Luka Balvan | Zlatko Sudac | Frane Franic | Mirjana Dragicevic Soldo | Jakov Colo | Jozo Zovko | Ivan Dragicevic | Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic | Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti

ARCHBISHOP FRANE FRANIC:
THANKS TO OUR LADY MEDJUGORJE IS THE SPRING OF OUR FAITH

We dedicate this interview to late archbishop Frane Franic, which we had before he passed away in March of 2007. He spent his retiring days in peace, in parish house of St. Peter cathedral in Split. The space he lived in, where we had our conversation, was filled with harmony and peace, just like a person escorted through the life by Our Lady should. His old age was prohibitive of longer walks and conversations, but he was happy to respond to our call and remember the beginnings of Medjugorje apparitions and details from his life.

Father Frane Franic was retired archbishop of Split for almost two decades. He spent 34 years in diocese on various duties. On December 17th, 1950 he became bishop and on September 10th, 1988 his very good friend Holy Father John Paul II retired him as archbishop. He published six books and more than two hundred scientific articles on theology, mostly published in Split's Vjesnik. He established magazine for intellectuals, which was taken over by University of Theology in Split. He came to Medjugorje at the beginning of Our Lady apparitions and was there 65 times

Archbishop Frane Franic was born on December 29th in 1912 in Kastel Kambelovac. Like other villagers, his father worked in America to support his family. Because of hard work he got ill and died in 1920 when Frane was only seven and a half years old.

- Wish for clergy, I remember it well, I developed at age of 8 - archbishop told us and tears sparkled in his eyes. - People from Kambelovac who have worked with my father in America were saying that my father was always saying that I'll become a bishop but communists would kill me. Soon his vision and wish almost came true. I became a bishop and communists hunted me since 1953, when my mother died, all the way to the 80's.

* Father archbishop, have you heard about apparitions in Medjugorje in the beginning?
- One Jesuit, professor from University in Milan, heard from a friend about me and one evening in 1981 he visited us in Split and stayed over. He asked about Medjugorje, how he would get there and if I would go with him. I told him that I am bishop and I couldn't go among first. He then said that I am the one who should go among the first. Nevertheless, he went alone.
A month later, an American professor from Rome, who got information about me, asked me to go with him to Medjugorje because he didn't know the directions nor the language. Again, I hesitated but he was convincing me that Medjugorje is full of cars and buses with Split license plates and that people were coming there because of Our Lady's apparitions. He was telling me that in private proclamatiosn Church didn't say that Our Lady appears in Fatima or Lourdes, but proclaimed them places of general prayer. This way support was given indirectly, but for private proclamation Church doesn't guarantee because everyone decides for himself to be for or against them.

* But still you gave in to temptations and you were the first bishop who visited Medjugorje?
- Right before Christmas of 1981 I went to Medjugore and was sure in truthfulness of events. I talked a lot with priests and pilgrims who had conversions. I went privately like any other man, never dressed as a bishop. It was a free private proclamation and I wasn't telling anyone to believe, even though many liked to tell it that way to diminish the reality of events. I saw the whole world coming there, making it the prayer place of the whole Church. It gave me even more confidence in Our Lady's apparitions. Afterwards, I went on pilgrimages to Medjugorje whenever I had a chance. Thanks to Our Lady, Medjugorje became a season of spring of our faith and Church.

* Were you impressed by something at that time?
- The first time I was there it was winter and everything was covered in snow. I arrived at night, while the mass was being held. There were many people in front of confessionals, especially the young, boys and girls. It was so pleasant to see it touched my heart. Once I had written that in a single day in Medjugorje, more people make confessions then in Split during holidays.

* Have you changed your attitude since?
- No. Our Lady appeared as a Queen of Peace. Those against it were saying a Queen of Peace wasn't needed since there was no war. Then I said: if it's from God, it won't fall, if it isn't from God, it will fall by itself and we can wait. God works over people.

* Were you in contact with the visionaries?
I was in contact with the visionaries, but wasn't asking them anything special, for me it was more like a place of prayer of Church. Visionaries were healthy young children from Herzegovina, grew up, got married. In the beginning I was little sad about it, I was thinking at least one wouldn't, but even the last one, Vicka, got married and had a child. Then I realized that Second Vatican Council said that Christian marriage is one step from the holiness. At other private proclamations most went to monastery and Medjugorje visionaries got married and if they live it correctly it can be interpreted as polarization of marriage as a way to holiness. Our lady announced the way and raised the visionaries to civilization of life, not civilization of death.

* You were a part of Second Vatican Council. How would you interpret your work in the council?
At Second Vatican Council I held 18 speeches and all were published in the book. Two thirds of the book (700 pages) are comments in French and Croatian. My speeches were deemed conservative. Foremost, I was defending the authority of the Pope. He is the head of the board of bishops and with them he can have a general assembly, but as a head of the assembly he can order something everybody need to listen. To St. Peter it was said: "I'll build the Church upon you" and this is how I interpreted it and how my mother thought me. I held a speech before voting in the name of minority because I was a member of committee of theological doctrine in the assembly. There were 30 bishops, mostly professors. After the voting, the Pope gave a note that interprets the text. He didn't say the text was incorrect, but he only supplemented it half-heartedly. He put in that the Pope can use his authority, given by Christ, to order bishops to listen him. They couldn't say no to that. It was winning only in written form.

* How do you see the Church today?
- Nothing changed much. It's still boiling in the Church.

* Let's get back to the question of communists hunting you. What was the reason?
- I don't like remembering those times. The communist had their role at the time. They were mocking and hunting me wherever they could. My act of banning the affiliation of priests, which worked for communist regime, they resented the most. I was strict and said that priests who join the affiliation can't hold mass in diocese of Split-Makarska. There were huge problems and pressures on me in all media, that I'm against the regime, anti-establishment, etc. They wanted to discredit me and marginalize my role so they could remove me easily.

* It lasted for a while.
- Too long. It left scars that started blossoming only when Croatia arrived. Let it all be forgotten.

* After all these uncomfortable memories, how would you describe Medjugorje?
- Regarding Medjugorje, it's listed under private proclamations and the Church doesn't guarantee they are from God, but looks at it as a place of prayer, life of faith and the prayer of the whole Church. For me, pilgrims from around the world, prayers, conversions, miracles and even physical healings, are great proof of Mary's presence.

* Father archbishop, what would you say to believers and pilgrims who come to Medjugorje?
- The most important is that there is love among us believers. Among Catholics there shouldn't be two sides that hate each other for believing or not believing in Medjugorje apparitions. We have to be tolerant to each other, because Medjugorje doesn't serve as a hate, but love. Our Lady is the Queen of prophets, the Queen of apostles, the Queen of martyrs. She is our biggest prophet. She came to Medjugorje as representative of all graces and redemptions, like Jesus Christ deserved redemption for us because his sacrifice was bigger then all our sins. Mary's sacrifice and co-redemption isn't from righteousness but decency. In a way She co-operates with Jesus in redeeming the world. This is what I think, but some won't agree with me. I respect that.