Holy mother draws millions of tourists to Bosnian village

2010-09-04 07:50

Medjugorje, Bosnia – How is it that in three decades Medjugorje, an unheard-of Bosnian village with a few houses and a church, has become an attraction visited every year by 2.3 million tourists from all over the world?

The village’s fame dates from 1981, when six children said they saw the Virgin Mary on the hilltop near the village.

Three of those original witnesses say they see Mary every day, and the other three say she reveals herself to them regularly.

The receivers of the messages say that Mary appears to them during prayer and speaks to them.

They memorise their words and write them down, before the priests distribute them further.

The story of apparitions quickly drew believers to Medjugorje, which is in the Croatian part of Bosnia, halfway between Mostar and the Adriatic port Of Ploce. Croats are overwhelmingly Catholics.

In the early days, there was no infrastructure to cater to the visitors, and drinking water had to be brought to Medjugorje, known for its scorching summers.

Where there once was just empty space, rows of benches now surround the village’s two-towered church.

The priest holds Holy Mass in an open tent in front of the church, but in the summer people tend to huddle in the shade of the few nearby trees.

There are many confessional booths lined up around the church, with priests inside capable of absolving sinners in no fewer than 16 languages.

The apparitions have been accompanied by flourishing commerce.

There are now hotels and hostels with room for 30?000 guests.

Dozens and dozens of shops offer religious memorabilia, and tour-operators from across the world organise visits.

But while Medjugorje thrives on the alleged apparition of the Mother of God, the head of the diocese, Mostar Bishop Ratko Peric, is sceptical.

On his internet site, the bishop noted that Mary’s appearance in other times and places has been much less frequent.

Since 1981, he pointed out, there have been more than 40?000 reported apparitions in Medjugorje.

He asks whether the whole business is “an unacceptable manipulation”, but he stops short of calling it a hoax.

In Medjugorje, Father Tomislav Pervan, a Franciscan priest who served in the local church in the 1980s and has since returned, balks at his own bishop’s suggestions.

“Initial apparitions happened without a priest at hand. For the children it was like lightning from clear sky. One cannot talk six children into telling exactly the same story,” he said.

In March, the Vatican established a commission to investigate the events at Medjugorje.

Whatever doubts there may be in the Catholic Church, they’ve done nothing to thin the ranks of visitors to Medjugorje.

At the peak of the season, 400 busloads of believers arrive each day to watch, pray and shop for souvenirs.

The typical tour includes several masses, confessions, prayers, a visit to one of the six people in touch with the Virgin Mary and a walk to the hilltop where she is said first to have showed herself.

Some visitors come out of desperation – to plead to the Holy Mother to cure an illness or to resolve a family problem, one of the guides said.

While even an unfavourable ruling by the Vatican’s commission is unlikely to discourage people from coming, a confirmation of the miracle would likely push the numbers up.

Two recognised places of apparition, Lourdes in France and Fatima in Portugal, receive six and five million visitors annually – more than twice the number who come to the Bosnian Croat village.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.