vicka: Yes.
Grafenauer: If Our Lady said this and the Pope says that they cannot…
Vicka: The Pope can say what he wants, I’m telling it as it is [Original: Nek Pope govori, kako ja kazem onak jest].

[Ogledalo Pravde, pp. 22-23]




When he had to justify the “visionaries”, Laurentin has always put up "smokescreens" of words. Saverio Gaeta writes, commenting on the case at hand:

Here, as in other instances, Monsignor Laurentin's overall reflection may apply. “These responses regarding an issue that did not concern them belong to the early months of Medjugorje; The visionaries were barely older than children.”
[Gaeta, Medjugorje, p. 139]


And here, I interrupt the quote for a moment. Vicka, the one who allegedly received the messages in question, was 17 years old when messages regarding the rebel friars began, and 19 when they ended (apart from little Jakov, the other visionaries were younger than her by approximately one year; two in Ivanka's case).


We continue with the quote from Laurentin:

They naively experienced their first extraordinary, and at the same time, very familiar messages from the Gospa. They conveyed all sorts of questions to Our Lady, with no holding back, and they would do so as a babbling child does to its mother. The Gospa repeatedly reprimanded them for this. It took her several months to make them understand that she was not an employee of the gates of heaven, in charge of satisfying any curiosity, and that the purpose of the apparitions was quite different, as the message was at a much different level. When the visionaries understood this and, through them, those who interviewed them also understood, questions of this kind were no longer asked. This story thus attests to a pedagogical transition that must be considered in all its relativity. The visionaries did not ask about this matter after January of 1984.


But the problem is not the visionaries' questions. It consists of the Gospa's responses...



Finally, the Apostolic Signature in no way repudiated the actions of Msgr. Zanic, as is well explained by a note ("Biskup se nema za što ispričavati" [The bishop has nothing to apologize for]) written by the vicar general of the Curia of Mostar, Fr. Luka Pavlović, and published in 1996 in Vrhbosna, the Official Bulletin of the Dioceses of the  Sarajevo metropolis, no. 2/1996 (p. 142) and then in Ogledalo Pravde (pp. 81-82). 


In essence, it states that the ruling by the Apostolic Signatura found no error in the deprivation of priestly faculties imposed upon the two friars and sanctioned by Msgr. Žanić (a formally incorrect procedure was instead followed by the Vatican's Congregation for Religious in sanctioning their demotion to lay status).

Marco Corvaglia


Go to the page Responses to Saverio Gaeta (Part 8): The Madonna of Medjugorje Says, “All Religions Are Equal.” Apologists Run for Cover

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