THE POPE’S FRIEND
By Stephen Ryan
On September 25th, 2012 inside
Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral, Pope Benedict XVI’s dear friend and close
advisor, Cardinal Christophe Schonborn, thanked Medjugorje visionary, Ivan
Dragicevic, for coming to his Cathedral to give testimony about his encounters
with the Virgin Mary. After the testimony, Cardinal Schonborn, took a seat and
watched, Ivan visit with the Virgin Mary for about six minutes. The event was
broadcast over the internet and people from around the world tuned in to watch.
Watching this remarkable occurrence take
place, in one of the grandest Catholic settings in Europe, one wonders: Is
there anything else, in these modern times that is comparable? During the apparition, Cardinal Schonborn,
sat quietly, in rapt attention, but the Cardinal’s participation in the event
was anything but silent. By his willing
participation in the apparition, the confidant of Pope Benedict XVI, is telling
the world that the Virgin Mary has come to earth from the afterlife and is
appearing on earth for important reason. To understand Cardinal Schonborn’s pursuit, it is important to consider that Cardinal
Schonborn is not only a close friend of the Pope, but is a global figure in the
Catholic Church. Cardinal Schonborn
serves as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was appointed as the first member of the
newly created Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
The young Cardinal is also widely recognized as “Palabile” (could one day be
Pope) and as Editorial Director of the Catholic Catechism – the official rule
book of the Catholic Church – he is greatly respected throughout the
world. His book “You Cat” – a book on
the Catholic Catechism is currently the bestselling Catholic book in the world
with over 1.7 million copies sold.
Given Cardinal Schonborn’s
impeccable Catholic credentials, we find it extraordinary that he is
proclaiming, by his actions, that he believes that the Blessed Mother is
appearing on earth in an unprecedented fashion. Medjugorje skeptics and others have asked
Cardinal Schonborn, loudly at times, why has the Cardinal invited the
visionaries into his Cathedral. The Cardinal had a ready answer and backed the
two visionaries, Ivan Dragičević and Marija Pavlovic Lunetti, he said
“I gave my permission for those events. Both of those two encounters have
impressed me so much, primarily because of modesty, simplicity, clarity, and
heart warmness of those two visionaries. That only strengthened my decision to
quietly and simply come to Međjugorje.”
But many are also asking why
would Cardinal Schonborn provide a platform for a supernatural phenomenon that
has not been approved by the Catholic Church?
Why the invitation to the visionary? After all, the Vatican recently
commissioned a special task force to determine the authenticity of Medjugorje. The Church is patient; why jump the gun? What
are his motivations? Is it an act of desperation following the sex abuse crisis?
Clearly there is a crisis inside the
Church, a crisis of faith. Does the
Cardinal sense time is running out for the troubled Church in Europe?
Few would argue that the
Catholic Church is not under siege and in crisis the world over. The Church in
Europe has been devastated by the sex abuse horror. Austria has been particularly hard hit and
has seen a troubling exodus of worshipers. Furthermore there is now a growing
disobedience movement in Austria led by rebellious priests who are calling for,
among a number of contentious issues that the Eucharist is offered at the Mass
by lay people when a priest is not available. The responsibility for all of
these problems in Austria falls on the shoulders of Cardinal Schonborn, and in
the midst of this crisis, rather than schedule more meetings, appoint new
commissions, or hire consultants, the Archbishop has instead reached out to
visionaries of Medjugorje to come to his cathedral to talk about the Blessed
Mother and to pray.
invitation to the visionaries was no public relations stunt. The invitation to
a visionary to experience an apparition of the Blessed Mother in a great
European Cathedral in the middle of colossal upheaval is a big deal -
unprecedented really. By Cardinal
Schonborn’s bold and decisive action, he is telling the world, under no
uncertain terms, that the Church is in trouble and the best way out of the
crisis is not through more meetings and task forces but to pray and to turn to
the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to seek her intercession in
a time of great need.
Cardinal Schonborn calls the
Virgin Mary – “The best pastor”. In an interview with Max Domej from
Gebetsktion Wien in 2009 Cardnal Schonborn said:
was always fascinated how Mother of God has pretty peculiar pastoral method
that differs in a way from pastoral-theological manuals or lectures. Ever since
my youth I loved Lourdes and I still love do. This is how I imagine the events
in Lourdes: bishop of Tarbes town probably had his own plans and his own opinions,
and then Mother of God comes, without asking local parish priest or bishop,
appears at completely impossible site, in a hole, on a rock, at the river where
people where not even going to, and to a girl that is illiterate, that can not
even explain what Holy Trinity is, because could not learn that at her
religious education class. And Our Lady appears only to her, just like that,
gives her precise instructions what to do, what to say to the priests, to come
in processions, to build chapel. And then she orders her to grab a piece of
soil, and water gushes out…Pastoral plan of Mother of God was very precise. She
knew it all exactly. That was not foreseen in the pastoral plan of the Church
but has determined and changed pastoral of France and whole world.
Vatican there is grotto of Lourdes in front of which Holy Father prays.
Throughout the world there are grottos of Lourdes, and people are coming and
praying, doing what Our Lady told them to do. And all of that through a little
girl, Bernadette, visionary and Church has recognised that.
thought, I want to see how does that look like in Međugorje today, how does
Mary lead us step by step, how people experienced those beginnings here in
1981? What did Mother of God have on her mind when she decided to appear on
really rugged hill to the group of wild children and to start giving them
practical life guidelines, and for so many years? That is so fascinating to me!
We need to think about pastoral work as well; because I can simply state that
throughout the whole world Mary has proven to be best pastoral theologian.
Latin America she organised whole missions through Guadalupe where she appeared
to Indian, Indian! And told him what is that he should say to his bishop. She
did not say that to bishop, but to Indian. There are similar experiences in every
country and that is something theologians should think about.
Cardinal Schonborn, unlike
many bishops in America who continue to look for solutions for what ails the
Church in the political arena – urgent meeting with President Obama, issuing
position papers and press releases to the New York Times – is taking a
different path to repair the damage.
Cardinal Schonborn has moved beyond seeking solutions to problems
confronting the Catholic Church through worldly means. Schonborn is not looking
to lawyers and courts to protect the faith but rather the great Cardinal
understands the solution will come only from the heavens. The Catholic Church
will only be restored with our prayers, our humility to God and by the
intervention of the supernatural revealed to us by the presence of Our Lady
here on earth who is among us today to show us the way back to Her son.