A Extraordinary Interview with Great Friend of Saint John Paul II Bishop Hnilica
Marie Czernin: Bishop Hnilica, you spent much time with the Pope John Paul II and you had many private encounters with him – for example when you visited him at the Gemelli Hospital shortly after the attempt on his life, May 13, 1981. Did you ever speak with the Pope about the events in Medjugorje?
Bishop Pavel Hnilica – I visited the Holy Father on 1984. We had lunch at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence, and I told him about the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which I have done in the muscovite Cathedral of the Assumption, on March 24 that same year, according to what Our Lady had asked in Fatima.
When I told to the Holy Father about these events, he was very touched and he said: “The Virgin Mary led you there under her protection”. I responded: “No, Holy Father, she was carrying me in her arms!” After this, he asked me what I am thinking about Medjugorje and if I have visited that place. I answered that the official Vatican has not forbidden me to go, but that I was counselled not to do it.
The Pope looked at me and said: “Go to Medjugorje incognito as you went to Moscow. Who can forbid you this?” The Pope has not given me an official authority to go there, but he found another solution. The pope continued to speak, and he showed me a book about Medjugorje written by René Laurentin. He started to read some chapters and he underlined that the messages of Medjugorje are in close relationship with those of Fatima. “Look, Medjugorje is a continuation, an extension of Fatima. Our Lady is appearing in communist countries primarily because of problems that originate in Russia”, said the Pope, who already took this as a mission of his pontificate. This is why I immediately understood the connection.
After the conversation with the Pope, I visited Medjugorje incognito three or four times. But, the former bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Pavao Zanic, wrote a letter to me asking me not to visit Medjugorje any more; if I refuse, he will write to Pope himself, he said. It seems that somebody informed him about my visit. However, there was no reason for me to be afraid of the Holy Father.
– Did you have other occasions to speak with the Holy Father about Medjugorje?
Bishop Hnilica – Yes, the next time we spoke about Medjugorje was on August 1st, 1988. A groups of doctors from Milan, who were testing the children, came to visit the Pope in Castel Gandolfo. One of the doctors mentioned that the bishop of Mostar was giving them hard times. The Pope said: “As he is the bishop of that place, you have to respect him.” Then he continued in a cordial tone: “But he will have to answer before God if he has not acted in a right way”. After this, the Pope was pondering a few moments, and then he said: “Today’s world has lost the sense of supernatural, in other words, the sense of God. But many people rediscover this feeling in Medjugorje through prayer, fasting and the sacraments.”
For me personally, this is the strongest explicit witness about Medjugorje. What has especially and profoundly impressed me is the fact that the doctors, who were present, declared “Non constat de supernaturalitate”. The Pope, for his part, recognised long time before that the supernatural events are really at work in Medjugorje. Through many sources, the Pope came to the conviction that God can be experienced in this place.
– Is it possible that many things that happen in Medjugorje can be invented?
Bishop Hnilica – Some years ago, there was a Youth meeting in Marienfried, and I was invited. During the encounter, a journalist asked me: “Bishop, don’t you believe that, all that is happening in Medjugorje, comes from the devil (Satan)? I answered: “I am a Jesuit. Saint Ignatius taught us how to discern spirits, but he also taught us that each event can have 3 different sources: human, divine or diabolic.”
At the end, he agreed with me that what is happening in Medjugorje cannot be explained from a human point of view – the fact that every year normal young people – thousands of them – are attracted, they stream in order to reconcile with God. Medjugorje has already been named “confessional of the world”, because, as a phenomenon, neither Lourdes nor Fatima managed to spur that many crowds of people to go for confession. What is happening during confession? The priest is delivering the sinner from the devil.
Then I answered to the journalist: “Off course, Satan is capable of many things, but he is not capable of one thing: Is it possible that Satan spurs people to go for confession in order to be delivered precisely from him?” The journalists laughed, understanding what I wanted to say. Therefore, the only cause remains in God. Later on, I told to the Holy Father about this conversation.
– How would you summarise the messages of Medjugorje? What is distinguishing these messages from those in Lourdes or Fatima?
Bishop Hnilica – In all three places, Our Lady is inviting us to repentance, forgiveness and prayer. In this aspect of the message, these three apparitions are similar. However, the difference in Medjugorje is that the apparitions are lasting for 23 years now. The intensity of the continuation of the supernatural is neither declining nor diminishing during all these years, and the result is an even greater number of intellectuals that are converted here.