Fa. Jozo Zovko was born on 19 March 1941 at Uzarići, in the parish of Široki Brijeg. He was born as the eighth of ten children in the family of Mate and Milka née Gugić. He finished his primary school at Široki Brijeg. In 1958 he entered the seminary at Bol on the Island of Brač. In 1962 he entered the noviciate in the Franciscan monastery at Humac, Ljubuški. He started studying theology in Sarajevo in 1963 where he was ordained to the priesthood in June 1967. After the ordination he continued his studies in Ljubljana. The studies finished, he served in the parish of Konjic, then in Čerin as a curate.
He is a member of Pax, a commission with the Council of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia for the production of catechisms and religion-instruction manuals. He is also leader of summer catechetic schools; for the achievements of his pupils at religious-instruction Olympics he was awarded an audience with the Holy Father.
In that same year he went to study in Austria, where at the University of Graz he registered for the postgraduate study of religious pedagogy. In spite of an offer to remain at the University he decided to return to his homeland where he took over the duty of a parish priest in the parish of Posušje. In autumn of 1980 he was transferred from Posušje to the parish of Međugorje to be a parish priest there.
Upon arrival to Međugorje he founded a prayer community and worked on the revival of the Third Order in the parish. At the time of Our Lady’s first apparition on 24 June 1981 he happened to be in Zagreb holding a retreat for nuns. At the beginning he himself was sceptical about the authenticity of the apparitions and called the people to prayer in order to avoid every error and credulity. While praying to the Lord for a sign, he himself had had a personal experience of Our Lady’s presence, and became one of the most powerful witnesses and promoters of Our Lady’s messages.
The government authorities soon started a strong campaign against him accusing him of organising hostile activity against the communist regime, which culminated in his arrest on 17 August 1981. In a rigged trial he was sentenced to three years imprisonment. After an appeal against the pronounced sentence, the Federal Court in Belgrade rejected some parts of the indictment and pronounced a sentence of one and a half years imprisonment.
He served his term in a prison at Foča. Upon release in 1983 he was assigned to the parish of Bukovica. From 1985 to 1991 he lived and worked as a parish priest at Tihaljina.
In 1991 he transferred to Široki Brijeg where he was guardian of the monastery from 1991 to 1994. In February 2009 he took an anno sabatico for health reasons. During the same year he was transferred first to the Island of Badija (Croatia) and then to Frohnleiten (Austria)
Apart from the catecheses to pilgrim groups he met on a daily basis, especially important are intensive seminars he led at Tihaljina, then at Međugorje and Široki Brijeg.
At the time of the Greater-Serbian aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1991 and 1992 he used to visit world’s power centres appealing to them to stop the war. Within this peace mission he spoke twice at the UN Security Council and the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and met many statesmen and politicians in London, Washington, New York, Paris, Brussels and Rome.
He is the founder of the association “International God-Parenthood for the Herzeg-Bosnian Child” with its seat in Zagreb in 1991, and the “International God-Parenthood for the Herzeg-Bosnian Child” with its seat in Široki Brijeg in 1992. These associations have included in their programmes more than 8,000 children who during the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had remained without one or both parents.
From 1996 to 2005 a spiritual renewal was organised for the members of the Association on the Island of Jakljan.
Within the working programme of the Association in Široki Brijeg, one built the Holy Family Institute, a home for the accommodation, education and upbringing of girls without parents. The first girls were admitted to the Institute in October 2000. Since 2001 the god-parenthood programme has included also the children from large, socially vulnerable families as well as the children with developmental difficulties.
On his incentive a prayer movement for peace was founded in 1993 called Prayer Fraternity “Visitation”, which has more than 11,000 members today.
He is also the initiator for the construction of the first institution in the West Herzegovina Canton for the care of children with difficulties in their physical and/or mental development – Home “Mary Our Hope”.
In 2005 the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province entrusted him and the association “International God-Parenthood for the Herzeg-Bosnian Child” with the reconstruction of the Franciscan monastery on Badija.
He is the spiritual guide of many associations arisen from the Međugorje messages: Crown of Thorns, Great Britain; Peace and Good, Italy, etc.
In 1993 he organised a symposium about the martyrs of Široki Brijeg, at which the witnesses of the Franciscan pogrom at Široki Brijeg in 1945 gathered for the first time with an aim to discover the real truth about these events.
Within the mission journeys organised at the invitation of the faithful and local church authorities he visited almost the whole world. He conveyed Our Lady’s messages of peace and love to the faithful in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Korea, Italy, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Poland Chile Syria and Lebanon.
At the invitation of the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land, on Christmas 1999 he participated in a celebration in Bethlehem marking 2000 years of the birth of Jesus Christ.
In the name of the European continent he sent a message of peace from Bethlehem to the world.
In August 2002 the pilgrims from Poland delivered Father Jozo a charter of John Paul II by which the Holy Father bestowed on him a special apostolic blessing.
Today Father Jozo lives and works in the Franciscan monasteri of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province in Zagreb
Some of His Works
On the basis of his homilies and catecheses the following books have been produced:
La mia Testemonianza, edited by Matteo Rossi and Sergio Pagliarol, 1989
Međugorje, Una Testemonianza, edited by Sergio Pagliarolo, 1994
Have No Fear, David, edited by Lise Baril-Leclerc, 1989
Our Lady’s call, edited by Geraldine Hemmings and Carrie Swearingen, 1998
A Novena of the Široki Brijeg Martyrs, edited by Matteo Rossi and Sergio Pagliarol, 1991
A Man Named Father Jozo, edited by Riehle Foundation, 1989
He Ahi A Tu Madre, edited by Maria Victoria Trivino, Osc, 1995
Meditations on Our Lady’s Messages 2004.
Meditations on Our Lady’s Messages 2005.
Oservare i frutti, 2005.
Five Stones, 2008.
Most of these editions were published in Croatian, French, Italian, English, Spanish, German and Korean.
Some of the books containing certain particulars about the life and work of Father Jozo Zovko:
MEDJUGORJE - TESTAMENTO, Rene Laurentin, Segno;
MEDJUGORJE - gli anni 90, Suor Emmanuel, Shalom, p. 205
CARI FIGLI, GRAZIE, Don Pietro Zorza, F.D.A. Eurostampa
AT THE SOURCES OF MEĐUGORJE, Daria Klanac, Sciences et culture - Montreal
MEDJUGORJE IN BILD UND TEXT, Markus Held, Miriam - Verlag, pp. 40 and 41.
Art. 133 of the SFRY PENAL CODE ABOVE MEĐUGORJE, Milan Vuković, Škaler-Erent
ENDOWED WITH GRACE, Milan Vuković, Vuković and Runji