Interview with Archbishop Emilio Ognjenovic
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June 25, 2007, Medjugorje, Interview with Archbishop Emilio Ognjenovic.  Retired Archbishop of the Argentinan archdiocese of Mercedes-Lujan

Archbishop Ognjenovic (center), Fr. Arabia (left) and me (right). Archbishop Emilio Ognjenovic was born in Cetinja, Montenegro.  His father was also from Cetinja and his mother was from central Dalmatia. Both of his parents died 19 hours apart.  He became an orphan at the age of ten. His mother was sick a very long time and she died when she was 33 years old. She left an infant only four months old behind her. His father was devoted to his mother and he took care of her for a number of years. He died hours after her because of the sorrow he felt at her death. The bishop expressed that he thinks this was a beautiful witness that needs to be shared today when we live in a world where there is a crisis in marriage and in the family. When his parents died he became a mother and father at the age of a ten, and a friend to his younger brothers. The family was taken in by their grandmother who was so poor that they hardly had food. His grandmother thought of his future and sent him off far away to school. He went to school near the shrine of Our Lady of Lujan,  the patron of Argentina.  The bishop stated that after 15 years of ordination, a distant cousin told him the following story; when he mother was pregnant she prayed to God so that he would take me into his service and that I would become his priest. And from the moment she found out that she was pregnant she went mass on a daily basis and received communion. In the last moment of her life, the last breath of air she took, she embraced our Ladies figure and her last words were “Mother, I am giving you my life. Jesus, take my son Emilio to become a priest.”

Archbishop Ognjenovic how has your experience been in Medjugorje?

My experience last time I was here in March 2007,  convinced me that the Blessed Mother is in Medjugorje.  I came back with a certain conviction.

People come to confession and back to the sacraments, people come to pray, the changes that can only take place inside the confessional…and the other thing that impresses me the most are the crowds of the faithful.  I would prefer to be with the people instead of being on the altar looking down.   Some people have changed a little, some have radically changed their lives.  I was the bishop of the largest Argentinan Marian shrine the Blessed Mother of Lujan “Nuestra Señora de Luján”, 5 or 6 million people come to the shrine, families as well as the youth,  I can say all the people come to the shine and they come often, I can’t say if they all go to confession. There are 1 to 1 1.2 million faithful who walk during three days from 40 -80 kilometers to the shrine on pilgrimage or during the year, the first weekend of October there are 1 million people who come to this shrine.

Have you had the opportunity to meet the visionaries and hear them talk?  What do you think and feel when you hear them talk?

Yes I have met them. They are parents, they have their family, they are normal, they are people who work and live from their work. Their testimony is simple and humble. They pray the rosary with their childern. I believe they do not lie.  And they simply communicate to the rest of us their experience and what they have seen and they have heard.  I am certain that this is a continuation of Fatima. The Franciscans who are here, serve the pilgrims, they do not do the propaganda of Medjugorje. They simply serve spiritually.

As a priest and as a bishop, what has your experience been of celebrating mass and hearing confessions here?

When I celebrate mass it is not me it is God who speaks, I sit here and commend myself to the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit, it is the human word but it is God himself.   I always tell God it belongs toYou it is Yours.

Have you shared you feelings, impressions, and thoughts with the Holy Father Pope Benedict?

I did share them with John Paul II, within the same week I was ordained a bishop, 1982
He said to me if I was not the pope I would be in Medjugorje hearing confessions. He told me you should accompany pilgrims there, people will pray, they can have confessions, and people will change their lives. I didn’t dare ask him if he had any doubts about the apparitions. His answer was an evangelic one. You will know the tree by its fruit.

In March, before I came to Medjugorje I had an audience with the Holy Pope Benedict XVI, of course because of my age they gave me a seat up front, so I had an opportunity to greet the Pope personally and tell him “Holy Father we are just coming back from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and we wanted to meet the new Peter of the Church here in Rome and from Rome we are going to Medjugorje.  He patted my hand and said “good good.”  There and then I realized he was happy about it.

The Church will need more time to give its position on Medjugorje, as the church used her wisdom and took her time to express its standings on Fatima, Lourdes and other places of apparitions. Regarding the acknowledgement, it should not be rushed, because the right moment will come.

There is one thing only in Medjugorje that worries me, there are not enough young people here. We are a generation that is going away.

Archbishop, what is your message to the people of this area that endured a war crisis and are living in poverty similar to the situation in your own country?

Jesus has showed us the way, it is all about love, all the laws and the prophets speak about love, we have to love each other, this is the principal command and I can not change this. I can not change the methodology of Christ. The Queen of Peace is calling us, first to have interior peace, in one’s own heart and then peace in our families. We should never ever forget to pray the rosary together, because that is the most powerful weapon to achieve peace in the world.

(At the end of the interview,  Archbishop Emilio Ognjenovic was given some photographs of the cross on cross mountain. He said, “It was the only place he could not go”. Last time he came using a walking stick to climb Mt. Krizevac.  But recently, he had an operation on his hip. However, he returned because he needed Medjugorje. He expressed his desire to return again. He expressed the  idea of getting get a cenacle of priests together and bringing them to Medjugorje.)

This interview was done by Father Peter K. Arabia, S.J. and by me.  Father Arabia, S.J. is a member of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus. He first came to Medjugorje in 1985.   The past four years he was stationed at St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, New York .  In September he will begin his new assignment teaching theology at Xavier Jesuit High School in Manhattan, New York.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 December 2012 )