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An Interview with Fr. Ljubo Kurtovic

Talking about the Festival...

Other languages: English, Deutsch, Français, Italiano

How did the Festival first begin? What was its aim?

This festival began 17 years ago when Fr. Slavko began to help a group of young people understand Medjugorje, also through the help of songs personal testimonies. I wasn’t here then, so I can’t tell you more about that. It was certainly a group of young people who had been touched by Medjugorje and by Our Lady’s presence and by her messages. So, gradually, this festival, this international meeting grew.

What form of publicity was used?

Publicity is spontaneous. It’s a miracle that the young people come. We do not do any form of propaganda. A young person comes for the festival and goes home and tells others about it. We do not publicize the festival on the television or radio.

How has it evolved over the 17 years?

The numbers of participants have increased. The format has remained more or less the same. At the first festival there were about 100 youth from 4 or 5 different nations. In this festival people from 42 different nations have registered, and it is calculated that 30,000 people are present, and that is without counting those who have not registered, particularly for Mass which is the core part of the day. Confessions can be heard in 19 languages and the Mass is translated into 15.

Have you encountered any difficulties?

Even the organization is practically spontaneous… a miracle. It has been held for many years and some things are runof-the-mill. The Cenacolo Community helps us with its day of witnessing and especially the recital based on the Gospel that the youth prepare every 2 years. Then there are testimonies of conversion experienced at Medjugorje, or in one’s life as a Christian: by nuns, lay people, priests, youth.

What do you think the young people who come here seek?

We have noticed that the young people at Medjugorje appreciate Adoration the most, especially when held late evening with the silence of the night, and the songs and meditations that help them descend a bit more deeply into their hearts. This is so even though some of the songs are rather noisy.

What can you advise the young people who come to the festival?

To let themselves be guided; to surrender to Our Lady – she will lead them to safety, to Jesus. For me this is a miracle. I am just a servant of God’s work. It is Our Lady who organizes the Festival, and she also uses us, her children, to help in this organization.

What would you like to tell those who haven’t come here yet?

To come, at least out of curiosity. And to see. There are many who come out of curiosity; this too can be a good beginning. One’s attitude then changes into something more profound and more serious – it happens within the soul. Unfortunately, there are many prejudices about Medjugorje, and much ignorance and a lot of wrong things are said about Medjugorje. Apart from the great gift of Mary’s daily presence at Medjugorje, are you aware of any special signs or miracles? At the beginning of the apparitions, during the first months, there were many visible signs, because the visionaries asked Our Lady to do something so the people could believe them. Besides this, as a priest in the confessional I am a witness to miracles that cannot be seen with the eyes. The events of the people who confess here are miracles that cannot be documented. It is written in their hearts.

Can you tell us something about your life?

I was born in 1969 and I came to Medjugorje for the first time as a pilgrim in 1983. It is thanks to Our Lady that I became a monk. I am not a visionary; I have not seen Our Lady. However, she can be “seen” in a way that is even better than the way the visionaries see her. The visionaries see with their eyes, but in prayer one can encounter her even more profoundly. Many pilgrims err when they seek from the visionaries that which the visionaries cannot give them. The visionaries are not the ones who push the buttons. They are merely witnesses, and recount what they hear and see, simply, and with their humanity.

Did you always believe in the apparitions?

When I was 14 I came with my mother on pilgrimage to Medjugorje; we walked 50 km. My faith grew gradually; I didn’t immediately believe. I don’t tell pilgrims that they have converted, but that they have been reawakened. One then begins a journey, and has all his life to grow and convert. The important thing is to be reawakened, and not be asleep or even comatose.

What would you like to tell priests who still doubt?

I do not try to convince anyone.

What would you advise them? To come here at least out of curiosity. I first have to convince myself. There is no need to believe in Medjugorje. There is need to believe in the Gospel. Medjugorje is Gospel. Our Lady here has said nothing new. She has added nothing to the Gospel. All her messages are Gospel, only that they are told with simplicity, in a motherly way. I always say that Medjugorje is not the purpose, but a means that God gives us. One can come close to God even without Medjugorje. But why not use all the means God gives us? I see Medjugorje not as a phenomenon or something sensational, but as a person called the Virgin Mary. One cannot know the Virgin Mary by talking about her, but only if we go down on our knees, and humbly do as she says. I, too, meet some priests (that make me) shake my head: I see a wall around them. It also takes grace to understand Medjugorje. For me Medjugorje is not a problem but a mystery. All God’s works are mysteries; and this mystery provokes priests and also the Church. For sure, just as Jesus was a stumbling block, so is Medjugorje a stumbling block for many. For me, to be against Medjugorje is a sign of spiritual death. Being neutral is honest. To not know something and be against it is inadmissible. Remaining silent when you don’t know something is honest.

What is the situation from a canonical point of view, with regards to the Holy See?

John Paul II said many times (in particular to many bishops) that he was in favour of Medjugorje, but he, too, had to respect the Church and her structure. For as long as the apparitions are underway, the Church will not proclaim herself. The Church does well not to say anything; but she also speaks with her silence. If there were something heretical or strange that led people away from the Gospel the Church would not waste time to speak up. She has spoken up in many cases which involved strange phenomena. The Church is prudent and does well to remain silent. The Church will speak when the apparitions are finished. (However), I am sure of one thing: that it is not important that I be alive or dead. The Church proclaims a saint after the death of that person, but he or she was a saint also before. I don’t see the urgency for a Vatican decree; it is urgent, instead, that I convert. This is important.



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