June 25, 2009 - The discussion of whether or not Pope Benedict has visited Medjugorje while he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger comes at an interesting time; yesterday was the twenty-eighth anniversary of the first reputed sightings.
Journalist Jakob Marschner, of Copenhagen, has reported, "A nun and two pilgrims say they saw the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the village in Bosnia-Hercegovina as early as four years after the apparitions began on June 24th 1981. 64-year- old Irish pilgrim Mary E. Smith says she saw the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at only half-a-meter distance during a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in 1985.
Along with her at Saint James Church in Medjugorje was fellow Irish pilgrim Anita Curtis. 'Anita said, "Look, Mary, there is Cardinal Ratzinger." I looked up and immediately thought John Paul II had sent him, and that he would take his testimony to John Paul II,' says Ms. Smith, a contemplative and a frequent visitor to the site throughout the years. 'We were sitting on the steps outside the sacristry. Cardinal Ratzinger walked right by us at half-a-meter's distance. I am sure he heard what Anita said to me. He put his head down and to the left, towards the wall of the church, as if he did not want to be recognized by the general body of pilgrims. He was dressed in civilian clothes: A white, short-sleeved shirt opened at the neck, and a light grey pair of trousers. I also recognized his snow-white hair.'"
How sure was she that it was the Cardinal? "I am 100 percent sure that it was him," she told Jakob -- matching the testimony of others in Medjugorje who long have said they spotted him, a claim that is hardly outlandish in that Vatican observers from various congregations regularly visit Medjugorje, often incognito.
Whatever the final outcome of the alleged apparitions, John Paul II was quoted by more than a dozen bishops as encouraging them to visit the site, which makes the claims of Benedict having been there even less surprising. "It is good for people to go to Medjugorje and pray," the late Pope told Bishop Silvester Treinen of Boise, Idaho. "Authorize everything that concerns Medjugorje," the pontiff also told Archbishop Felipe Santiago Benitez of Paraguay when asked if Medjugorje priest Father Slavko Barbaric should be allowed to preach in South America.
Father Barbaric, who died in 2001, was photographed with Cardinal Ratzinger at a restaurant in 1991 in Linz, Austria, during a meeting of more then 300 priests who discussed their experiences of confessions in Medjugorje. Upon his return, Father Slavko told Nasa Ognjista, a Croatian monthly (XXI, 1991), that he and Cardinal Ratzinger had a long conversation about Medjugorje and the cardinal had told him that "the Church does not want to repress anything that is bringing good spiritual fruits."
Excerpted from a longer story on SpiritDaily.com Reprinted with Permission.