Albert and Marie Therese de Theux, who come from Brussels, are currently at the heart of the initiative called “Group Contact Medjugorje Benelux” which gathers many groups of Medjugorje in Belgium, in the Netherlands and in Luxembourg. Moreover, they publish, in 25.000 examples, the review “Nouvelles de Medjugorje” fruit of the devoted work of a group of friends. They continue the work done by Robert and Dorothée Van Holm and Jacques and Ute Costermans who, for health reasons, withdrew from the active diffusion of the messages of Gospa.
Each year, the “Group Contact Medjugorje Benelux” organizes Medjugorje meetings at Banneux and Beauraing, two Belgian shrines where the Virgin appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. The local bishop regularly chairs the meetings of Beauraing. He says: “It does not mean that I am recognising the apparitions of Medjugorje, because this is not my role, but, when the faithful of my diocese meet numerous to pray to Mary, I want to be present.” Lidija Paris spoke with them.
L.P. Albert, how did you come to know Medjugorje?
Albert de Theux: Marie Therese and me heard about Medjugorje for the first time 20 years ago by a short article in the press. We said to ourselves: “If this is true, it is very important to know it.” We did not know absolutely for sure if it was authentic. So, I took my holidays, we bought a roadmap and we jumped in the car to come here, to Medjugorje. On the esplanade, in front of the church, we met a Franciscan father. We asked him in Latin if there was somebody who could inform us and who spoke French. He answered: “Maybe I”. It was Father Tomislav Vlasic. He led us to see Father Slavko Barbaric who explained to us, in the basement of the presbytery, the bases from what occurred here in Medjugorje.
L.P. Were you convinced immediately?
Albert de Theux: We felt that it was really in accord with Christian faith and that it seems to be something serious. Moreover, the enthusiasm observed in Medjugorje was a most favorable sign, and we started to read all that we could find of serious on Medjugorje, to see whether we could regard that as reliable. When our conviction was made, we started to publish Our Lady’s messages, each month.
L.P. How did you do it?
Albert de Theux: At the beginning it was not easy, because nobody from the parish could send them to us every month. A Polish priest forwarded them to us, but it was never regular. The following year, or the year after, a young Frenchman came towards us, here in Medjugorje, and he proposed to help us. We were supposed to meet the following day at the morning mass, but he did not come. He had not heard his alarm clock! Months later, I was in Belgium, at my office, when somebody called me from Archennes (a village close to Wavre). He had just returned from the pilgrimage with Jacques and Ute Costermans and he started to send the messages regularly to us. We also received them from France by fax. Then, with the Costermans, we started to publish a small paper, initially in 35 examples, then in 350. We draw, today 25.000 examples.
LP: How did you create the “Groupe Contact Medjugorje Benelux”?
Albert de Theux: When Slavko Father came to Belgium, he asked us to gather together on the level of the Benelux countries, and to work all together. Fr. Ory (unfortunately since then deceased) gathered together the groups, which he knew. We had initially thought to create 4 groups: for Dutch-speaking Belgium, for French-speaking Belgium, for the Netherlands and for Luxembourg. But we ended up by making only one trilingual group. But it is a “contact group” which means that each group lives its own life: prayer groups, pilgrimage groups, groups of spreading of the messages, but we do meet twice a year to organize all together prayer meetings, and we collaborate on various points, in particular on information. This is the stage where we are now.
L.P. You organize each year two prayer meetings in Banneux and Beauraing, two recognized Belgian Marian shrines, where the Virgin appeared. Can you tell us some words of this? How do the pilgrims of Medjugorje feel in their Belgian shrines?
Albert de Theux: It was not obvious, at the beginning. We had these two reviews: “Koningin van de Vrede” in Dutch and “Nouvelles de Medjugorje” in French. There was also a sheet in German. We sought all together where to meet. We said (and it is very important) that during these meetings there were many conversions. But where will these people goafter their conversion? They, of course, will be attracted to go there where they found their faith. We said then: “It should be a Marian place, so that these people, not being able to come regularly to Medjugorje, can go to Banneux or Beauraing, the places of their faith, to find a resource and to grow in Christian life. We went to ask the authorization from the Rector of Banneux. We personally follow the events of Banneux since their very beginning. We went there among the very first ones, after the beginning of the apparitions. The Rector of the Shrine agreed to receive us in the big church. That changed a little since then, and we meet now, always in Banneux, but in the house of the Fathers of Saint John who appreciate very much Medjugorje. In Beauraing, our meetings always take place in the big church. We have there the support of the local bishop (Mons. Léonard, bishop of Namur) who said very clearly: “My presence here is not a recognition of the authenticity of the apparitions, because that is not my role. However, I consider that when pilgrims of my diocese meet so many to pray, my place is in the midst of them.” We also have meetings at Temse where mainly the Dutch speaking faithful gather together.
L.P. You are thus multilingual?
Albert de Theux: Belgium has, since always, an international vocation. All those that made average studies learn a second national language. In addition, more and more Belgians speak English. That facilitates many things. In Medjugorje groups, there is a desire of harmony between groups of different language and origin. We can see a deep spirit of peace.
L.P. According to your experience, is the presence of the pilgrims of Medjugorje changing something in the Church of Belgium?
Albert de Theux: The priests who accompany our prayer meetings say that the confessions, which take place at the time of these gatherings, are remarkable. People who did not enter into a church since 20, 30 or 40 years, come to pray, because it is Medjugorje. They are touched and are converted. These people go back to their parishes and that changes something. There are prayer groups, which are constituted spontaneously, and which are very much alive and have very enthusiastic prayer meetings. There is a number of prayer groups, which were constituted on the basis of Our Lady’s messages from Medjugorje, but we do not know them all, because they do not necessarily contact us. Something is really happening.
Marie Therese de Theux: People find another dimension of spirituality, they find a faith that is alive. They are surrounded; they meet the Lord and Our Lady. We are very astonished to see how much they are motivated and attracted by Adoration!