Information centre "Mir" Medjugorje
fra Miljenko Stojic, OFM, 1996
This is not a classical lecture but rather a report about the practical problems of the transmission of Our Lady's messages and information about everything taking place in Medjugorje, using the modern means of public communication. I will also try to outline the directions that this work should take.
We are mindful that means of public communication are one of the foundations stones on which modern society rests. The press, radio, and above all television are not just the primary transmitters of information, but they have become important sources of influence on the formation of opinion, on the transmission of values, and their "degree of priority," on models of behaviour, on the mentality of modern man, particularly of the younger generation. In most recent times the world of computers should be added to this, especially its worldwide network "Internet."
Vatican Council II observed well the directions toward which the modern world is moving and in its documents, it also dealt with means of public communication. The church's magisterium subsequently continued with that effort.
I. CATHOLIC PROCLAMATION BY MASS MEDIA
Whether we like it or not, today we are living in a secularised world. It has its own values and does not mainly depend on the values, which our religious experience wants to mediate to it. We should, nevertheless, persevere in that kind of world and witness the Word of God to it.
1. The Role of mass media in modern evangelisation
The term "mass media" comes into the Church through the front door at Vatican Council II. We find it in the conciliar document Inter Mirifica and Communio et Progressio.
The term "evangelisation" itself is new, postconciliar. It is unknown to Vatican II. It appears with Pope Paul VI who used it for the first time in church documents in the 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi. Evangelisation is defined there as an all inclusive mission of the Church that would not be complete if it did not take account of the real and constant relationships that exist between the Gospel and man's personal, and social life.
Evangelical activity is a very rich, multifaceted and dynamic reality which includes the following elements: 1) the renewal of mankind; 2) witnessing; 3) explicit proclamation; 4) consent of the heart; 5) entrance into community; 6) receiving of the sacraments; 7) apostolic activity. These elements of evangelical activity are never individual or isolated, but ordinarily permeate and act with one another.
Mass media, so long as they serve evangelisation, can in no way replace or much less displace regular pastoral work, witnessing by one's life, systematic catechising, liturgy, popular devotion or some other form of promoting the faith.
2. The Teaching of the Document "Aetatis Novae"
This document issues from the statement that the mass media have an important role in human society. For many they are the principal means of information and education, guidance and counselling in individual, family, and social behaviour. The influence of the mass media cannot be prevented by geographical and political boundaries, thanks to modern technical possibilities. In that way they are creating a new reality thus far unknown. The faithful and church leadership must be aware of this development and actively involve themselves in it.
In the first part, entitled "The Grounds of Public Communication," the document, basing itself on the church position, brings out a detailed treatment of that new reality regarding cultural, social, political and economic development.
The second part, entitled "The Tasks of Communication," treats the positive role of mass media, which consists of serving people and cultures, dialogue with the world, human society and social progress, serving the church communion, and new evangelisation.
The negative role of mass media, treated in the third part of the document, consists of the potential promotion of secularism, consumerism, materialism, dehumanisation, and insensibility to the condition of the poor and those deprived of rights.
The fourth part treats the pastoral response of the Church. It says that the Church should promote its own personal Catholic media and programs for social communication. Pedagogy and education for communication must be an integral part of the formation of pastoral workers.
The fifth part encourages bishops to give due priority to the field of mass media. In that they must take in to account the special conditions of their nation, region and diocese.
II. ACTIVITY OF "THE MIR INFORMATION CENTRE" - OF THE QUEEN OF PEACE SHRINE, MEDJUGORJE
Along with the beginnings of Our Lady's apparitions the need appeared to present them to a broad public in the right way. There was never any intention of doing promotion in today's meaning of that word, but only to help people come to the truth. And today's activity has the same purpose.
The objections are justified that there should have been organized already from the very beginning an efficient system of spreading the messages of Our Lady's apparitions right from the heart of where they were taking place. However, the difficulties, which prevented this, are also justified. We recall that, when in 1981 the apparitions began, Medjugorje was groaning under communist dictatorship. That meant being constantly under the surveillance of the police and not even being able to get close to, much less to build modern means of communication. For just one word and even less than that, a person went to jail. That kind of situation made it hard to find skilled lay persons who would be able to work on the tasks of spreading Our Lady's messages by mass media. The third big difficulty was the negative position of the bishop toward the Medjugorje events, after his initial enthusiasm and courageous stand in the face of the communist authorities.
Nevertheless, the difficulties did not kill all the good ideas. With the announcement of the arrival of democracy in 1990, a more systematic consideration of everything started. Sad to say, a horrible and unjust war began within a short time, so that all the ideas were postponed for better days. Due to the difficulties of the war, the number of pilgrims decreased. But it did not extinguish the desire in people to be in touch with Medjugorje and to know what is happening there. Due to that, the "Information Centre" started functioning in November 1993. It began to systematize archives and library, and to send reports about events to the whole world. Meanwhile, necessary electronic equipment was supplied and in November 1994 the pilot number of the "Press Bulletin" was issued. It is sent by fax throughout the world, which was already the ordinary way of sending Our Lady's new messages and their interpretation.
As time passed by, other new ideas have been developed like the Robofax, radio, Internet, local television. . . Their aim is to help make it easier to spread Our Lady's messages and nothing else. Today the "Centre" can be reached by the number 387-88-650-428. As soon as the digitalized exchange in Medjugorje starts to function, that number will be changed to 387-88-651-999. Faxed messages can presently be sent to the parish fax 387-88-642-339 (later that number will be 387-88-651-444).
The organization of archives began with the gathering of material on healings which have so far taken place. At the present time, about 380 healings have been reported, a large number of which have the necessary documentation.
Journalists were continuously coming and writing about the Medjugorje apparitions. Naturally, it was impossible to collect all of those newspaper articles, but a large number of them are stored in our archives. The most interesting of them are, of course, those from the communist period. One can read the fury of evil with which they gruffly speak about Our Lady's apparitions.
Also, many photographs were taken in Medjugorje in the course of these fifteen years. We preserve them in one section of the archives and use them in various newspaper articles or the preparation of some new book.
We have also initiated the gathering and preservation of photographic films. We are doing it in the manner of big newspaper firms.
Various types of books also were continuously written with the desire to search for and penetrate the heart of everything that has been happening in Medjugorje. There is a portion of them gathered together in different languages on the premises of our "Centre." At the present time, we do not have adequate space to display them, but with further building up of the shrine we expect to achieve that.
We are, hereby, requesting all those, who are able to help in the collection of books for our library or material for the archives, to do so. The "Centre" is not just ours. The data we have at disposal is also intended for all the other centres in the world, as well for individuals who wish to publish written works on the theme of Medjugorje events.
3. Information Booth
Due to an increase in arrival of pilgrims, the "Information Booth" began to operate again in August 1995. It was first set up in 1991, but the war interrupted its operation. At the present time it operates daily, except Sundays and feast days. Its working hours are from 10:00 - 2:00 PM. As soon as the need is felt, those hours will be extended. The easiest way to reach it is on the current telephone number 387-88-650-400. Later that number will be changed to 387-88-651-988.
The job of the "Information Booth" is to provide every possible type of information to pilgrims. It also gathers notifications of pilgrim groups coming, so that we are able in an easier way to organize services at the shrine. It should be mentioned here that it does not deal with accommodation of pilgrims.
The "Information Booth" also provides the service of arranging a meeting of pilgrims with one of the visionaries. Such a meeting is organized daily on the premises of the shrine. Currently it is at 8:30. In the same way it is also possible to arrange meetings with priests who are working in the shrine. We request all pilgrimage group leaders to bear this mind. With that kind of mutual interaction and organization you will be helping both us and yourselves.
The "Association of Guides," that was re-established in September 1995, is also closely connected with the "Information Booth." The "Association of Guides" was started in 1991 for providing information to Medjugorje pilgrims in the fields of religious, cultural-historical, archaeological and ethnographic life. They are prepared with a definite training for these tasks. Upon arrival in Medjugorje, it is possible to request their services at the "Information Booth."
4. Press Bulletin
At the request of many pilgrims, and mainly of the centres of peace that are to be usually informed about everything on the current events in the shrine, we decided to inaugurate the publication of the Press Bulletin. It represents the official position of the shrine. In that way, it is easier to avoid the start and spread of false information about Medjugorje events. In it one can find various news items, announcements, messages. . .that can enable the friends of Medjugorje throughout the world to keep contact with the shrine.
The pilot number was issued November 23, 1994. Currently it is published in these languages: Croatian, English, German, French and Italian. It comes out every other Wednesday. We, hereby, want to thank all those who are helping us with the laborious work of translating. We will gladly adopt every good idea.
5. Provision of various kinds of services
Our "Centre" also has the job of being in touch with various journalists, radio and TV crews that come to Medjugorje or are interested in it. We wish to provide them with all the more qualitative and quicker information on what is happening here. In the same way, we also help those who want to write a book on Medjugorje, as well as those who are seeking to obtain definite academic degrees on the theme of Medjugorje.
In the beginning, we sent Our Lady's messages, their interpretation, and the Press Bulletin out to the world by means of fax. That consumed much of our precious time and burdened our work with large financial expenses. Due to persistence we succeeded in finding out about the computer system "Robofax." With its help everyone, at any time of day or night, can from our computer obtain the most recent message of Our Lady in five languages, its interpretation in English (beginning on the 29th of the month), and the Press Bulletin in five languages every other Wednesday.
The Robofax system functions very simply. First, we have to set the fax machine from which we calling the Robofax on so-called "tone mode." Besides the pulse mode, it is the way that each fax machine works. Then we should dial the Robofax number: + 88-642-709 (the last six figures will later be 651 --- ). When the connection is made we listen to the instructions. One has to wait for the instruction in one's own language.
In the course of the past, those calling our Robofax sometimes had problems. That is due to the very poor telephone lines built during the communist period. Currently the construction of a digitalized telephone exchange is near completion and those difficulties will simply disappear.
This term signifies the computer network which today is undergoing a fast and unexpected success. It is reckoned that currently more than 5 million computers are linked to it by which about 30 million users are active. It is calculated that by the end of 1996 about 15 million computers will be connected to this network.
On this network, one can find information about every sector of human activity. For us, of course, the most interesting section is what is called the World Wide Web (WWW) pages. Namely, it is possible to formulate ones news and present it to all users on the computer network.
The news from Medjugorje are currently provided by Dr. Gottardi Piero from Bolzano, Italy. The Internet server address at which it can be obtained is: http/www.eclipse.it/medjugorje. The E-mail address of Dr. Gottardi is: pierogottardi dnet.it. By the time you read these line, our Centre will probably also have its WWW pages on Internet. We will inform you on this through the Press Bulletin and also through the address from Bolzano.
To take advantage of the services of Internet it is necessary to have a computer, a modem, certain software and to be connected to Internet. While we are communicating with the entire world, we pay only the bill of using the telephone line to the nearest server, which is frequently in your city or some neighbouring city.
As soon as we have finished connecting with Internet, we will start work on offering service by means of BBS (Bulletin Board System). It also is a kind of computer network. It is different from other networks because for it, it is enough to have a computer, modem, and the required software to load certain programs into your personal computer. Thereby, it becomes the server and anyone who knows the number of our network can take stored data, leave us a message or talk with us. It is likewise possible to carry on a discussion with one or many correspondents from any corner of the world.
In modern civilization radio is the most widespread means with the help of which one can reach someone, regardless where he is. That is why its influence is immense.
At the start of the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina a public radio entitled "Radio Medjugorje" started to function. It dealt with political, religious, cultural, athletic and various other subjects. It was open to everything that was of current interest to the local people in Medjugorje. Since the equipment was weak and worn out, this radio had to discontinue after functioning for two years. Later on there were insufficient means for it to reopen.
After the decline of the communist reign of terror, serious thought was given to the inception of a radio station under the patronage of the Queen of Peace shrine in Medjugorje. There were many ideas but just recently have we reached a final decision. We have decided to inaugurate a radio station that should start broadcasting at the latest by the beginning of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of Our Lady's apparitions.
We envisioned this radio as a local station. We want it to be in the service of pilgrims as well as people who live in the parish of Medjugorje and its surroundings. Thereby, we will all breathe more easily together as brothers and sisters.
Currently we do not have in mind a radio of wider range. Some day perhaps we will move on to accomplish that idea. But, we are of the opinion that a local radio must always exist.
Its name will be 'Radio 'Mir' - Medjugorje." Those who want to get in touch with it can call at 387-88-651-300.
Since we are still at work on establishing this radio, it is not possible to give a detailed description of its work. What we are going to try to accomplish is at a certain time daily to broadcast various items of information and news for pilgrims of different languages. On this radio, it will likewise be possible to hear the rosary, the mass, and all the other services from the shrine. Those who wish to give testimony about their experience in Medjugorje will be able to do so. Local people will be informed about everything taking place in the shrine and will be able to talk about anything bothering them. We will deal with religious, political, social, cultural, athletic and other questions.
Our reporters are already collaborating on the radio named "Radio Herceg-Bosna" (audible in almost all of Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as a large part of Croatia). At times, they also collaborate on "Croatian Radio - studio Zagreb." Once a month for a half hour duration we have a link to "Radio-Maria" from Italy.
Regarding radio, we will accept any kind of assistance because at this moment it is exceptionally necessary. It may be either some good proposal or certain material means.
Along with radio, television is the most influential modern medium of communication. Many believe only what they see on television. They say, "We saw it." They are forgetting that one can also manipulate with all of this.
For the time being, we are not able to organize a TV studio that would be at the service of the shrine and of the truth without any kind of manipulation. But we are remaining completely open to this possibility.
Currently, we are closely collaborating with two TV studios: Croatian Television (HTV)-Zagreb and Mostar. This way pictures from the shrine are broadcast both to the proximate and more distant area. Of course, we are the disposal of every well-intentioned TV crew that comes by Medjugorje.
III. CONNECTION WITH OTHER CENTRES IN THE WORLD
Already from the very beginning, we wanted to get in touch with other centres in the world. The greatest hindrance was the war and the very poor telephone lines. All of this is now improving, so that our contact with others will be facilitated.
When representatives of individual centres come to Medjugorje, we would like to meet with them and exchange experiences. That will be of benefit to both of us.
In our "Press Bulletin" - we have started to introduce individual centres. As we have seen this idea met a positive response.
There are thousands of ways that we can help each other. From this presentation of the work of our Centre and of the ideas it proposes to itself, I hope you were able to find a field in which we could more closely collaborate. For our part, we are likewise open to any kind of collaboration with you.
It is necessary to keep in mind that the "Information Centre 'Mir' - Queen of Peace Shrine - Medjugorje," along with the priests who are working in Medjugorje, is the only official representative of the shrine. No one else can be or is that, even if they live and work in Medjugorje. We are mentioning this for the sake of misunderstandings that occasionally arise.
Our "Centre" will soon become a juridical person and will, therefore, change its name to "Information Centre 'Mir' -Medjugorje." In time, you will be informed about that. Please, take that into consideration.
Fortunately, those times have passed when the Church was separated between clergy and laity. Under such a separation, clergy were assigned the role of proclaiming the word of God and laity the role of blind obedience.
With Vatican II, that has all changed. It said that we are all the people of God and that there neither is not nor must there be such a sharp separation. In baptism, we have all received the baptismal priesthood and our job is to live and spread the message of God, in the place, in the life wherein we find ourselves. Thus came about a greater collaboration of the "laity" in the Church.
In considering the mass media, I think that our activity in it should be threefold.
- It is necessary to develop a totally Catholic mass media by means of which the Catholic view of the world and its events will be broadcast.
- Another type of mass media should be that media that does not bear the title "Catholic" but people of a Catholic orientation direct and work with them. Their job would be to gradually prepare those who would some day want to become Catholic or deepen their faith. For that reason it would have to be open to all social events. Such media simultaneously serves both those who are completely conscious of their faith, as well as those who want to show and prove themselves in the social field.
- Even the mass media that are indifferent or opposed to Catholic faith must not be rejected. It is necessary to have an influence on them, that is, by means of them on those who use them.
Our Lady has come and stayed for this long so that her message would reach every person. Let us help her in that. We have the right and the duty to employ all the modern aids in order, in a modern and understandable way, to bring the word of God closer to people with whom we come in contact. We must not reject the world in which we live. It is that given reality in which we affirm ourselves to be Christians and prepare ourselves for passage to the other shore.
- We are working to maintain the continuous operation of the HPT-9825 automatic speaker, which operates only in the Croatian language. At any time that we call the 9825 number, we can hear the most recent message of Our Lady in addition to the meditation and the news from Medjugorje, which are changed every Wednesday. Those who call from outside Croatia must add the 01 prefix for Zagreb. The automatic speaker came into operation January 17, 1991, and the average number of calls is 1. 400. 000.
- Our address on the Internet is: 1. http: //www. tel. hr/medjugorje; 2. medjugor@alf. tel. hr;: E-mail address: medjugorje-mir@st. tel. hr.
- We have commenced with the publication of books and brochures on Medjugorje.
- We have become a legal person under the title: INFORMATION CENTRE "MIR" MEDJUGORJE.
- For a recent period of time, it has been sometimes difficult to call our Robofax due to the poor telephone lines and problems with the electrical voltage. We trust that those problems are not behind us. We apologize for all of that.
- We will collect the financial means needed for operation by the activities of the "CENTRES" and free will offerings. For that purpose, we have established the association "SUPPORTERS OF INFORMATION CENTRE "MIR" MEDJUGORJE." Anyone who wishes can become a member of that association. It is incumbent on an association member to make an annual free will contribution, and to cooperate in the work of the "CENTRE" with advice, comments, or some other suitable way. Each member will receive a certificate of membership and be informed regularly on the work of the "CENTRE."
fra Miljenko Stojic, OFM, 1996
Fra Miljenko Stojic was born in1960 in Dragicina. He did his theological studies in different Universities namely: Zagreb, Jerusalem and Sarajevo. He was ordained a priest at Mostar in 1987. At the Papal university "Antonianum" in Rome in 1991 he completed a "licence" in Theology, specialising in Christian and Franciscan spirituality. As a priest, he has worked in various parishes and for a period was educator in the seminary. During the war, he was military chaplain. He holds spiritual retreats. He is a recognised writer and is a member of the Croatian literary society. Until September 2001, he lived and worked in the Parish of Medjugorje, fulfilling the role of vicar and director of the Information centre "Mir". Since September 2001, he is in Mostar as Secretary of the Franciscan Province of Herzegovina.