|Coordinates: 43°12′N 17°41′E|
|Country||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Entity||Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|- Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
Međugorje (ˈmɛdʑu.ɡɔːrjɛ, roughly meh’-joo-gor-yeh) is a town located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, approximately 15.5 miles (25 km) southwest of Mostar and near the border of Croatia. The town has become well-known due to apparitions of the Virgin Mary, reportedly seen by six local children beginning on June 24, 1981. It is reported that a vision appeared nightly to the six children present, during which time ten "secrets" of future events were revealed. These apparitions are still controversial within the Catholic Church and while some authorities believe in them, they have not been officially accepted.
When word spread of these visions, millions flocked to the town for healing and absolution. The site of the visions, Podbrdo of Mount Crnica, has become known as "Apparition Hill." However, it is nearby Mt. Krizevac that has prominence for pilgrims and where many miracles are reported to occur. The civil war of the early 1990s caused the number of visitors to decline, though it continues to be a popular pilgrimage destination for the faithful.
The name Međugorje is of Slavic origin and translates as "area between two mountains." At an altitude of 200 meters above sea level, it has a mild Mediterranean climate. The town consists of an ethnically-homogeneous Bosnian Catholic population of over 4000, and the Catholic Parish consists of five neighboring villages; Medjugorje, Bijakovići, Vionica, Miletina and Šurmanci.
A Marian apparition is an event in which the Mary, the mother of Jesus is believed to have supernaturally appeared to one or more persons regardless of their religious faith. They are often given names based on the town in which they were reported, or on the sobriquet which was given to Mary on the occasion of the apparition. They have been interpreted in psychological terms as pareidolia, and in religious terms as theophanies. Apparitions sometimes recur at the same site over an extended period of time. In the majority of Marian apparitions only a few people can see Mary.
On June 24, 1981, while on the hill of Podbrdo in Medjugorje, six teenagers—two boys and four girls—saw a vision of Jesus' Mother, Mary, holding the infant Jesus. The following day, four of those six children felt drawn to return to the site, where they again saw the Mother, this time with her arms empty. Word quickly spread and hundreds, then thousands, began gathering daily at the site. This prompted the communist authorities to declare the situation dangerous, and they began harassing the children in an attempt to prevent their return to the site.
The children, Ivan, Ivanka, Jakov, Mirjana, Marija, and Vicka, determined to continue what they believed to be divine visitations, requested protection from their parish priest, Father Jozo Zovko O.F.M. of St. James Church. Father Jozo allowed them to use a room to the side of the sanctuary, later moving to the rectory, where they continued to receive the apparitions. Bishop Zanic forbid them use of the rectory in September 1987, at which time they moved to the choir loft of St. James. Apparitions are reportedly seen in this location by the visionaries to this day.
In the history of the Roman Catholic Church, Mary has appeared in apparition many times throughout the ages, the most recognizable names being Guadalupe (Mexico), La Sallette, and Lourdes (France), Knock (Ireland) and Fatima (Portugal). But never in recorded Marian history has she appeared daily for so long a period of time, to so many chosen visionaries, with such profound global results as in Medjugorje. However, in 1992 the republic's Roman Catholic bishops declared that evidence was lacking to confirm that the apparitions were divinely inspired and attempted to forbid visitations to the site.
The village of Međugorje is located in western Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Herzegovina region around 25 km (16 mi) southwest of Mostar, close to the border of Croatia. It is part of the municipality of Čitluk. The name Međugorje is of Slavic origin and literally means "an area between mountains," namely Crnica (also known as Apparition Hill) above the hamlet of Podbrdo and Krizevac (also known as Cross Hill). The population of Međugorje is made up almost entirely of Croatian Catholics.
Historical sources mention the village for the first time in 1599. The parish of Međugorje (consisting of the villages of Međugorje, Bijakovići, Vionica, Miletina and Šurmanci) was founded in 1892 and put under the protection of Saint James the apostle, patron saint of pilgrims. At an altitude of 200 m (660 ft) above sea level Međugorje has a mild Mediterranean climate. The village people were poor and lived mainly off agriculture, mostly wine, tobacco, and cattle-breeding.
The Catholic parish of Sveti Jakov ("Saint James") was erected in 1892 by the Bishop of Mostar Paškal Buconjić. The twelve-meter tall crucifix on the mountain called Križevac (Cross Mountain), completing the parish's Stations of the Cross (križni put), was completed in 1934.
On June 21, 1941, members of the Croatian Revolutionary Movement Ustasha committed a massacre in the hamlet of Šurmanci against 559 Serb civilians, which led Mostar bishop Alojzije Mišić to write a letter of protest to the Archbishop of Zagreb Aloysius Stepinac. The Communist government of Yugoslavia had the pit containing the bodies sealed with a concrete slab; hence they were only exhumed and reburied at the cemetery of Prebilovci in the neighboring town of Čapljina in 1989.
On June 24, 1981, reports began of Marian apparitions on Crnica hill in the Bijakovići hamlet, and shortly thereafter confrontations with Yugoslav state authorities began. Pilgrims' donations were seized by the police and access to what was called the Apparition Hill was largely blocked.
During the Bosnian War Međugorje remained in the hands of the Croatian Defence Council and in 1993 became part of the internationally unrecognized Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia. By the Dayton Agreement in 1995, Međugorje was incorporated into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, populated mostly by Bosniaks and Croats. It lies within the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, one of ten autonomous regions established so that no ethnic group could dominate the Federation.
On April 2, 1995, at the high point of conflict within the local diocese, Bishop Ratko Perić was kidnapped by Croatian militiamen, beaten, and taken to a chapel run by one of the Franciscans associated with Međugorje, where he was held hostage for ten hours. At the initiative of the mayor of Mostar he was freed without bloodshed, with the help of the United Nations Protection Force.
After the ending of the Bosnian War, peace came to the area: UN peace troops were stationed in western Herzegovina. Efforts by the politician Ante Jelavić to create a Croatian entity were unsuccessful, and Međugorje remained part of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The town and its environs boomed economically after the war. The road network was expanded after the Bosnian War. The Mostar International Airport, located approximately 20 km (12 mi) to the northeast, which was closed in 1991, reopened for civil aviation in 1998 and has made air travel to region easier since then. In addition the hamlet of Šurmanci in the lower Neretva valley has a train station on the route from Ploče to Sarajevo. With approximately one million visitors annually, the municipality of Međugorje has the most overnight stays in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
These are the reports of the six witnesses, who have not only been tested and examined, but have sworn under oath the veracity of their experiences with Mary, known affectionately as "Gospa."
On June 24, 1981, six youth—Ivanka Ivanković, Mirjana Dragićević, Vicka Ivanković, Ivan Dragićević, Ivan Ivanković and Milka Pavlović—reported seeing what they described as "an incredibly beautiful young woman with a little child in her arms." Though she didn't speak, she gestured them nearer. They immediately recognized this to be a visit from Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The following day the group decided to return to the site of the previous day's visitation, the area of Crnica hill known as Podbrdo, at the same time of day, 6:00 p.m. Following a flash of light, they looked up and saw her again, this time without the child. The children approached and dropped to their knees in prayer. After the prayer she began to speak with the children. This event was agreed to be "indescribable" by those present.
On this particular day, two of the children from the previous day, Ivan Ivanković and Milka Pavlović, were not with them but were replaced by two others: Marija Pavlović and Jakov Čolo. This group of six from the second day of visitation report that Mary regularly appears to them. Milka Pavlović and Ivan Ivanković, from the first day, have reported only sporadic visitations since that time.
Having been told that she would come again the next day, the children set off to Podbrdo, again at 6:00 in the evening. While still in route, they saw a light flash three times and Mary again appeared. She suddenly disappeared, but reappeared as the group began to pray. Having been advised to bring holy water "to make sure that it was not of Satan," Vicka splashed it in the direction of the vision saying, “If you are Our Blessed Mother, please stay, and if you are not, go away from us." When Mirjana asked her name, she replied, “I am the Blessed Virgin Mary." As they descended the hill, Mary appeared one more time, saying, “Peace, peace, peace and only peace. Peace must reign between man and God, and between all people!”
Mary appeared three times to the children on the fourth day. This time, the children felt free to converse freely, asking many questions and receiving advice and guidance in return. By this time, the visionaries had begun to be accused of lying and of taking drugs. Mary encouraged them with "Do not be afraid of anything."
By this time large crowds began gathering. By noon of the fifth day there were reported to be about 15,000 people. Mary came and went many times that day. At one point, the children asked her why she didn't appear in the Parish Church for everyone to see. She replied," Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." On the same day, the Parish Priest, Fr. Jozo Zovko, examined the children on what they had seen and heard in the previous days.
The children were taken to the nearby city of Mostar for medical examinations after which they were proclaimed "healthy." The chief examining doctor reportedly stated, "The children aren't crazy, the person who brought them here must be though."
The crowds on "Apparition Hill" that day were greater than ever, and the first reported miracle occurred. Daniel Šetka had come with her parents to the site with the express purpose of healing. Mary exhorted the parents to pray, fast and believe. The child thereupon was healed.
On this day, the children were tricked into going a distance by vehicle "to be able to stroll in peace." However, while traveling they didn't fell right and demanded to be let out of the car. Immediately, Mary drew near to them from the direction of Podbrdo, which by this time was over a kilometer away. This gave them confidence in continued visitations, no matter the location.
Soon following, the police began to hinder the children and pilgrims enroute to Podbrdo; eventually attendance at this site was forbidden as it was deemed a "danger." However, Mary continued to appear to them in secret places, in their homes and in the fields.
Since they could no longer visit Apparition Hill, as it had come to be called, the Parish Priest began to host the pilgrims in the Church, enabling them to participate in the rosary and to celebrate the Eucharist. At times the children received visitations there. Though the priest's original motivation had been purely of kindness rather than belief, he eventually became their defender after having experienced a visitation himself. He testified his support of the apparitions, even to the point of serving a prison sentence.
Beginning in January 1982, the children utilized a closed off area of the Parish Church for safety reasons. In April 1985 the Diocesan Bishop stepped in and prohibited the church's use, so the children began to gather in a room in the Parish house.
From the original visitation until today, there have only been five days when none of the children saw Mary. She has not, however, limited her visitations according to locations or people gathered. The length of the visits has also varied, from minutes to an hour.
The apparitions in Medjugorje have appeared in various places in or near the city, to people of different age, stature, race, education and walks of life. They have occurred at previously specified times, or unexpectedly. This has led the faithful to believe that the apparitions are not a product of the imagination but real visits.
The six visionaries who gathered on the second day of visitation are now adults. They have continued to daily communicate with Mary, following the guidance and messages they receive from her.
The six children, the visionaries, have given testimony to the receipt of a series of messages given by Mary. Though many messages have been received, they can be summarized into five basic themes. They were instructed to convey these messages to the people. The theme of the messages follow.
The first message given on the third day of visitation was "Peace, peace, peace and only peace! Peace must reign between God and man and between people." Many of her messages have continued this theme. While appearing in Medjugorje, she specifically refers to herself as the "Queen of Peace."
On the fourth, fifth and sixth day of apparitions, those present were exhorted to have strong faith. This message has been repeated many times, with the admonition that without faith we cannot arrive at peace. Mary has continually stressed the importance of faith on every occasion and charged the visionaries to bring the light of faith to others. Faith has been stressed as a solution to every problem. She presented it as the pre-requisite of all prayer, desires and demands, relating it to health, wholeness and to all other human necessities.
This has been the content of many messages. However, the conversion she speaks of is explained not as a conversion to a particular religious persuasion, but the conversion of the heart. True conversion means the purifying or cleansing of the heart.
On the fifth day of apparitions Mary began counseling those gathered to pray. "Pray without ceasing." Prayer stimulates and strengthens one's faith, bringing order to the relationship with God.
On the sixth day of the apparitions, Mary began recommending fasting for its aid to faith. Fasting strengthens ones domination of himself, resulting in true freedom and ability to surrender to God.
A summary of the messages received from Mary is that peace is the ultimate goal. The accomplishment of that peace is most easily attainable through the practices of faith (confidence), conversion (internal change), prayer (communion with God) and fasting (self-discipline).
The six visionaries have dedicated their lives to the visions they've received and the messages and personalized intentions bequeathed to each. Each has been instructed through their visions to focus on a particular need in their prayers. These are:
Vicka, prays for the sick; Ivan, prays for the young people and the priests; Marija, prays for the souls in purgatory and the nuns; Jakov, prays for the sick; Mirjana, prays for all unbelievers; and Ivanka, who prays for the families.
In addition to the messages, the Virgin Mary promised to confide to each of the six visionaries ten "secrets" on future events, some of which are personal to the visionaries themselves, and some of which concern the whole world. As of 2008, three visionaries, Mirjana, Ivanka, and Jakov, report they have received all ten messages, while Ivan, Marija and Vicka say they have received nine each. The six visionaries would eventually each know all ten secrets, but none has fully disclosed them except to announce that they include chastisements for the world and that they will begin during the lifetimes of the visionaries. As each receives all ten secrets, Mary ceases appearing to them on a daily basis, but appears once a year.
The visionaries have so far revealed only one of the "secrets": Mary has promised to leave a supernatural, indestructible, and visible sign on the mountain where she first appeared. She said: "This sign will be given for the atheists. You faithful already have signs and you have become the sign for the atheists. You faithful must not wait for the sign before you convert; convert soon. This time is a time of grace for you. You can never thank God enough for His grace. The time is for deepening your faith and for your conversion. When the sign comes, it will be too late for many."
It is believed that once all six visionaries receive all ten secrets, Mary will stop appearing, and three warnings will be given to the world. It is expected that many healings and conversions will occur before the warnings become reality.
Catholics are divided on the credibility of the alleged visions. Negative judgments, expressed early by the local Bishop, Pavao Zanić, have been voiced by writers such as Michael Davies and E. Michael Jones, who suggested, among many other objections, that the alleged apparitions may have been used by the local Franciscan Order to challenge the authority of the diocese. The region in which Medjugorje lies is reported to have seen centuries of rivalry between members of the Franciscan Order, which runs the parish, and the diocesan hierarchy, in particular the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, the diocese to which Medjugorje belongs. Davies and Jones suggest this conflict played a part in initial, and continuing, opinions within Catholicism.
Another early suspected influence on the reaction to the apparitions at Medjugorje was the ruling communist government. Ironically, it was the Bishop who initially supported Medjugorje, while the key Franciscan Father Jozo Zovko, OFM, was not convinced until, while praying in St James church, he received a message to "protect the children." Subsequently, both were called in by the communist secret police who gave orders to stop the "disorder," claiming it to be a counter-revolution. Father Jozo refused and was sent to jail for three years, but was released after serving half his sentence. After a period of silence, bishop Pavao Zanic actively joined in challenging what was happening in Medjugorje. He wrote two statements which he sought to have distributed worldwide, as well as edited two written statements directed worldwide as well: "The actual (unofficial) position of the Episcopal curit of Mostar in reference to the happenings of Medjugorje," of October 30, 1984, and "Medjugorje, 1990."
The Catholic Church still does not hold an official position for or against the supernatural nature of the facts of Medjugorje, possibly waiting for the end of the apparitions. However, many believers and religious leaders (including Bishops) are coming from all the parts of the globe to Medjugorje, which has now received, depending on the sources, twenty to over forty million pilgrims and, according to the same sources, has now become the main Shrine of Christianity.
Many Bishops are backing the authenticity of the claims about Medjugorje, including the Bishop of La Réunion, Monsignor Gilbert Aubry and the Bishop of Split, Frane Franic. Three medical committees also claim to have proof and evidence about the supernatural origin of the facts happening in Medjugorje. On the other hand, the current Bishop of Mostar, Monsignor Perić, however, claims that there is no evidence for the supernatural in the phenomena of Medjugorje, holding the same opinion of his predecessor, Monsignor Zanić.
In summary, according to Colin B. Donovan, STL., the position of the Catholic Church is thus:
Catholics may go to Medjugorje. Such pilgrimages may even include priests acting as chaplains, as opposed to officially sponsoring them. Also, the Church has not suppressed discussion of Medjugorje, therefore, it is allowed. Common sense, however, says that Catholics on both sides of the Medjugorje issue should exercise prudence and charity in speaking of others who believe differently. Medjugorje is not a litmus test of orthodoxy, though every Catholic will have a moral obligation to accept the judgement of Rome, in the manner Pope Benedict explained, should it ever be rendered. 
In March 2010, the Holy See announced that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was forming an investigative commission, composed of bishops, theologians, and other experts, under the leadership of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's former Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome. The Commission is expected to report any findings to the Congregation, which has responsibility for any possible judgment on the case.
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