Father Jozo Zovko OFM, parish priest in Medjugorje at the time of the apparitions, was away when the visions began. On his return, on the 27th June, he was not convinced by the
rumours which were circulating. He told the following story in his sermon at the Croatian Mass on the 25th June 1993.
'I felt alone and sad. Why don’t they (the children) listen to me? I never thought; why don’t I hear them? Then one day it happened; they came to the church and I went to the hill.
'The apparitions are a reality. I heard the voice in my heart. ‘Go out. Protect the children.’ The children had asked to be protected from the policeman. So I went back to the church and took the children to the rectory. It was then, that Our Lady came much closer to my heart."
'The children said: ‘Our lady will come to the church.’ and our Lady came blessing us all.’
God needs us
And without us His flame cannot be released.’
Because of a sermon he had given, which was seen as an insurrection against the Communist government, Father Jozo was arrested and sentenced on the 17th August 1981 to three and a half years hard labour. This sentence was later commuted to eighteen months. He did not lose his faith during imprisonment and it is reported that Our Lady appeared to him whilst there.
During his exile the apparitions to the children continued and the Franciscan friars, from the parish of St. James, began the daily practice of the rosary devotions and Mass each evening in the church.