Pope Benedict XVI has authorised severe cautionary and disciplinary measures against Fr Tomislav Vlasic, the former spiritual director to six children who said Our Lady was appearing to them at the site in Bosnia.
The Franciscan priest was suspended after he refused to co-operate with a Vatican probe of scandalous sexual immorality “aggravated by mystical motivations”.
Fr Vlasic, who fathered a child with a nun, was a central figure in promoting the apparitions that allegedly began in 1981 and continue to this day. The seers say they have seen Our Lady more than 40,000 times in the past 27 years.
Three Church commissions failed to support the claims and the bishops of the former Yugoslavia declared in 1991 that “it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations”.
In a statement posted on the website of the diocese which includes Medjugorje, Bishop Ratko Peric explained that Fr Vlasic was being investigated “for the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspicious mysticism, disobedience toward legitimately issued orders” and charges that he violated the sixth commandment.
In 1985 the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, banned official, diocesan or parish-sponsored pilgrimages to the shrine.
Fr Vlasic is the second spiritual adviser to the visionaries to be suspended from ministry. Similar action was taken against Fr Jozo Zovko in 2004. Fr Vlasic has been confined to a monastery in Italy and banned from contact with the Queen of Peace community he founded, or with his lawyers without permission.
He is also banned from making public appearances, preaching and hearing confessions, and will be required to make a solemn profession of the Catholic faith.
The Vatican has warned the priest he will be excommunicated if he violates any of the prohibitions.
In 1984 he wrote to Pope John Paul II to say that he was the one “who through divine providence guides the seers of Medjugorje”.
Four years later, when it was revealed he had fathered a child, he moved to Parma where he set up the Queen of Peace community which is dedicated to the Medjugorje apparitions.