The fifteenth International Meeting for Leaders of Peace Centres and Medjugorje Prayer and Charity groups took place in Medjugorje from the 2nd to the 6th of March 2008. This year, 125 leaders came from 15 countries. The whole programme was simultaneously translated into English, French, German, Italian and Polish language. The theme was, “Trust in God’s Providence” (Mt 6,26-34).
Every day began with a half hour’s Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. During the seminar, the participants were praying the Rosary on Apparition Hill and the Way of the Cross on Cross Mountain, and participated in the Evening Prayer programme in the church.
The speakers were Fr. Ivan Dugandžić and Fr. Ivan Šarčević, and the day of prayer was led by Fr. Ljubo Kurtović. The same friars presided the evening Masses in the church and gave the homilies.
Fr. Ivan Dugandžić, a Franciscan from Herzegovina, a lecturer at the Catholic Faculty of Theology where he teaches the Exegesis of the New Testament and Biblical Theology, lived and worked in Medjugorje from 1985 to 1988. In his lecture, he explained how the Old and the New Testament, as well as philosophy, are understanding Providence. Fr. Ivan Šarčević, a Franciscan from Bosnia, is a lecturer of Pastoral Theology and Catechetics at the Franciscan Theology of Sarajevo and editor of the magazine “Svjetlo riječi”. He entitled his lecture, “Providence between activism and resignation”. After the lecture, the participants hat the occasion to ask their questions.
Miljenko Musa, president of the Association of Guides in Medjugorje, spoke about the necessity of cooperation between the organisers of pilgrimages with local guides who assure a good collaboration with the Parish Office.
Robert Rukavina, president of the Christian Association „Kup Karmel“, announced the second Peace Marathon, which will take place on 17th of May 2008, between Grude and Medjugorje. Ordinary citizens are free to participate in the Ljubuški to Medjugorje stretch of the course. (More about it: http://www.peace-marathon-medjugorje.com)
Recommendations by the Medjugorje Franciscans
One afternoon was reserved for language group workshops. They gave to the Franciscans their questions and remarks in written form. The same evening, there was a meeting with the parish priest and the Franciscans working in Medjugorje.
Fr. Petar Vlašić, parish priest, recalled the declaration of the Cardinal Bertone, that the Church continues to observe the Medjugorje events and allows pilgrimages in this place. At the official level, the Church holds on to the Zadar declaration of the Croatian bishops from 1991: it has neither rejected nor accepted the apparitions, but continues to observe them, and allows the gatherings of the faithful. The pastor also recalled a recent declaration of the Cardinal Tonini who invites to reflection: “How is it that there are so many conversions in Medjugorje? If millions of pilgrims every year come into this place, and many of them change their lives, it is obvious that it is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel inspires conversion, and this fruit grows in Medjugorje.” (See: http://www.papanews.it/dettaglio_interviste.asp?IdNews=5728#a)
Fr. Petar thanked all the organisers for their commitment, and invited them to always be oriented to what is essential; not to allow to the prestige, competition or material gain to take the first place, but God, without who we cannot live.
He reminded that in the parish Medjugorje Holy Masses may be celebrated only on liturgical places that are approved by the local bishop: the parish church, two little churches in Šurmanci, and the church in Vionica. The pastor underlined that all the Franciscans in Medjugorje have all the pastoral faculties. He invited the organisers to be obedient to the Church, because this is the only possible way for all those who want to spread the message of the Queen of Peace.
The pastor underlined the necessity of wisdom and prudence concerning the laying of the hands and prayers for healing. In the Catholic Church, only ordained priests have this permission, and they do it in a sacramental context.
He reported about current construction works: building of a new sacristy between the church and the outside altar.
Communion around the table: Eucharist, fasting and dinner
In Medjugorje, the Queen of Peace is inviting us to fast on Wednesday and Friday on bread and water. During the seminar for leaders, for several years now, there is a tradition to fast all together on bread and water. This bread is baked in the house of prayer “Domus Pacis”, where usually take place the prayer and fasting seminars.
The seminar ended on Thursday with a thanksgiving Mass. After Mass, there was a dinner in one pension in Medjugorje.
The First International Meeting for the organizers of pilgrimages, for the leaders of Centres for Peace and of Prayer Groups, was organized in Medjugorje on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions, on the 22nd and 23rd of June 1994 to be precise. For the following six years these meetings took place in Baška Voda, Tučepi and Neum, but reverted to the Medjugorje venue since 2001.
Through these meetings, the Information Center “Mir” Medjugorje wants to promote cooperation with the Parish Office and unity between the organizers. The role of these meetings is to give orientation, to educate and to give counsel, but it also seeks to reveal potential errors or possible deviations in dealing with the events of Medjugorje. This is why we invite all the leaders to be numerous next year.