Matt C. Abbott
December 1, 2007
Do letters indicate John Paul II believed in Medjugorje?
By Matt C. Abbott

Many Catholics are familiar with, and have visited (including yours truly, in 1995), Medjugorje, a village in Bosnia-Herzegovina where the Blessed Virgin Mary purportedly began to appear to six children in 1981.

Medjugorje has been the subject of much controversy over the years. The region's local bishop, who, according to Church law, is ordinarily responsible for rendering a judgment on whether a particular apparition is "worthy of belief" (apparitions fall into the category of private revelation, something Catholics are not required to believe in), has been strongly opposed to the alleged apparitions, and has rebuked the Franciscans who run Medjugorje's parish, St. James.

Meanwhile, a sizable number of Catholics laity, priests and religious have been making pilgrimages to the village; and many have reported experiencing conversions and healings during or after their visits.

In 1991, the bishops of Yugoslavia, who had been put in charge of investigating the events in Medjugorje, issued the following declaration:

    'The bishops, from the very beginning, have been following the events of Medjugorje through the Bishop of the diocese, the Bishop's Commission and the Commission of the Bishops Conference of Yugoslavia on Medjugorje. On the basis of the investigations so far it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations. However, the numerous gatherings of the faithful from different parts of the world, who come to Medjugorje, prompted both by motives of belief and various other motives, require the attention and pastoral care in the first place of the diocesan bishop and with him of the other bishops also, so that in Medjugorje and in everything connected with it a healthy devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary may be promoted in accordance with the teaching of the Church. For this purpose the bishops will issue specially suitable liturgical-pastoral directives. Likewise, through their Commission they will continue to keep up with and investigate the entire event in Medjugorje.'

In 2006, it was announced that a new commission was being formed by Church leaders to continue to investigate the alleged apparitions.

One aspect of the controversy involves the supposed "secretive" support Medjugorje received from Pope John Paul II.

Denis Nolan, a Medjugorje devotee, authored a book titled Medjugorje and the Church, the 2007 version of which contains photos of eight letters (accompanied by the English translations) written by the late pope that reference the alleged apparitions.

One can see from the letters, written to Marek Skwarnicki (who was, according to Mr. Nolan's book, nominated a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II), that John Paul II did not explicitly state he believed in Medjugorje; but it definitely seems he had a certain affection for what was, and is, transpiring there, at least in regard to the fervent Marian devotion the events have seemingly been fostering over the years.

Below are photos of two of the letters the first one dated Dec. 8, 1992, the second dated May 28, 1992 followed by their English translations. The letters were originally published in Mr. Skwarnicki's book, John Paul II: I Send You Greetings and Bless You, The Pope's Private Letters, published in Polish in Oct. 2005.


    'I have received your greetings, the wafer and two letters, one from you, Marek, and one from you, Sophia. Thank you for everything. I wish to return the greeting for Christmas and New Years. May the Christmas Eve wafer express this as well.

    'I thank Sophia for everything concerning Medjugorje. I, too, go there every day as a pilgrim in my prayers: I unite in my prayers with all those who pray there or receive a calling for prayer from there. Today we have understood this call better. I rejoice that our time does not lack people of prayer and apostles.

    'I thank Marek for both poems (songs) The one from Huta and this one for Lagiewniki. I share your concern for 'The Weekly' and every day I entrust this name to God. I wish Marek the gift of courage and health.

    'J Paul II

    'Christus natus est nobis!

    'Venite, adoremus!

    'John Paul II, Pope'


    'Dear Marek:

    'May God reward you for the 'Misterium.' To know what it contains, I will have to read it but I can feel something in my bones from reading the letter only. I will make sure to have it read promptly.

    'Meanwhile, I thank you for the text (still unread) and for the kind words from its author. May Our Lady always protect Marek and Sophia, and their family.

    'And now we every day return to Medjugorje in prayer.

    'John Paul II

    'Vatican, May 28, 1992

    [Handwritten portion is as follows]

    'Christ is Risen, My Lord and my hope'
    /an Easter passage/

    'With my (best) wishes and blessing

    'John Paul II, the Pope

    'Easter, 1992'

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at

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