Nuncio Pezzuto: Bishops need to be engaged in organising pilgrimages to Medjugorje

date: 16.08.2019.

“We are already considering how to involve the bishops within the universal Church, not just by coming here, but also to be engaged as much as their lay people and priests, in organising the youth in their dioceses for coming to the Youth Festival in Medjugorje, and for all the other pilgrimages, too. We must get to the point that the bishops are the ones who will organise the pilgrimages of their faithful to Medjugorje and that there is a true Marian devotion, which should be Christocentric.“

“My view on this year’s youth festival is very positive, regarding those who spoke and witnessed as well as those who proposed them. I am very content regarding all that was offered to the youth here. I must also say that I am very optimistic and very positive about the response of these young people to the contents offered and to catechesis. For instance, the Festival officially ended on Monday, yet thousands also attended Mass on Cross Mountain on Tuesday morning and the church was packed the following morning too.

I am in Bosnia and Herzegovina for six years now and I was familiar with the Youth Festival, I knew it, not because I participated. This is only my second time to be here at the Youth Festival, but I have been in contact with the Franciscans who serve here. With the appointment of the Apostolic Visitor, one must enter another course in a pastoral sense. This is not an isolated thing, an event, but an event that must be incorporated into all the pastoral care of the parish of Medjugorje.

Therefore, the content of the Youth Festival are catechesis and prayers…Prayer is the heart of the whole event. This all is awakening the hearts of young people, children, adults … This is pastoral and what was very important this year is the opening on behalf of the Church. Previously, it was more of a private encounter limited to this area. Now, indeed, this is no longer the case. So truly, it should not be any more,“said Msgr. Pezzuto, and with him was also the Apostolic Visitor with a special role for the parish of Medjugorje, Archbishop Henryk Hoser, who said that all those present at the Youth Festival “felt how the Universal Church was breathing.” 

“And it is not only a question of the universal scope of the Church at the general level, but above all of the young people who have come here, full of hope, enthusiasm and joy. This Youth Festival has confirmed its quality, both in terms of dynamics and contents. It was something that kept growing constantly, not just at an organisational level but also in the quality of the content also. The program of the Youth Festival is spiritual. We have seen these thousands of young people standing on that plateau in front of the church for hours.

They listened to the testimonies, prayers, followed by the Rosary and Holy Mass as the central point of the whole program. For hours and hours they sat and sometimes danced to exercise a bit, to be able to continue in prayer and one could see a profound delight in them and that they were satisfied. It is not just about the young people and the people who were physically present here, but thanks to the media we have had almost three million people watching the Youth Festival via live streaming and television. Also, I would like to emphasise one more thing: the presence of the church shepherds among the faithful who have been here. During the Youth Festival, there were 14 shepherds, the Church Officials, cardinals, archbishops and bishops present here and among them three representatives of the Holy See. To summon up, I can only say that we are all really happy because the Youth Festival has a global dimension“, said Archbishop Hoser, conveying the thoughts of church officials who participated in the Youth Festival in Medjugorje.

“The first reaction and the first thing I have to say is that bishops, archbishops and cardinals from Rome and other places, were at first surprised. They discovered an unknown reality that was often hidden. They were very moved, sensitised by the atmosphere that was at the Youth Festival, by the enthusiasm and joy shown by the young people. They were fascinated by the abilityyouth here presented in remaining in the complete silence, and these were young people who constantly lived in a noise, with earphones in their ears. And what touched these cardinals and bishops was how they reacted to catechesis. You had the impression that they were sitting in silence, getting bored because there was absolute silence, and then when they finished they explode in applause, which meant they followed and listened what was said.

Everyone noted two specificrealities of Medjugorje. The first one we already talked about is confessions. There were 700 priests engaged in confessions. During the day they confessed for hours. Another very powerful aspect is Adoration - Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Veneration of the Cross - the liturgical practices that have almost disappeared along with confession in the rest of the world. And the third aspect they have noticed is the prayer of the Rosary. This is the place where the Rosary is said on daily basis. The Rosary, in many countries, is considered to be a prayer of elderly women and here we see young people with rosaries in their hands, said Msgr. Hoser and the testimony of faith in Medjugorje also touched Archbishop Pezzuto who said:

“An aspect that must be evaluated today in the Church is the aspect of witnessing. I look at the Youth Festival as the formation, a preparation for witnessing, but also as a practical testimony.It is not just a matter of teaching someone how to become a witness, but also of allowing the possibility of living that testimony in practice. You understand that this result can be obtained only if there is a pair work, if both poles are engaged. What are these two poles? On one had we have priests, those who confess, preach and talk to people, while the other pole are faithful, in this case the youth. I was able to see these two poles here in Medjugorje. Did you notice last night during the moment of a mission, the priests went down and entered among the young, prayed over them, and on the other hand, we sawthe crowds that seemed to open up to accept those outstretched arms that were praying over them? Why all this and why did we do everything that way? This act was important both for the priest and for the faithful. The gesture meant for the faithful and for the priests that they must now go to witness. The testimony that has been heard and given in these days has not been given only in the area of the church, on the external altar, but throughout the parish of Medjugorje.

Someone told me that the whole parish of Medjugorje, the whole place has become a church, when I say church, it is because of all that was happening here, as if the parish became a holy space where people prayed and where God was met. Nowadays the streets were a church because we saw people walking in the streets with a rosary in their hands,” concluded the Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina Luigi Pezzuto, while Archbishop HenrykHoser stated how “the Youth Festival sends a message to all mankind.”

“This is an intensive time of formation. The formation of intelligence of the heart and this type of formation offered here - the lessons, the catechesis offered at the service of the word were not intended only for those present here but for the whole world, and all the participants underlined the quality of the catechesis they have heard here in Medjugorje. The festival also shows the beauty of the liturgy. There are some elements involved in the liturgy that touch you … They are really moving experiences … For example, a hundred-meter-long canvas filled with the prayers of the youth, presented and placed in front of the altar at the beginning of the Holy Mass. The beauty of the liturgy is emphasised additionally for its music. I wish to say that the music of the international choir and orchestra is of high quality. The choir and the orchestra together form a whole unit, they follow the prayer. And to do some exercise, these young people who sit still for hours use a musical animation. Movements and gestures accompanied by song and choir, and it is not a question of sport gymnastics.

This shows the value of the Festival and what must be emphasised is that it was a great, great contribution and involvement of the people who organised everything. For example, volunteers are young people belonging to the Franciscan youth of the parish of Medjugorje who are doing a huge, enormous job to help organise everything that is there. The media contribution is extraordinary. And what is really important is the technical service – a service that is not visible from the outside and is very important. Also, what remains to be emphasised too is the contribution of the parishioners who, with their love and generosity, do their best to welcome the people who come here to their homes generously. Our parishioners in Medjugorje are also aware that they are also responsible for the course and the fruits of pilgrimages and pilgrims throughout the year. The Youth Festival is a manifestation of unity. They come from all over the world, from many peoples, cultures and languages, and they all feel like family here. The festival also unites the parishioners, the parish. Thank you for all that has been and is happening, because many pilgrims say that there is a presence here … Someone who is present but not visible. This presence is something all pilgrims perceive here”, said Archbishop Henryk Hoser at the end. (PHOTO)