top of page

8. The Madonna of Medjugorje Says, “All Religions Are Equal.” Apologists Run for Cover 

by Marco Corvaglia

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

Copertina del libro di Saverio Gaeta

The alleged response from the Gospa (the Madonna of Medjugorje), to a question that someone asked “visionary” Vicka on October 1, 1981, has always aroused much controversy.

 


Franciscan Ljudevit Rupčić reports the question in full:

Are all religions good? Are all religions the same?
[Ljudevit Rupčić, Viktor Nuić, Ancora una volta la verità su Medjugorje (Once again, the truth about Medjugorje), Krešimir, 2003, p. 114; cf. Tomislav Vlašić, Kronika ukazanja u župi Međugorje (Chronicle of the Apparitions of the Parish of Medjugorje), initial unnumbered vol., from 10/1/1981: “1. “Jesu li sve vjere dobre? Jesu li sve vjere iste?”]

 


Father René Laurentin shortens it:

Question: - Are all religions good? (in Croatian, dobre)?
Response:  - All religions are equal (
iste) before God (Parish Chronicle, p. 11)

[René Laurentin, Message et pédagogie de Marie a Medjugorje. Corpus chronologique des messages O.E.I.L., Paris 1988, p. 319, cf. p. 156. English edition: Messages and Teachings of Mary at Medjugorje. Chronological Corpus of the Messages, Riehle Foundation, 1988]

 

 

The message continues as follows:​

 

God rules over them just like a sovereign over his kingdom. In the world, all religions are not the same because people have not complied with the commandments of God. They reject and disparage them. 
[
Ibid., p. 156]

 


For most Catholics, the response that “all religions are equal before God" is nonsense, to say the least. Medjugorje apologists have therefore tried to run for cover.

 


And so, in June 1987, Laurentin had a conversation with Vicka:

R. Laurentin. - Who had asked if all religions were good (dobre)?
Vicka. - Someone asked me to ask, but I don't remember who.
R.L. Theologians view the response as a grave error. Is Jesus Christ equal or similar to Muhammad or Buddha? And do these religions provide the Salvation as through Jesus Christ?

Vicka (for whom references to Muhammad or Buddha are Greek) responds by trying to stay out of the fray:

- If you had asked me for an explanation right away, it would have been more clear. After many years, I dare not interpret on my own initiative. I’ll leave that to the theologians. I will pray for them to be enlightened. Our Lady told me that “all religions are equal before God”, that is, everybody is equal before God...
[
Ibid., p. 321]

 


As can be seen, after being confronted with the problematic nature of her own response, and after saying that she dare not interpret on her own initiative, she does exactly that — interprets on her own initiative, saying something that, from the logico-linguistic point of view, Bishop Perić calls “utterly absurd” [R. Perić, Međugorske stranputice, in "Službeni vjesnik", 1/2012, p. 100. English translation: The Deviations of Medjugorje].

 


However, this interpretation was first adopted by René Laurentin and subsequently by Ljudevit Rupčić (true extremist of the Medjugorje apparitions), who tried to justify it on historical-environmental grounds.

 

 

Saverio Gaeta introduces Rupčić’s words:

​​

In the 1980s, when communist Yugoslavia still existed, “in the vernacular of this area, the term 'faith' also meant a people or a nation.”
[Saverio Gaeta, Medjugorje. La vera storia, San Paolo, 2020, p. 110]

 


First, it seems significant that, for several years, no such explanation had ever spontaneously occurred to any of the local apologists.

 


However, let's walk through that hypothesis. As such, where it says “faiths” (or “religions”), we should mean “people (whatever religion they belong to)”. Specifically, in that geographical area, the concept of Catholic would denote Croats, Orthodox would denote Serbs, and Muslim would denote Bosnians.

 


As such, the response Vicka conveys becomes logical and obvious. The problem lies in the fact that if the answer is obvious, the question is also obvious.
And therein lies the key to beginning to understand the vulnerabilities of this theory — in the question, not in the answer.

 


It’s hard to believe that anyone really wanted to ask the question, “Are all people (whatever religion they belong to) equal?”

 


Or shall we say that the question was in regard to religion, but Our Lady misunderstood and responded in regard to people?

 


On the other hand, in light of Rupčić’s (and Vicka’s) interpretive theory, the first part of the question would be understood as, “Are all people (whatever religion they belong to) good?”

 


This is really not very persuasive.

 


But that’s not enough. As can also be seen from Laurentin’s essay, Messages and Teachings of Mary at Medjugorje. Chronological Corpus of the Messages, the question in point was followed by another which was entirely consistent with the first and complementary to a question regarding religions (not people), specifically:

Are all churches the same?
[Laurentin, 
Message et pédagogie de Marie a Medjugorje, p. 156; cfr Vlašić, Kronika ukazanja, from 10/1/1981: “2. Jesu li sve crkve iste?”]

 


It’s quite clear that it was, therefore, a single question, articulated according to a very precise logic and in two parts: first regarding the various religions (e.g., Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism) and then regarding the various Christian churches (Catholic, Orthodox, etc.).

 


The funny thing is that the one who formulated the response (i.e., the Gospa, for those who believe in the apparitions and Vicka, for those who do not) blatantly misunderstood the question, replaying:

In some, one prays to God more. In others, less. That depends on the priests who motivate others to pray. That also depends on the power which they have.
[
Ibid.]

 


Bishop Perić commented:

Nor is there here an answer to the written “ecumenical” question: whether all the churches are identical, that is, whether all the Churches (Catholic, Orthodox, some Protestant), as Christian communities, are identical. The “seers” evidently have not understood it and answer at point-blank, thinking of the churches as buildings, and with their natural and childish eyes see some differences, for example, in “some they pray more to God, in others less” – let’s say, at Medjugorje, at Mostar, at Čapljina, and this in turn depends on the charismatic “directing” and “power” of the priest! 
[Perić, Međugorske stranputice, p. 100]

 


To further understand how weak Ljudevit Rupčić's interpretive theory is, one only needs to look at what his brother, staunch supporter of Medjugorje and fellow Herzegovinian Father Svetozar Kraljević (who had been living in the United States for nine years) published in his 1984 book, The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje. He was not even touched by such an idea.

 

 

In Chapter XII, entitled Ecumenism, he reports and summarizes two responses from the Gospa (one from October 1 and one from October 7, 1981), combining them as follows:

God presides over all religions as a king controls his subjects, through his priests and ministers. Mary emphasisized, however, that Jesus Christ is the only mediator of salvation.

[Svetozar Kraljevic, The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje, Franciscan Herald Press, 1984, p. 95]

 


Moreover, on February 27, 1983, “visionary” Ivanka, when interviewed by Kraljević himself, had expressed herself as follows:

The Madonna said, basically, religions are similar.

[Ibid., p. 149]
 

 


If we examine the issue with an objective eye and from a historical perspective, the least we can do is to note how the irrefutable macro-ecumenical message of Medjugorje is unprecedented in the history of Catholic mysticism.

 

 

In short, since these are not immutable heavenly truths, it seems clear that what the “visionaries" report comes from and is derived from environmental influences.

 


We will now see further proof of this.

 

*****

 


Saverio Gaeta also presents an alternative argument in defense which, in his eyes, would justify the message without having to apply Rupčić’s interpretive theory:

In any case, it’s worth recalling that Our Lady also made similar statements in Kibeho, Rwanda, where the apparitions began in November 1981, a few months after Medjugorje, that were officially approved by the diocesan bishop on June 29, 2001. “As for the various religions, don't worry. In God’s eyes there is but one religion…”

[Gaeta, Medjugorje, p. 110]
 

 

In fact, Saverio Gaeta’s observation provides further evidence that, in Medjugorje as in Kibeho, the “visionaries” add their specific ideas and perceptions to the “apparitions” that were a result of the specific environments in which they lived and in which they were shaped.

 


The priest at the time who was closest to Vicka, namely Father Tomislav Vlašić (see Part 5), joined the Charismatic Renewal movement.

 

 

This is acknowledged by Gaeta himself, who recalls how the then Franciscan had attended the “international Congress of the Catholic Charismatic Movement, held in Rome in early May 1981, just one month before the apparitions of the Queen of Peace” [ibid., p. 25].

 


The Charismatic Renewal movement or Renewal in the Spirit movement (as inspired by the Pentecostalism of American Protestant churches) was born in the United States in the late 1960s. Its proponents are among the most vocal supporters of macro-ecumenism ("Charismatic Renewal is called to fulfill anc ecumenical vocation" [L. J. Suenens, Ecumenism and Charismatic Renewal, Servant Books, 1978, p. 4]).

 


Therefore, the most obvious and natural inference would be that the remarkable response uttered by Vicka (“All religions are equal”) comes from the ideas conveyed to her by Vlašić himself.

 


And how is it that essentially the same thing was said in Kibeho? 

 


In Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, an essay published by Cambridge University, we can read:

In the Catholic Church, a [similar] charismatic movement, Charismatic Renewal, came to Rwanda from the United States in the 1970s.

[Timothy Longman, Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 114]

 


And, indeed, it’s documented that Nathalie Mukamazimpaka, one of the alleged Kibeho visionaries, adhered to Charismatic Renewal, and that at the end of the alleged apparitions (and sometimes even during) both she and the other “visionaries” fell to the ground, as typically happens in the charismatic practice and is known as being “Slain in the Spirit”.

Nathalie Mukamazimpaka

Nathalie Mukamazimpaka after an "apparition". 

Riposo nello Spirito a Tihaljina

Worshippers on the ground experiencing being “Slain in the Spirit”. The photos were taken in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the Tihaljina church, when it was led by the former pastor of Medjugorje, Jozo Zovko (who also came to the Charismatic Renewal movement), and are taken from the book by Fr. Pietro Zorza, "Cari figli, grazie per aver risposto alla mia chiamata", Europress, 1991.

Of course, the bishop who approved the Kibeho apparitions was also a supporter of the Charismatic Renewal. It was Augustin Misago (Diocese of Gikongoro), who, back in 1987, when he was still only a priest, wrote:

What is done on the occasion of the prayer meetings organized at the initiate of Christians in the group Charismatic Renewal or the apparitions of Kibeho reveals that our Rwandan Christians have need of something other than this Roman liturgy all cerebral, cold, and stripped of signs and symbols, in smothering the exuberant expression of the body.
[Augustin Misago, 
Évangélisation et culture rwandaise, in L'Église du Rwanda vingt ans après le Concile Vatican II, Pallotti-Presse, Kigali 1987, p. 15, quoted in Longman, Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, pp. 155-156. Cf. Emilie Brebant, À propos de quelques mutations contemporaines au sein du catholicisme rwandais, in Paul Rutayisire et al., Les religions au Rwanda: défis, convergences et compétitions - Actes du Colloque International du 18-19 Septembre 2008, a Butare/Huye, Université Nationale du Rwanda, 2009, p. 183]

 


All of this should be clear proof that the unique message in Medjugorje, as in Kibeho, stems from charismatic influences, ideas and doctrines.

 


Appendix on some confusing and unreliable "corrections" to the message from October 1, 1981 (“All religions are equal”)

It’s most interesting to note that, in Medjugorje, regarding the substantive equality of religions, a message of partial rectification allegedly arrived on Feb. 25, 1982:

To the visionary who asks her if all religions are good, the Madonna responds:

There is good in all religions, but professing one religion or another is not the same. The Holy Spirit does not act with equal power in all religious communities.

[I messaggi della Regina della Pace, Shalom, 2010, p. 417]

 


Preliminarily, it should be noted that if the messages are invented by the visionaries, it’s perfectly natural that two of them (who is the “visionary” in question?) may give partially different answers.

 


Beyond this, it must be said that the message is not found in the “canonical” sources of the messages from the first three years of the phenomenon (which essentially consist of the Parish Chronicle and, for a few specific and circumscribed periods, of Vicka's so-called “diaries”).

 


There are a small number of messages that are derived from secondary sources, which we’ll refer to as “non-canonical", consisting of authors of apologist books who, in the early years of the phenomenon, allegedly picked up such messages on the spot, mostly without providing dates and without specifying the primary source (Laurentin, in fact, places them in a dedicated “Messages undated or approximated gathered by different authors” section of his Chronological Corpus of the Messages).

 


For example, American Jesuit Robert Faricy (a member of the Charismatic Renewal movement) reports this undated message from an unknown source:

In God there are no divisions and there are no religions. You in the world have made the divisions. The one mediator is Jesus Christ. Which religion you belong to cannot be a matter of indifference. The presence of the Spirit is not the same in every church.
[Lucy Rooney, S.N.D., Robert Faricy, S.J.,
Mary, Queen of Peace, Alba House, New York 1984, p. 40]

The message quoted at the beginning of this appendix and circulating today is evidently related to the one quoted by Faricy, albeit with differences. In any case, the original source is unknown.

 


Then, there is an undated alleged message behind which lies a glaring mistake made by René Laurentin.

 

 

This error had already been noted in Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, Medjugorje en toute vérité, CRC, 1991, p. 112, note 86. Although Laurentin later seemed to correct himself, appropriately quoting the alleged message in his La Vergine appare a Medjugorje? (Queriniana, 1991, p. 116), no one else has taken note of it.

 


Let’s read the text that continues to circulate and is systematically published by all in this erroneous form:

​​

On the matter of a Catholic priest, confused because of the cure of an Orthodox child:


Tell this priest, tell everyone, that it is you who is divided on earth. The Muslims and the Orthodox, for the same reason as Catholics, are equal before my Son and me. You are all my children. Certainly, all religions are not equal, but all men are equal before God, as St. Paul says. It does not suffice to belong to the Catholic Church to be saved, but it is necessary to respect the commandments of God in following one's conscience.
Those who are not Catholics, are no less creatures made in the image of God, and destined to rejoin someday, the House of the Father. Salvation is available to everyone, without exception. Only those who refuse God deliberately, are condemned. To him, who has been given little, little will be asked for. To whomever has been given much (to Catholics) , very much will be required. It is God alone, in His infinite justice, Who determines the degree of responsibility and pronounces judgment.

[Laurentin, Message et pédagogie de Marie a Medjugorje, p. 285] 

 


Before we see Laurentin’s glaring error (who then misled all those who referred to his compilation), let's just say that this message is nowhere to be found in canonical sources. However, it does come directly from a known non-canonical source: the French version (expanded by André Castella and taken from the original German) of the book by an ardent supporter of Medjugorje, Fr. Marijan Ljubić, who attributes this message to “visionary” Marija.

 


In 1988, Laurentin reports this message in the specific section entitled, “Messages undated or approximated gathered by different authors”, correctly specifying that the source is the book by Ljubić and Castella.

 


But, as we’ve already mentioned, the above text is tainted by an original error made by Laurentin, who, misled by a typographical error in Ljubić’s French version, also included in the message the comment added by André Castella.

 


Indeed, if you look at the page with Ljubić and Castella's text, you’ll see that it’s written, “La Vierge ajouta” (the Virgin added). At this point, we see opening quotation marks and italics being used. Five lines down, we see closed quotation marks, but the text continues on in italics. In fact, this is where the added theological commentary from André Castella, the co-author of the French version of Ljubić's book, obviously begins. This comment was then mistakenly incorporated into the message:

Libro di Ljubić, versione francese

 

In the original German version, (Marijan Ljubić, Erscheinungen der Gottesmutter in Medugorje [Apparitions of Our Lady in Medugorje], Miriam Verlag, 1982 [first edition], p. 74), there’s only one brief message which ends with the words “...ihr alle seid meine Kinder! (You are all my children!)”

Libro di Ljubić, originale tedesco

 

 

In essence, the only part that was presented as a “message” by Ljubić was:

​​


Tell this priest, tell everyone, that it is you who is divided on earth. The Muslims and the Orthodox, for the same reason as Catholics, are equal before my Son and me. You are all my children.

Marco Corvaglia

 

​​​Legally deposited at Copyright.eu certifying agency

bottom of page