Fr. Miljenko Šteko, OFM, the first winner of this year's International Peace Prize "Pope Paul VI" in the shrine of the Queen of Peace on Monte Scalambra in Italy

date: 23.08.2023.

In the diocese of Palestrina-Tivoli, in the Italian province of Lazio, there is the mountain peak of Monte Scalambra at 1,420 meters above the sea level. In 1976, a large statue (3 meters high) in bronze, dedicated to the Queen of Peace, was placed at the top of the mountain as a sign of the reconciliation of the peoples of Europe. The replica of the statue was blessed by Pope Paul VI, and later he gave a speech which was then carved into the plaque placed at the foot of the large statue. A shrine dedicated to Mary, the Queen of Peace, was built next to the statue. On the 40th anniversary of the installation of the statue, in memory of the blessing of Pope St. Paul VI, ever since the year 2016, the International Peace Prize named after St. Paul VI was established, and is awarded around the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen.

On the proposal of the Organizing Committee for Awards, this year's (2023) first winner of the "Pope Paul VI International Peace Prize" is Fr. Miljenko Šteko, OFM, the guardian of the Antonianum International Institute in Rome. In the explanation of the award, it is stated that "During his service, Fr. Miljenko was the President of the UFME - the Union of the Minor Brothers of Europe with headquarters in Brussels - for two terms (until March 2023), and the Provincial of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Mostar - for two terms (until May 2022), and especially for his many years of activity and responsibilities in relation to the parish and the phenomenon of Međugorje, he was chosen as this year's first laureate.

Fr. Miljenko, in the service of the president of the UFME since October 2013, has contributed to the spreading of the Franciscan postulate of "peace and good" in Europe with numerous initiatives, projects and letters, and his realistic and encouraging letters to the Franciscan provinces and the public during the pandemic caused by the corona virus are particularly noted and cited, as well as all the peace contributions of the UFME during the aggression against Ukraine. Likewise, during Fr. Miljenko's service as the Provincial in the Franciscan Province of Herzegovina, and with his participation, an international commission for the investigation of the phenomenon of Medjugorje, headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, operated as part of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the service of the provincial Fr. Miljenko first welcomed the Special Envoy of the Holy See for the parish of Medjugorje, Archbishop Henryk Hoser, who was then appointed the Apostolic Visitor with a special role for the parish of Medjugorje. After the late Hoser, Fr. Miljenko Šteko received the new archbishop, Msgr. Aldo Cavalli. All this time, in all the positions he held, Fr. Miljenko's actions and deeds contributed to general peace and reconciliation.

The awarding ceremony was held in the Sanctuary of the Queen of Peace on Monte Scalambra on Saturday, August 19 and Sunday, August 20, 2023. Fr. Miljenko Šteko celebrated the main Holy Mass on Sunday, August 20 at 4:30 p.m., and then, with the participation of numerous dignitaries, the awarding of awards followed.

Fr. Miljenko, as a religious, wanted to receive and dedicate the award to the Franciscan Province of Herzegovina, whose member he is, and to dedicate it also to all the friars who have been pastorally active and who serve in the parish of Medjugorje.