Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, the Apostolic Visitator for the parish of Medjugorje, recently visited Spain, where he gave an interesting interview about how he was penetrated by the grace of Medjugorje. He said that it was a place where he too converts and he invited others to come and convert.
Why does Medjugorje change the lives of so many people?
Because it is a place of grace like Lourdes, Fatima or Kibeho in Rwanda. The Lord chooses what he wants and he chooses people who do not expect his intervention. Just as at the very beginning of the Lord’s ministry with Our Lady in Nazareth, there was nothing in Medjugorje or Lourdes. Nazareth is not mentioned in the Bible because it was a small village. Mary and Joseph were ordinary people who wanted to get married, have children, and have a life like everyone else. Just as in Nazareth, the Lord intervened in Medjugorje and addressed hundreds of people. Many priests return here to give thanks. I meet boys who tell me that they have decided to go to the seminary, girls who have discerned a vocation to be religious sisters, husbands and families who have come to know that they are to love one another. This is Medjugorje.
Since you now live there, what is your personal experience of spirituality in Medjugorje?
You must know that I also convert as well as others. Many bishops send their priests and laity there to experience conversion. People in Medjugorje are changing their lives. But for this to happen, there is one condition: they must come here to pray. If they come for two or three days to pray earnestly, they enter into a state of grace. From a tourist point of view, there are no attractions to visit.
If a person comes only for a visit and nothing more, it has no effect. “I also convert as others do, that is why I also say to some bishops and laity: Come and convert, because this is the place of grace where a person changes his life!”
In May 2019, Pope Francis officially authorized pilgrimages to Medjugorje. What does this mean?
It means that the Holy Father has recognized this place as a place of grace and people can come accompanied by their bishops and priests. During the Youth Week, around 30-40 thousand young people gathered here in the middle of summer in temperatures of 40-45 degrees. Unbelievable! They prayed from morning till evening. They had five days of spiritual renewal. They were young people like everyone else, but here they found a place where they wanted to pray more, to go to mass, adoration, confession, and to climb Podbrdo.
In this way, the Holy See tries to convey the value of the grace and spirituality of a really special place. That is why the Holy Father appointed an Apostolic Visitator for Pastoral Care. The local bishop, the Bishop of Mostar-Duvanj, is responsible for the territory and this balanced cooperation works well. Once a year I visit Pope Francis to talk about Medjugorje. He is happy because people pray in the dialogue and conversation that is established between the Lord and us.
Do you think the apparitions will be appropriated in the end?
I don’t know. What I do know is that last year, even after COVID, a million people visited Medjugorje. We don’t want sponsors, publicity or money because we have to preserve the grace of this place. If business prevails, it will no longer be a place of grace. The two clear principles of the place are grace and perspective. The Lord gives us grace even though we don’t deserve it, and he sees us in perspective, which means he knows what we can become. That is the Lord. People in Medjugorje change their lives.
You speak of a million visitors. Is such a number expected this year as well?
I think there will be even more. I saw tens of thousands of people this week. We are doing our duty very carefully to make sure things are done right. The parish organizes all the activities that it does, which are: celebrating holy mass, adoration, hearing confessions, praying the rosary, climbing up Podbrdo, Krizevac, just as if it were a shrine, but also every other parish. All we do very thoughtfully: we sing well, we celebrate well, we preach well, everything is clean and nice. This is the way the faith is transmitted.
Can you describe Medjugorje to us?
Medjugorje is a holy place that has not yet been declared a shrine. There is a simple, clean, nice church built in the 1960’s with a capacity of 500 people. And there is one auditorium for 800 people, which was built 25 years ago and is named after St. John Paul II. Behind the church there is an open area filled with pews that can seat about 7,000 people. There is also an area around the statue of the Risen Christ. People pray a lot in the outdoor area where adoration is held, sometimes despite the bad weather, and no one complains. There are hotels run by whole families and souvenir shops. Everything is close by. Medjugorje bore witness to the faith during communism, when the faithful suffered persecution, killings and imprisonment. The visionaries who often visited the church defended the place and risked their lives.
Can we say that Medjugorje is spared from commercial challenges?
A full-board hotel is €35 a day; that’s how much a pizza costs in Rome. The whole family works and salaries are low. But they are always open. They also sell souvenirs, but that’s normal because they have to make a living. Business is business, no doubt, but Medjugorje is not commercial.
Can you tell us something about the messages?
At the end of each month we receive a message through the visionary Marija. Later on, these messages are translated and everything they contain is related to good things, such as the advice to receive communion often, to go to confession regularly or to pray for peace… Such are the messages. The Church cannot officially comment on them while they are being examined by the Committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about this spirituality!
And I thank you, too. I wish you all the best and may the Lord bless and guide you!