Vatican suspends priest linked to Medjugorje apparitions


VATICAN:A PRIEST who has acted as spiritual director to the visionaries at Medjugorje has been suspended from ministry pending the outcome of a Vatican investigation, writes  Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has said charges against Fr Tomislav Vlasic include "the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspicious mysticism, disobedience toward legitimately issued orders" and charges that he violated the sixth commandment ("Thou shalt not commit adultery").

Fr Vlasic is the second spiritual adviser to the visionaries to be suspended from ministry. Similar action was taken against Fr Jozo Zovko in 2004.

Fr Vlasic has been confined to a monastery in Italy and banned from contact with the Queen of Peace community he founded, or with his lawyers without permission from his superior.

He is also banned from making public appearances, preaching and hearing confessions, and will be required to make a solemn profession of the Catholic faith.

The Vatican has also warned the priest that he will be excommunicated if he violates any of the prohibitions.

Fr Vlasic was a central figure in promoting the apparitions at Medjugorje. In 1984 he wrote to Pope John Paul to say that he was the one "who through divine providence guides the seers of Medjugorje".

Four years later, when it was revealed he had fathered a child with a nun, he moved to Parma in Italy where he set up the Queen of Peace religious community dedicated to the Medjugorje apparitions.

The Medjugorje phenomenon began on June 25th, 1981, when six children told a priest they had seen the Virgin Mary near the town. Since then Mary is said to have appeared there more than 40,000 times and to have imparted hundreds of messages.

However, three church commissions failed to support the claims and the bishops of the former Yugoslavia declared in 1991 that "it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations".

In 1985 the current pope, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, banned official, diocesan or parish-sponsored pilgrimages to the shrine.