A BISHOP WHO KNOWS OPPOSITION WELL: 'books which criticize Medjugorje moved me to come and see with my own eyes'

Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard with visionary Vicka Ivankovic

  • ‘I know the local bishop is in fierce opposition’
  • Considered ‘most traditional prelate in Belgium’
  • ‘Understands opposition’ but calls book ‘polemical’
  • SPECULATES ‘NEUTRAL’ Vatican pronouncement

WORLD FAMOUS conservative Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard has declared his personal belief in the apparitions of Medjugorje since reflecting on a week spent with Medjugorje visionary Vicka Ivankovic who had her daily apparitions in his presence whilst on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Primate of Belgium, known as ‘the Belgian Ratzinger’ for his conservative and pro-traditionalist views, shared his reflections with Sabrina Covic, co-foundress of Maranatha. Sabrina organised the International Prayer for Healing of Humanity in the Holy Land with local Charbel Maroun, chairman of the Marian Movement of the Holy Land – an event that attracted over 15,000 faithful.

We were invited by Sabrina and Charbel to join them personally with Mgr Leonard and Vicka throughout the week with our group of 25 pilgrims that we brought, lead by Fr Gianni Sgreva CP.

Mgr Leonard has since reflected on the trip that took place back in September 2013 on the Maranatha website and shared his compelling thoughts on the apparitions that he witnessed:

“I was confronted by a fundamental and delicate fact: The lady who helped me tremendously to organize this pilgrimage, Sabrina Covic, had invited one of the ‘visionaries’ (under reserve), Vicka, to join us. This meant that during the great assemblies the rosary was interrupted at 18h40 by what many believe to be an apparition of the Virgin Mary.”

5T2T5797Mgr Leonard celebrating the Extraordinary Form Mass with FSSP General Superior Fr Berg and consecrates priests to the traditional fraternity [Note. Mgr Leonard is not an FSSP confrère and The FSSP have no affiliation to Medjugorje]

topicMgr Leonard praying for FEMEN protesters who douse him with water.

Mgr Leonard is more famously known for being a staunchly catholic, tradition-loving bishop. His appointment to Brussels by Pope Benedict XVI on January 18, 2010 arrived with a vow to restore a more ‘worthy’ liturgy and traditional Catholic values back in the country.

Recently traditional catholic bloggers Rorate Caeli wrote ‘truly traditional Catholics need no convincing of the highly problematic nature and false claims of Medjugorje’. Yet Archbishop Leonard, who actively promotes the traditional movement and regularly celebrates the Tridentine Mass, also speaks in defence of Medjugorje although he says the judgement of the apparitions is ‘not his business’ but the business of the Vatican Commission, so he ultimately waits to hear the official ruling.

Vatican Journalist Andrea Tornelli called him ‘the most traditional bishop in Belgium’ and Rorate Caeli described him as ‘offering breathing space for orthodoxy’ by installing in his diocese the FSSP- the traditional Priestly Fraternity of St Peter established by Pope St John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger and 15 former lefebvrian clergymen – and offered ‘the first Tridentine Mass celebrated by a Belgian Primate in over 40 years’.

In 2007 in an interview for Télé Moustique Mgr Leonard spoke boldly about traditional catholic values on sexuality and declared ”I might face imprisonment in a few years, but it could offer me a vacation.”

In 2013 his opposition brought him to international fame when ‘gay rights FEMEN’ activists doused him with water during a conference.

“Two risks exist: the risk that we are being deceived in Medjugorje and the risk that we are bypassing a gift of grace. I prefer to take the risk of openness and prudence”

The Archbishop, prayed, travelled and dined with Vicka, witnessed her apparitions up close and followed her interaction with other pilgrims. We saw several occasions where Archbishop made sure Vatican guidelines were followed that the event would not ‘take for granted the credibility of the apparitions’ by continually expressing to the crowds in front of Vicka “We await for the judgement of the Catholic Church to discern the validity of these apparitions’.

We sat next to the Archbishop as he sat directly opposite Vicka during the time of the apparition in the Garden of Gethsemani. Mgr Leonard was leading the rosary ‘in Latino’ (as he requested aloud) together with a small group as we awaited the time of the alleged apparition. When the time came, Vicka knees slammed onto stony gravel-like ground as she appeared to be in a radiant ecstasy, facing the Archbishop and looking directly above his head speaking to what she testifies was the Blessed Virgin. The Archbishop observed her during this moment, as her throat muscles could be seen moving in great motion as she spoke yet no sound was heard.

Archbishop Leonard described in his reflections of the visionary as having a presence:

“The presence of a Vicka: suffering from poor health, always smiling, completely devoted to the local Christians, especially the sick, certainly contributed in attracting the crowds.”

“I have personal reasons to think that these apparitions are authentic. I also know that the local bishop on the spot, the bishop of Mostar, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is on the contrary, in fierce opposition. This has not prevented Rome from not feeling tied down by his judgment alone, since an international commission of experts has been appointed to study the phenomena.”

He speculated on the outcome of the commission’s findings commenting:

“According to some, its likely to be neutral, perhaps even lenient, without being able to settle the matter in a peremptory fashion, neither positively nor negatively, since the phenomena are still going on.”

“I do not wish to judge things, situations, and persons from a distance, only from books. I would rather take a little more personal look.”
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Archbishop Leonard and Vicka in the Holy Land (left) and Vicka in ecstacy during her apparition in Bethlehem, 2013

Archbishop Leonard says he is well aware of all the things said against Medjugorje, has even read books against it and agrees there are questions to be asked. He is also very familiar with his own share of criticism himself, being considered one of the most attacked bishops in contemporary times. Belgian politicians, activists and even fellow clergymen have pounded this archbishop with constant criticism and it is no secret that some have wanted him removed from his position. Leonard’s spokesman Juergen Mettepenningen, quit his job only three months after joining the archbishop’s office slating “Monsignor Leonard at times acts like a motorist driving on the wrong side of a freeway who thinks all the other motorists are wrong.”

Yet most interestingly, Mgr Leonard attributes the criticism of Medjugorje to being the reason that sparked his interest to think twice about Medjugorje and investigate it further. Mgr Leonard had previously shared an interview with the Medjugorje Parish:

“The fact that at the present time in France and in Belgium there exists much opposition to the Medjugorje events, books which criticize Medjugorje, moved me to come and see with my own eyes. I do not wish to judge things, situations, and persons from a distance, only from books. I would rather take a little more personal look.”

“I keep informed also on the questions that the opponents of Medjugorje are asking. One has to hear them, and therefore I read the book of Joachim Boufflet [Medjugorje – Fabricating the Supernatural] from beginning to end. It is written in a polemical tone which does not seem to me to be in place.”

“I believe there exists that which is fundamental, but also accidentals. One is more positive, and the other is more negative.”

Mgr Leonard addressed the criticism ‘where there is prayer, there will be graces and miracles’: “that logic that does not seem to me to be completely correct” explaining “there are many other places in the world where there is prayer, where there is confession, where Eucharist is celebrated, but there are not the same kind of evident fruits!”

“Investigating the fruits is not enough. The facts have to be investigated, but the abundance of positive fruits is in itself a positive evidence, even if it seems to me that there are, as in every human affair, also negative fruits. Wherever there are people, there are also human moments, sometimes far too human. As also among the twelve apostles. . .”

But the Archbishop does not deny the opposition completely, agreeing with some points raised:

“But there are real questions which are asked and which one day have to receive a clear and historically established answer. Accordingly, I accept those questions, but I wish to stay open to the event.”

“I understand why questions are asked and I believe that, there are in this phenomenon of Medjugorje essential things, but there are also parasites. I believe there exists that which is fundamental, but also accidentals. One is more positive, and the other is more negative. In Lourdes the testimony of Bernadette impressed me very much, I would say 100% pure. It seems to me that here there were parasites surrounding the central events.”

“I know bishop friends whose rule of behavior is to say: “Look out, if we are open to the events of Medjugorje, we can perhaps encourage something that is not authentic.” There exists a risk. I am more sensitive to the opposite risk and say: “Just the same, it is possible that Heaven has spoken to people at that place and I do not wish to take the risk of a priori being closed to that grace.” Two risks exist: the risk that we are being deceived in Medjugorje and the risk that we are bypassing a gift of grace.”

“My desire is that those who have the grace and the competence for that, to formulate one day the judgment of the Church about what has happened here. Until then, between the two risks, I prefer to take the risk of being open rather than the risk of a priori being closed to the grace of God which can be operating in this place. Accordingly, therefore, I take the position of openness and prudence.”

Msgr Leonard has since affirmed he awaits the Vatican Announcement and is ready to accept whatever they find.

Archbishop Leonard was not made cardinal, which is normally an historic tradition for all Belgian Primates who are usually elevated to the status cardinal, making Mgr Leonard the first Archbishop in nearly 200 years not to receive the honorary title. Sources tell us reasons for this were allegedly to give other Archbishops the chance to be cardinal rather than automatically giving it to a Belgian Archbishop. Earlier this May, Mgr Leonard submitted his automatic letter of resignation that is compulsory for a bishop at age 75 but often gets renewed. Mgr Leonard’s office was not renewed but the resignation was accepted in what the Catholic Herald called ‘swift’ and Rorate Caeli described as ‘record speed’. Archbishop Leonard will remain in office until September and most likely will not be voting in the Synod.


sources: National Medjugorje Movement,,


Antoine Nader on August 18, 2015 AT 03 pm

Yes, I have seen the Sun spin and beat like a human heart. I have sat at Saint James Church wall and stared at the burning sun for hours. I should be blinded by now with my retinas burned to the core. My doughting Thomas was in my heart as well. But the grace I have witness is the joy of seing thousand praying with fervent confidence that Christ lives and loves each and every pilgram that have been chosen to be in her mantle of grace. And tha includes me and you if you open your heart and mind to Our Lady Of Medjugorje. The true Mother to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Medjugorje is for real. It’s a grace given to us by God. Embrace Our Mother and her messages so you can live in Our Lords Eternal Heaven.

Antoine Nader on August 18, 2015 AT 03 pm

I have been to Medjugorje 6 times in the past 10 years. To personally witness hundreds of thousands praying the Rosary, attending Holy Mass at Saint James Church and watching the lines of people, hundreds deep going to confessions all day long and then meeting and experiencing the wonderful transformation in their life turn to hope and joy with their faith restored. Well, This is called the fruits of Medjugorje. What else is there that one cannot be a witness to. For those of you who donut, go there for yourself to witness in your own eyes the fruits and Grace Of Our Lady Of Medjugorje. Don’t believe the skeptics who are blinded by ignorance and other misgiving thoughts.

    Gary on February 21, 2016 AT 08 pm

    This leaked arppoval could be a pre-emptive strike to get the Medjugoogoos all excited about impending official arppoval, to either apply public pressure for its actual arppoval (yes, it would be nice to believe that even Conciliarists would value truth over public opinion, but it’s not a sure thing) or to incite public outcry and disobedience in the event that arppoval is denied, as happened with the leaked arppoval of contraception prior to Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.On the other hand, a team of Modernists sent by a Modernist Pope could very well find nothing objectionable about a clear fraud if it appears to be popular among protestantized Catholics who want protestantism under a Catholic label .

Antoine Nader on August 18, 2015 AT 11 am

Not only have I witnessed the Sun spin and beating as a human heart beats, in Medjugorje, but I have witnessed two miricales that modern medicin cannot explain. Artie Boyle from Hingham, Masssachusetts. Healed of lung Cancer in Medjugorje in 1999. He recently wrote a book “6 months to live”.
Colleen Willard healed of an inoperable brain Tumor. You can Google their names for more information.
The fruits of Medjugorje are the million who attend Holy Mass and participate in one of the most important sacraments of the Catholic Mass, Confession. The million who are finding hope in knowing that God Lives and Loves each and every one of us. Hope that Heaven is for Real

Jennifer O'Dea on July 25, 2015 AT 08 am

Yes I have been there. My brother and I smelt Our Lady’s fragrance near the rocks. I recognized it as I have experienced it at other places. I know it is authentic! !I just feel it is.I know that satan is behind all the negativity.

    Tallat on February 21, 2016 AT 08 pm

    Medjugorje is a gift from God. The messages are a ptravie revelation and not necessary for salvation as only Christ can supply that, but the messages can help point many to the way to Christ. Diane, if its not for you, that’s great. But why do you have so much negative energy to deprive others of what could help? You are fortunate that you are already living all the information contained in the Medjugorje messages. These are essentially prayer, fasting, reading the scriptures daily, taking the Eucharist, and confession. To say these message are diabolical is non-sense. Say what you will. We’ve heard it all before but you can’t change the fact that Medjugorje was responsible for bringing me to Christ after 20 years of agnosticism and showing me what true faith really means. If it weren’t for Medjugorje, I wouldn’t be in RCIA now. For me and so many thousands of others, Medjugorje has been a beautiful doorway to the Lord’s house. It is wonderful to finally come home.

Kerry Bryan on July 25, 2015 AT 05 am

I pray for Clergy and Lay people around the world to receive thegrace of being open to the grace of Medjugorje . So like myself and millions of other people around the world, including the Monsgnr Leonard can share in the joy and Miracles that Our Lord is allowing to occur there , through the powerful intercession of Our Lady, Queen of Peace.
Gospa pray for us
Kerry Bryan

William on July 24, 2015 AT 02 am

Persons who have never been to this land are the critics…they act as if they have some esoteric knowledge on this phenomena but they do not. They resemble Pharisees. I have been there and it is quite real. Start believing folks or get a map…

Philip Sieve on July 23, 2015 AT 11 pm

Never heard of him. He sounds righteous, but disobedience to two bishops, where his authority lies, by local clergy, religious, seers and followers (an apparition is not worth that), the claim by the apparition that all religions are pleasing to God, etc is too fundamentally damming of the apparition. Then, there’s one lying about smoking a cigarette and another making Our Lady into a road show.

Come on. We know Satan can ape God’s miracles and can set one up for a conversion to bring that one down hard by disobedience when personal feelings interfere. St. Pio did not persist with what he was ordered not to do, and we know that order was unjust, though not inherently evil.

This is not the poor behavior of Bernadette, the Fatima seers and other seers, locutionists and general holy people.

    Lily on September 21, 2015 AT 05 pm

    Satan apes God, however Satan is not stupid to Convert Millions, Heal Millions, Open Millions of Hearts to Proesthood, – I have noticed one thing: the ones that do not believe in Medjugorje HAVE NEVER BEEN THERE. I have taken planes and buses loaded with people there, (unpaid – just to be there) and have seen so many conversions, so many changes in lives that I do feel sorry for the ones that not only did not go there but unknowingly do satans work condemning a place they do not know. Medjugorje is heaven on earth and pay attention, the immigrants, the recent wars, etc all have to do with Her divine presence. She loves us and is helping us – when we do open our hearts.

    Joje on February 21, 2016 AT 08 pm

    such disobedience to the bhisop when he orders them into silence is enough to disqualify, it is a checkmate.Pray for Bishop Peric. This man has carried an enormously heavy cross and I believe it is about to get heavier. If the Vatican fully condemns Medjugorje, using criteria in this handbook to aid priests, bhisops and faithful in understanding, an economic collapse of great magnitude will hit that region. The emotional, physical, spiritual and moral fallout will also be great. I lived there from November of 1980 before it all began through February of 1983 and I can tell you there was nothing in that area but hills, tobacco fields, dirt roads, flocks of sheep, and people of very modest means. Today, it is an area which has mushroomed on 2 million visitors yearly. This will fade suddenly should a condemnation come forth. Good fruits must be weighed with bad fruits. False mystics have been responsible for getting people to pray, for a surge in vocations, for conversions, etc. Satan uses it because he knows that if he can pit anyone against the bhisop – ultimately – the Church, he wins. There is much calumny on the web aimed at the local bhisop who is held in contempt by many Medjugorje followers. The Blessed Mother would never condone such contempt, not even in the heart. Even if he were wrong, she would strongly desire that people err on the side of filial obedience and reverence.It would be great to see this handbook released on February 2 or 11th.

Moira Cross on July 23, 2015 AT 10 pm

I do not worship the visionaries. But my life has been turned around completely by the person that they see. SHE HAS COME HERE TO CALL US BACK FRoM THE BRINK and.the eyes of my soul have been opened. I am so grateful! I NEED ThE MASS IN MY LIFE. I NEED confession.U was LOST snd Now I am found. THANK YOU JESUS fir sending your Mother here to Save our Souls.

    Matthew on February 21, 2016 AT 08 pm

    I have been twice to Medjugorje. I tried very hard to believe what was going on with Visionaries, with their cnosuels, Visions, locutions so on and so forth. But when I take a closer look at their lives, they have wealth and fame beyond their wildest dreams I cannot believe that Our Lady appeared to these children now adults who have grown up to decieve a lot of people. Bernadette and the children of Fatima could have had exactly the same worldly and fleeting net worth as these individuals have, but they chose the way of God, the narrowest gate, not mammon… I think Medjugorje is the biggest deception in History of the Church and mankind…people wake up everyone and smell the coffee!

Michael Seaman on July 23, 2015 AT 02 pm

“Leonard’s spokesman Juergen Mettepenningen, quit his job only three months after joining the archbishop’s office slating “Monsignor Leonard at times acts like a motorist driving on the wrong side of a freeway who thinks all the other motorists are wrong.”

One might recall the words of G. K. Chesterton: “When everyone is running headlong toward a cliff, the guy running in the opposite direction (e.g. the archbishop) is called insane.”

    Bill on September 21, 2015 AT 05 pm

    So you are placing one flinching against MILLIONS OF CONVERSIONS. ok.

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