The 25th Anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Medjugorje was solemnly celebrated in the spirit of gratitude for all the graces received.
Spiritual preparation - Novena
The spiritual preparation for the Anniversary was the Novena, which was prayed on Apparition Hill by the parishioners and the pilgrims from all over the world. From June 15 to 23, great crowds flocked towards Podbrdo at any time of day or night. Every day at 4 pm, they prayed the Rosary together with the Franciscans, and the visionaries also climbed the hill to pray there with the faithful.
During the Novena, the evening Masses were presided over by both Franciscan provincials from Bosnia and Herzegovina: Fr. Slavko Soldo, provincial of the Herzegovinian province of the Assumption of Mary, and Fr. Mijo Džolan, provincial of Bosnia; three former parish priests in Medjugorje: Fr. Tomislav Pervan, Fr. Ivan Landeka and Fr. Branko Radoš, as well as three Franciscans born in Medjugorje: Fr. Jozo Vasilj, Fr. Mate Dragićević and Fr. Miro Šego.
On Thursday, June 22, the evening Mass was presided over by the Franciscan provincial of Bosnia, Fr. Mijo Džolan from Sarajevo, and musically accompanied by the choir “Libertas” from Dubrovnik.
The Novena ended on Friday, June 23, with the solemn evening Mass at 7 pm, which was presided over by Fr. Branimir Musa in concelebration with Fr. Slavko Soldo, Herzegovinian Franciscan provincial, Fr. Ivan Sesar, parish priest of Medjugorje, and 160 priests. During Mass, the children’s choir “Little Doves of Peace” sang.
Throughout the Novena, at the end of each evening Mass, Ivan Dragićević and Marija Pavlović-Lunetti prayed Our Lady’s Magnificat.
The traditional Peace March from the Franciscan monastery in Humac (Ljubuški) to the parish church in Medjugorje took place on June 24, the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist. This is a penitential prayer for peace that has been taking place since 1992. It started at 6 am with prayer and blessing of about 3.000 pilgrims in front of the Franciscan monastery in Humac. After four hours walk behind the Cross while praying the rosary and singing, all under a powerful sun, the participants arrived in Medjugorje at about 10 am. They gathered in front of the parish church for a short prayer, which ended with Benediction. The Peace March was led by Fr. Ljubo Kurtović and Fr. Bože Milić, and the final blessing was given by the parish priest, Fr. Ivan Sesar.
Numerous foreign pilgrims continued to arrive in Medjugorje during the week. Large numbers of local pilgrims joined them in the days that immediately preceded the great celebration. On June 24, more than 25.000 pilgrims attended the evening Mass and the evening programme, which lasted from 6 pm to midnight. The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by Dr. Fr. Ivan Dugandžić, OFM, professor of the Faculty of Theology in Zagreb, and concelebrated by 252 priests.
After Mass, from 9 to 10 pm, a solemn prayer of thanksgiving took place, in which the visionaries Ivanka Ivanković-Elez, Jakov Čolo, Mirjana Dragićević-Soldo, Marija Pavlović-Lunetti and Ivan Dragićević, participated, along with the two parish choirs: the choir of the Queen of Peace and the children’s choir “Little Doves of Peace”, under the direction of Sr. Slavica Kožul.
From 10 pm to midnight there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, led by Fr. Ljubo Kurtović. At midnight, after Benediction, the Blessed Sacrament was taken from the outside altar to the altar inside the church, and exposed throughout the night until the first morning Mass.
During the night, thousands of local pilgrims, who traditionally come on foot, continued to arrive from Herzegovina and from Croatia.
On June 24 and 25, dozens of priests tirelessly heard confessions throughout each day, in the confessionals and in the meadow beside the church.
On June 25, 2006, the 25th anniversary of the apparitions, Holy Masses in Croatian were celebrated at 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 am, and at 4 pm. During the morning, Holy Masses were also celebrated in 16 foreign languages. The evening prayer programme was simultaneously translated into English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Korean, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and Czech. Adoration was also translated into Chinese, Dutch, Romanian, Russian and Slovakian.
The solemn evening thanksgiving Mass was presided over by Prof. Dr. Tomislav Ivančić, member of the Chapter of the Diocese of Zagreb and professor at the Faculty of Theology in Zagreb. Four bishops and three Franciscan provincials concelebrated: Mons. Geevarghese Mar Divannasios Ottathengil, Malankarese Bishop of the Diocese of Battery (Kerala, India), Mons. Roger Louis Kaffer, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Joliet (Illinois, USA), Mons. Brendan Oliver Comiskey, SS.CC., Bishop Emeritus of Ferns (Ireland), Mons. Jérôme Gapangwa Nteziryayo, Bishop Emeritus of Uvira (Congo), Fr. Slavko Soldo, provincial of the Herzegovinian province of the Assumption of Mary (Mostar, Herzegovina), Dr. Fr. Željko Tolić, provincial of the Franciscan province of the Most Holy Redeemer (Split, Croatia), and Dr. Fr. Josip Sopta, provincial of the Franciscan province of St. Jerome (Zadar, Croatia). Three hundred and twenty two priests concelebrated with them. After Mass, there was the same solemn prayer of thanksgiving as the preceding evening.
On June 24 and 25, more than 50.000 Holy Communions were distributed. About 70 local priests, as well as numerous foreign priests who came together with the pilgrims, heard confessions.
Ivanka Ivanković-Elez had her annual apparition on the day of the Anniversary. Jakov Čolo continues to have his annual apparition on Christmas Day, Mirjana Soldo annually on March 18 as well as each 2nd of the month, and daily apparitions are still experienced by Ivan Dragićević, Vicka Ivanković and Marija Pavlović-Lunetti, through whom Our Lady is giving her monthly message.
We thank Our Lady for the 25 years of Her fidelity, we thank God for countless graces that He is pouring into the whole world through Medjugorje, and we remain united in prayer.