Sunday, July 22nd, was a special day, full of blessings for the parish of Medjugorje, but also for all of the pilgrims throughout the world who care deeply about Medjugorje Parish. From the moment the news first arrived on May 31st, 2018 that the Holy Father had appointed Archbishop Hoser as Apostolic Visitor, with a special role for the parish of Medjugorje, everyone anxiously anticipated the day when his mission would finally begin in Medjugorje. Last Thursday, when we received confirmation that Archbishop Hoser would start his mission with Holy Mass this Sunday, parishioners and pilgrims were truly overwhelmed with joy. The huge area of the White Dome was fully packed before the beginning of Holy Mass, with all present preparing for the solemn celebration with the prayer of the Rosary. As the parish choir sang the entrance hymn, the procession commenced with Mons. Henryk Hoser, the Apostolic Visitor, Mons. Luigi Pezzuto, the Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Provincial of Herzegovina Franciscan Province, Fr. Miljenko Šteko, parish priest of Medjugorje, Fr. Marinko Šakota, as well as many other priests who concelebrated at this Holy Mass. The celebration of the evening Holy Mass began when the letter of the Holy Father was read regarding the appointment of Archbishop Hoser. The Nuncio Luigi Pezzuto read the letter in Italian and Fr. Marinko Sakota, the parish priest read it in Croatian.
Greetings and welcoming words were given by the Provincial, Fr. Miljenko Steko, who emphasised how this Eucharist in Medjugorje is of “historic importance” since we have here, with us, for the first time, the Apostolic Nuncio, Mons. Luigi Pezzuto, who is the direct representative of the Holy Father and the Apostolic See in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Thank you, your Excellency, for coming here and allow me to express to you a most sincere welcome on behalf of all of us! Please pass on our gratitude to the Supreme Pontiff for his pastoral efforts in the Church, particularly in this appointment of the Apostolic Visitor”, said Fr. Miljenko Steko, who also greeted Archbishop Hoser.
“Dear Archbishop Hoser! In this moment of grace, I wish to welcome you most sincerely on behalf of each one of us gathered here, as well as on behalf of all of you gathered here! On behalf of the Herzegovina Franciscan Province, I am wishing you a blessed time among us here in the mission entrusted to you by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. We accept your coming here with the utmost respect and love, the mission entrusted to you by the Supreme Pontiff of Rome, the one presiding over the general Church Communion. May we all be renewed by the strength of the Holy Spirit, so that from tonight, we would all advance on our pilgrimage journey under your guidance!”
Holy Mass was offered in Latin, and Mons. Henryk Hoser was the main celebrant. In his homily, he said that the Holy Father, as the Universal Shepherd of the Church, takes the words of the prophets and sends shepherds to the places were people live, where the faithful gather, seeking for the light of salvation.
Pilgrims from all over the world come to Medjugorje, from around 80 different countries of the world. The distance is their journey measured in miles, and in order for one person to travel for that many miles, they need to be led by a strong and determined motivation, as well as having the means of transportation.
However, the word “distance” is something else too: it refers to the existential situation of so many who are far from God, from Christ, from their Church and from the light that gives purpose to life, or gives a dignified goal, a life worth living.
Now we can understand better why the Holy Father sent the Apostolic Visitor to Medjugorje, since pastoral care requires ensuring a stable and continuous guidance for the parish community in Medjugorje, and for all pilgrims who are coming here on pilgrimages; which brings us to the fundamental question – why do so many people come to Medjugorje each year?
The answer is this: they come to encounter someone, to encounter God, to encounter Christ and to encounter His Mother, so that they would discover the way that leads to the joy of living in the house of the Father and the Mother, and ultimately, to discover the Marian way to God as the safest way of all. This is the way in which we honour Mary, something that has been taking place here for years, this is “the holy liturgy in which the peak of wisdom and faith dwells, and therefore, it is the primary task of God’s people,” said Mons. Hoser, adding that there is a truly Christo-centric devotion at hand here in Medjugorje.
“The devotion in practice in Medjugorje has Holy Mass in the centre, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the massive numbers of confession and reconciliation, all followed by other devotions and prayers of the Rosary, and the Way of the Cross that take place on the hills whose rugged and sharp rocks are now polished pathways,” said Mons. Hoser in his homily.
This Holy Mass certainly marks the beginning of a new era for Medjugorje and for all pilgrims. Fr. Marinko Sakota, the parish priest, at the conclusion, welcomed the Nuncio and thanked the Holy Father for the appointment of the Apostolic Visitor. As well, he thanked Mons. Hoser for having accepted this mission and coming to Medjugorje. Fr. Marinko then presented him with a gift on behalf of the parish – the Holy Scriptures and flowers. Along with thousands of pilgrims, there were 118 priests concelebrating, as well as Bishop Guido Gallese, Bishop of Alessandria from Italy. (photos)