The 22nd International Mariological and Marian Congress ended on September 8th in Lourdes, by a solemn Eucharistic celebration in the Basilica of the Holy Rosary. Holy Mass was presided by the Cardinal Poupard, special representative of the Holy Father, who also presided the Congress.
The Congress was organized by the Pontifical International Marian Academy from Rome, the French Mariological Society and the Shrine of Lourdes at the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Lourdes. The theme was “The apparitions of the BVM – between history, faith and theology”. The Croatian language section that took part in this Congress was represented by the Croatian Mariological Institute of the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Zagreb, and led by its President, Mons. Vlado Kosic, the auxiliary bishop of Zagreb, and Fr. Petar Lubina, the secretary. 13 Croatians were among more then 150 lecturers from all over the world. Prof. Dr. Adalbert Rebic spoke about “The apparitions in Medjugorje and Theology”.
Professor Rebic, what was the goal of this Congress in Lourdes?
The goal of the 22nd International Mariological and Marian Congress at the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions to Bernadette in Lourdes was to analyze from the theological and scientific point of view the apparitions of the BVM throughout the history, especially in recent times, and to treat the theme of the apparitions within the frame of theology, the history of Salvation, the doctrine of the Church about Christ the Savior, and within the Church. It was an interdisciplinary dialogue between different theological branches about the apparitions of the BVM in recent times.
What is the significance of the devotion to Mary for contemporary faithful?
It speaks firstly about the seriousness of this moment. Mary is accomplishing her maternal role within the Church, and it is obvious that the Lord is trying to lead people through other people. This is why he is sending the BVM to tell something important for this moment, for the life of faith, and this is why the Marian devotion, which proceeds from Marian apparitions, has a great significance. God wants to tell us how serious the faith is, He wants us to embrace faith, to live it and so achieve final salvation. In this sense, the devotion to Mary has an important role.
Your theme on the Congress was, “The apparitions in Medjugorje and Theology”. What did you underline?
There were 11 plenary lectures about different aspects of apparitions, beginning with the apparitions of the Risen Lord to his disciples, about the relation between Marian apparitions and these apparitions of the Lord, then about the criteria of discernment of the supernatural in the Marian apparitions, about Marian apparitions in the history and about their role, about theological and juridical criteria, then about the visionaries, the messages, about the transcendental experience of the visionaries, about the historical and ecclesiological meaning, about the prophetic dimension of the apparitions and the messages…
There was a special mention of the apparitions in Kibeho in Africa, where the apparitions began in 1981, and were accepted by the local bishop. The lecturer compared Lourdes, Fatima and Kibeho.
In the plenary lectures, there was no mention of Medjugorje, except for one lecturer who compared the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje with the criteria required for the ecclesial recognition of the apparitions.
There were 16 language sections, and each section had about 10 lectures. In the Croatian section, there were 13 lectures, and among them, there were two about Medjugorje. I spoke about the phenomenon of Medjugorje, and how to explain it theologically. I did not speak in details about the apparitions, but about the phenomenon of Medjugorje. I tried to analyze from the theological point of view what is happening in Medjugorje: primarily the Eucharistic celebrations, and then the sacrament of reconciliation with God. I also spoke about the pastoral significance of the Medjugorje events. I also tried to explain the theological value of these Marian apparitions: Mary’s call to peace, to reconciliation with God and with people, making peace between people, conversion, penance, prayer, especially the prayer of the Rosary, good deeds, etc. I underlined that these messages are theologically grounded, and that they have their foundation in the Bible, and do not differ from the official doctrine of the Church. The theological messages that are coming from Medjugorje represent the best practice of the Catholic Church.
My colleague Eduard Pericic spoke in his intervention how the Church in the world, especially some ecclesial dignitaries, see Medjugorje, and how they highly appreciate it. He quoted many cardinals, archbishops and bishops.
In my lecture, I also tried to give a proposition about how to solve the Medjugorje phenomenon. The Church is patient and prudent, so we also need much patience and prudence. It means that we have to be careful that among the visionaries, and in Medjugorje itself, does not happen something that would throw a shadow upon these events. Until now, as much as I know, everything is happening within the ecclesial frame, as it was for other Marian apparitions in the world.
The solution depends on the visionaries themselves. They are young people, their future is in front of them, they have to continue to be faithful to Mary and to God, and do nothing that would endanger the Medjugorje apparitions. The long duration of these apparitions is not a problem for me. In the Church, there were other apparitions, which – for some mystics – lasted their whole life. These are mystical experiences of those who are chosen by Our Lady, who wants to tell something to the contemporary world through them.
From what was happening until now, we see that in Medjugorje Our Lady has told important things concerning our contemporary society, and concerning the religious life of us, Catholics. The greatest sign is, that hundreds of thousands are coming to Medjugorje, and that they experience there something that they have not experienced anywhere else in the world in the same way: something transcendental, mystical, sacramental. We need much patience and prayer.
And finally, everything depends on the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace. If She wants Medjugorje to be a real place of gathering of the faithful around Her, nobody will be able to impede the final recognition by the Church.
Prof. Dr. Adalbert Rebic is since 1968 a professor of Biblical sciences and oriental languages (Hebrew Arabic and Syro-aramaic) at the Catholic Faculty of Theology of the University in Zagreb. Since 1972, he is the president of the Croatian Mariological Institute. He organizes the Croatian section for international Mariological Congresses. Since 1980, he is a regular member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy in Rome. Since 1990, he is a member of the Jewish cultural society “Shalom Freiberger” in Zagreb. From 1974 to 1992, he was a member of the Redaction of the international theological magazine Communio.