When the police and officials of the Communist League demanded Father Jozo Zovko to discontinue the evening mass and close St. James's Church, he refused and drove to Sarajevo to argue his case before the Commission of Religious Affairs. The commission chairman shouted at him, charging that the assemblies in Medjugorje were more political than religious, that their true purpose was the furtherance of Croatian nationalism and that the mastermind behind it all would be prosecuted.
On 11 August 1981, Father Jozo Zovko was summoned to the Communist Party headquarters in Mostar and was given a final warning to abolish the evening mass at St. James's and stop the crowds from assembling on Apparition Hill. Father Jozo responded that he would continue to celebrate mass as long as people came to the church. Father Jozo therefore had to face trial on a charge of treasonous conspiracy that would carry a long prison term. Father Jozo's trial began and ended on 21 October 1981. He was convicted of sedition, a crime that could carry a death sentence. Indeed he was not sentenced until the next morning and was given a reduced term of three and a half years in prison. As what the Virgin Mary said to the visionaries, "His punishment would not be severe."
Who is the real hero of Medjugorje? It is human nature that everyone tends to save his own skin first in times of danger. But the opposite seems to be true of Father Jozo Zovko. He did not betray Medjugorje to save his skin. He was ready to go to prison for Medjugorje - for the truth. Father Jozo is very devout. He is a priest of great charisma.
In his book, "The Truth About Medjugorje", Father Dr. Ljudevit Rupcic clearly explains this situation. The following excerpt is taken from pages 70 - 73 of this book of truth.
THE RECKLESS REVERSAL
Shortly after this, however (summer of 1981), the bishop began to change his mind about the events, although there was no important change in Medjugorje itself to account for it. The explanation for the bishop's change of attitude is to be found outside Medjugorje.
The communist and (officially) atheist state management in Yugoslavia soon began to take note of the fact that the Bishop of Mostar's positive stance toward the apparitions - expressed clearly in his oral and written statements, as well as his public appearances - stood in contrast to the official state attitude toward the events, namely, that the apparitions were counter-revolutionary. This had been publicly announced on July 4, 1981 in Sutjeska by the then-President of the Communist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Branko Mikulic. Officials of the State Security Police, through the Executive Committee, summoned Zanic to Sarajevo and there threatened to imprison him unless he stopped speaking in favor of the apparitions. Their threat worked effectively on the bishop, who returned to Mostar another man. It is difficult to say, at this juncture, just how much the bishop really had to fear. People react differently to situations like these.
During the same period, Fr. Jozo Zovko was also summoned to see the U.D.B.A. (State Security). They threatened Father Jozo with imprisonment if he didn't change his (favorable) stance towards the Medjugorje apparitions. No doubt, the threats levelled at the bishop and at Father Jozo were similar, since they were both "guilty" of the same "crime". But Father Jozo continued to act according to his convictions while, at the same time, trying not to provoke the U.D.B.A. into carrying out their threats. Fr. Jozo, as pastor of the parish, wished to continue to influence the course of events in Medjugorje - events he was now convinced were coming from God through the Gospa.
Faced with the threat of imprisonment, Father Jozo continued to support Medjugorje, knowing full well the risks to which he exposed himself in doing so. The bishop, however, in the same situation, and confronted with the same threat, reacted differently. Unfortunately, for some men, humiliation is to be preferred to suffering.
Immediately after his face-to-face meeting with the U.D.B.A., the bishop called Fr. Jozo and related to him how he had been interrogated by the Executive Committee in Sarajevo and how, on his arrival back in Mostar, 12 of his priests had met him and upbraided him for his positive stand on Medjugorje. After this he told Fr. Jozo, "I cannot expose myself anymore. I am not ready to go to prison for Medjugorje." At that time, the bishop did not indicate that he no longer believed in the apparitions, even less that he had found some evidence against them.
On August 17, 1981, Fr. Jozo was arrested and, in the end, sentenced to a three and a half years of hard labor because of his stand on Medjugorje. Imprisoned wih him were Fr. Ferdo Vlasic, and later on, Fr. Jozo Krizic.
The situation grew more and more tense. In those days, it was very dangerous to utter even a word in favor of Medjugorje. For example, when a hardly noticeable comment appeared in "Nasa Ognjista," which is published in Duvno, the Secretary of the Religious Commission of the Republic, Filip Simic, angrily attacked the editorial staff of the paper, saying that both state and religious authorities (here having in mind Bishop Zanic and the Franciscan "provincial" Pejic) had agreed that nothing should be written about Medjugorje. With that, "Nasa Ognjista" was suppressed.
Immediately after he was released from prison (February 18, 1983), Fr. Jozo paid a visit to the bishop. In the conversation, among other things, they touched on Medjugorje. The bishop tried on this occasion to justify his actions, stating that, under the circumstances, it was not "possible" for him to have acted differently than he did, threatened as he was by the U.D.B.A. with imprisonment. Besides this, he mentioned once again the pressure brought to bear on him from diocesan priests and from some Franciscans not to intervene on Medjugorje's behalf. He said that priests had written, reproaching him for his support of the apparitions. These (diocesan) priests were against Medjugorje and feared that the Franciscans would gain prestige if the apparitions were approved. He also referred to a small circle of Franciscans around Pejic which had asked the U.D.B.A. for a favor and, therefore, were in no mood to offend it for the sake of Medjugorje.
In such a situation, the bishop had "had" to think of his own interests, he told Fr. Jozo. "How could I have acted differently?" the bishop asked. "I could not have gone to prison for Medjugorje," he said, thinking of the U.D.B.A. threat, "nor did I wish to go from being bishop to assistant pastor of a village," referring to pressure from his diocesan priests. He feared the U.D.B.A. because they could imprison him, and his priests because he was a newcomer in the diocese and the clergy had threatened him with some sort of boycott (if he had continued to support Medjugorje).
Because of his fears, and because he saw the possibility of being attacked on all sides, he realized he faced the choice of either abdicating (his authority) or completely rejecting Medjugorje.