Mons. Pavel Mária Hnilica, S.J., Titular Bishop of Rusado, died in the early morning of the 8th of October 2006, in Novi Hrady in the Czech Republic. He will be buried on the 18th of October in Trnava (Slovakia). Mons. Hnilica was ordained a priest on 29.09.1950, and consecrated bishop on 02.01.1951. He was appointed Titular Bishop of Rusado on 13.05.1964.
Mons. Hnilica was consecrated Bishop in Czechoslovakia at the age of thirty by his own bishop, who was then near to death. Owing to the persecution, his consecration could not be performed in the usual official manner, and his bishop gave him a special mission, to help the Church in the East, saying: "Your diocese stretches from Berlin to Moscow and Peking." Hnilica took this mission very seriously, and for forty years he brought help to many bishops and evangelized many people at great risk to his life. He went to Rome, where he founded a religious association called Pro Deo et Fratribus (for God and for the brethren), and his work consisted of supporting the people both spiritually, with Bibles and Gospels, and also materially, with money. Bishop Hnilica was convinced that the triumph announced by the Blessed Virgin at Fatima will only be possible if the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are reconciled. This work of ecumenism should be engendered and brought about in an atmosphere of fraternal charity, as dialogue can only achieve fruition in charity. (See: http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/ttindalr/hnilica.htm)
Mons. Hnilica is also known for his involvement in favour of Medjugorje. On the 25th of June 1997, Mons. Hnilica, in communion with Mons. Frano Franić, Fr. Tomislav Pervan, Fr. Ivan Landeka, Fr. Jozo Zovko, Fr. Slavko Babarić and Fr. Leonard Oreč, signed a letter addressed to the friends of the Medjugorje Prayer groups (see: Shrine – Medjugorje in the Church – Spiritual movement of the Queen of Peace).
In an interview conducted by Marie Czernin for the German Catholic monthly magazine PUR (published in December 2004), Mons. Hnilica spoke about his conversations with Pope John Paul II concerning Medjugorje. (On our web page: in the Archives under 28.04.2005.)
- Marie Czernin: Bishop Hnilica, you spent a lot of time with Pope John Paul II and you had many private encounters with him as, for example, when you visited him at the Gemelli Hospital shortly after the attempt on his life on the 13th of May 1981. Did you ever discuss the events in Medjugorje with his Holiness?
Bishop Pavel Hnilica (B.P.H.) – I visited the Holy Father in 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 had performed in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Moscow, on March 24th of that same year, in accordance with what Our Lady had asked at Fatima. When I told the Holy Father about these events, he was very touched and he remarked: “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 were my own thoughts about Medjugorje and whether I had paid a visit there. I answered that although the official Vatican had not forbidden me to go, I was nevertheless counselled not to do so. The Pope looked at me and said: “Go to Medjugorje incognito as you went to Moscow. Who can forbid you to go?” The Pope didn’t officially authorise my going to Medjugorje, but he did suggest that alternative solution! The Pope continued speaking, and he showed me a book about Medjugorje written by René Laurentin. He began to read some chapters and he noted that the messages of Medjugorje were closely related to those of Fatima. “Look, Medjugorje is a continuation, a veritable extension of Fatima. Our Lady is appearing in communist countries primarily because of the problems that originate in Russia”, said the Pope, who had already taken this on board as part of his own pontifical mission. This is how I immediately understood the connection between Fatima and Medjugorje.
After my conversation with the Pope, I visited Medjugorje incognito on three or four occasions. However, the former Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Pavao Zanic, wrote a letter to me asking me not to visit Medjugorje again. Were I to refuse, he would write to the Pope himself, he said. It seems that somebody informed him of my visit. Needless to say, there was no reason for me to be afraid of the Holy Father.
- Did you speak with the Holy Father about Medjugorje on any other occasions?
B.P.H. – Yes, the next time we spoke about Medjugorje was on August 1st, 1988. A group of doctors from Milan, who were performing scientific tests upon the children, came to visit the Pope in Castel Gandolfo. One of the doctors mentioned that the bishop of Mostar was giving them a hard time. 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 righteous manner”. After this, the Pope reflected for a few moments, and then he said: “Today’s world has lost the sense of the supernatural, in other words, the sense of God. But many people rediscover this sensitivity in Medjugorje through prayer, fasting and the sacraments.”
For me personally, this is the strongest explicit witness in favour of 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, had recognised for a long time before then that supernatural events are indeed at work in Medjugorje. Through many sources, the Pope arrived at the conviction that God can be experienced there.
- Is it possible that many of the events that happen in Medjugorje could be fabricated?
B.P.H. – Some years ago, there was a Youth meeting in Marienfried, to which I had been invited. During that encounter, a journalist asked me: “Bishop, don’t you believe that all that is happening in Medjugorje comes from the devil (Satan)?” “I am a Jesuit” I answered, “Saint Ignatius taught us how to discern spirits, and he also taught us that each event can have 3 possible sources: human, divine or diabolic.” Eventually, he agreed with me that what is happening in Medjugorje cannot be explained from a human point of view, acknowledging the fact that every year normal young people are attracted there in their thousands, and that they actually queue in order to reconcile with God. Medjugorje has already been named “confessional of the world” because of that phenomenon, while neither Lourdes nor Fatima have managed to spur such crowds of people to go to confession. What happens during confession? The priest delivers the sinner from the devil. I further added in answer to the journalist: “Of course, Satan is capable of many things, but one thing he is not capable of… it is not possible for Satan to spur people to go to confession in order to be delivered precisely from himself!” The journalist laughed in comprehension of my thesis thus far. Therefore, the only remaining source was the divine… God Himself! Afterwards, I made disclosure of this conversation to the Holy Father.
- How would you summarise the messages of Medjugorje? What distinguishes these messages from those of Lourdes or of Fatima?
B.P.H. – In all three places, Our Lady invites us to repentance, forgiveness and prayer. From this perspective the messages of all three apparitions are similar. However, the difference in Medjugorje is that the apparitions have lasted in excess of 23 years to date. The intensity of this supernatural continuum has neither declined nor diminished during all these years, with the result that an even greater number of intellectuals have converted here.
- Some do not consider the events of Medjugorje as genuine because war broke out in this region, which has resulted in nations turning one against the other. But isn’t this a place of peace rather than conflict?
B.P.H. – When in 1991, which was 10 years after the first message of “Peace, peace and only peace”, the war broke out in Croatia, I met the Pope once again. He asked me: “How can the apparitions of Medjugorje be explained in the midst of the war in Bosnia?” Truly, the war was terrible, so I answered: “It seems that we are in a similar situation to that which prevailed in Fatima. If Russia had been consecrated immediately to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War and the spreading of Communism and atheism may well have been avoided. Holy Father, as soon as you consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1984, countless changes took place in Russia, and the fall of communism began. In Medjugorje, the Gospa began by warning that there would be a war if we were not converted. Nobody took these messages seriously. Maybe, if the bishops of the former Yugoslavia had accepted these messages more seriously, matters may not have deteriorated so much, but even that would not have been a guarantee of the definitive recognition of the Official Church, because the apparitions are ongoing to this very day.” Whereupon the Pope enquired of me: “Bishop Hnilica is convinced, then, that my Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was valid?” I answered: “Certainly it was valid! The only remaining question is to ask how many bishops really did perform the same Consecration in union with the Holy Father.”
- Why do you think it so important that the other bishops should also have made the same Act of Consecration in communion with the Holy Father?
B.P.H. – It would have expressed the collegiality of the Church. In other words, the unity of the bishops with the Pope would have given a far deeper meaning to the Act of Consecration. When Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope in 1978, I congratulated him, but I immediately told him that something would be missing in his pontificate if he did not consecrate Russia in communion with all the bishops. He then said to me: “If you manage to convince the bishops to do this, I will do it tomorrow.” This is why, after the consecration on the 25th of March 1984, he asked me how many bishops had co-consecrated with me. As I could not answer this question for him, the Pope said: “Every bishop must prepare his diocese, every priest must prepare his community, and furthermore, every father must prepare his family, because the Gospa said that lay people must also consecrate themselves to her Heart.”