By Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, JULY 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s approval of the laicization of Father Tomislav Vlasic is not a judgment on the claims that Mary is appearing in Medjugorje, says his former superior, the procurator-general of the Franciscan Friars Minor.
Father Francesco Bravi told ZENIT today that the laicization was not imposed by the Holy See, but rather was in response to a request presented by Father Vlasic himself, to be dispensed both of priestly celibacy and his religious vows.
“He requested it,” Father Bravi said, adding that, although Father Vlasic was the assistant pastor in Medjugorje when the first apparitions were reported, the priest has been living in Italy for more than two decades.
He was a religious of the Franciscan province of St. Bernardino di Siena (L’Aquila) and had founded the community “Kraljice mira potsuno Tvoji — po Mariji k Isusu” (Queen of Peace, Totally Yours — Through Mary to Jesus).
Vlasic asked the Holy See to be dispensed from the obligations of priestly ministry, Father Bravi added, because he does not want to accept the sanctions that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith imposed in 2008. These sanctions were levied because of reports about Vlasic regarding “the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspected mysticism, disobedience towards legitimately issued orders and charges contra sextum [against the 6th Commandment],” that decree explains.<br>
The decree announced five sanctions, including the obligation to remain in one of the Franciscan houses, to refrain from contact with any of the Queen of Peace group, and to leave aside the care of souls, preaching, etc.
Father Bravi told ZENIT that Vlasic did not acknowledge the accusations and therefore was unwilling to accept the sanctions.
Father Vlasic had an important role at the beginning of the Medjugorje event in 1981, when the six youth began to affirm that Our Lady was appearing to them. However, he was transferred to Italy in 1985.
Though he has publicly and in writing offered interpretations of Medjugorje, he has on occasion been contradicted by the visionaries. For example, he affirmed that the community he founded was born because of an express wish of the Virgin, but Marija Pavlovic, one of the visionaries, denied this in a letter she sent to the Holy See.
The bishop of Mostar, where Medjugorje is located, has made declarations against the apparitions, but the phenomenon continues to be studied by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in his “The Last Secret of Fatima,” published in 2007, said the bishop’s declarations are not the definitive and official judgment of the Church. He clarified that personal pilgrimages are permitted to the site, as the investigations continue.