|Country||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Entity||Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
Međugorje, or Medjugorje,[note 1] (Croatian pronunciation: [medʑuɡoːrje]) is a town located in the Herzegovina region of western Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 25 km (16 mi) southwest of Mostar and close to the border of Croatia. The town is part of the municipality of Čitluk. Since 1981, it has become a popular site of religious pilgrimage due to reports of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local Catholics.
The name Međugorje literally means "between mountains". At an altitude of 200 m (660 ft) above sea level it has a mild Mediterranean climate. The town consists of an ethnically homogeneous Croat population of over 4,000. The Roman Catholic parish (local administrative and religious area) consists of five neighbouring villages: Medjugorje, Bijakovići, Vionica, Miletina and Šurmanci.
Following reports of apparitions, successive bishops of Mostar ruled the claims groundless. In March 2010, in view of continued public interest, 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.
- 1 History
- 2 Notable people
- 3 Gallery
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
To the east of Medjugorje in the Neretva valley, the Serbian Orthodox Žitomislić Monastery has stood since 1566. Gravestones erected in the Middle Ages have remained to this day in the Catholic cemetery Groblje Srebrenica in the hamlet of Miletina as well as in the hamlet of Vionica. In the area of the cemetery in Miletina, structures from the Roman era stood, whose ruins have not yet been fully excavated.
19th and early 20th centuries
The Catholic parish of Sveti Jakov ("Saint James") was erected in 1892 by the Bishop of Mostar Paškal Buconjić. The twelve-metre tall crucifix on the mountain called Križevac (Cross Mountain), completing the parish's Stations of the Cross (križni put), was completed in 1934.
Second World War
In 1941, when Medjugorje belonged to the Independent State of Croatia, the Serbian Orthodox Žitomislić Monastery was plundered by the Ustasha, and its refectory was burned down. On 21 June 1941, in the immediate neighborhood of Medjugorje, Ustashas buried alive seven Serbian monks from the Žitomislić Monastery. Incidentally, the alleged 1981 apparition took place shortly after the 40th anniversary of the cowardly crime.
On 4 August 1941, 600 armed Ustasha, led by Ivan Jovanovic Crni from Mostar, committed a massacre in the hamlet of Šurmanci against 559 unarmed Christian Orthodox Serb civilians from the nearby village of Prebilovci. Along with 1,300 Serbs from Čapljina and Mostar, the Serbs from Prebilovci were thrown alive into deep natural pits. Medjugorje is located in the immediate vicinity of the Golubinka pit, the most notorious site of mass execution of Serbs. The massacre 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.
"Our Lady of Medjugorje" and "Our Lady Queen of Peace" are the titles given to the Blessed Virgin Mary by those who believe that she has been appearing since 24 June 1981 to six children in Medjugorje (then part of communist Yugoslavia).
The visionary Marija Lunetti (Pavlović) claims to receive messages from the Virgin Mary on the twenty-fifth of every month, while Mirjana Soldo (Dragičević) reports receiving messages on the second of the month.
The messages attributed to Our Lady of Medjugorje have a strong following among Catholics worldwide. Medjugorje has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Catholics in the world and has turned into Europe's third most important apparition site, where each year more than 1 million people visit. It has been estimated that 30 million pilgrims have come to Medjugorje since the reputed apparitions began in 1981. Many have reported visual phenomena including the sun spinning in the sky or changing color and figures such as hearts and crosses around the sun. Some visitors have suffered eye damage while seeking to experience such phenomena. Jesuit Father Robert Faricy has written about his own experience of such phenomena, saying, "Yet I have seen rosaries which have changed colour, and I have looked directly at the sun in Medjugorje and have seen it seem to spin and turn different colors. It would be easier to report that it is just hysteria except that I would then have to accuse myself of being hysterical, which I was not and am not."
Official position of the church
As is typical for all claims of private revelation the Catholic Church follows a standard criterion for evaluating apparitions. There are two possible judgments: constat de supernaturalitate and non constat de supernaturalitate.
Successive Church statements
On 2 October 1997, Bishop Ratko Perić of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno, in which Medjugorje is situated, wrote: "On the basis of the serious study of the case by 30 of our 'studiosi', on my episcopal experience of five years in the Diocese, on the scandalous disobedience that surrounds the phenomenon, on the lies that are at times put into the mouth of the 'Madonna', on the unusual repetition of "messages" of over 16 years, on the strange way that the 'spiritual directors' of the so-called 'visionaries' accompany them through the world making propaganda of them, on the practice that the 'Madonna' appears at the 'fiat' of the 'visionaries', my conviction and position is not only non constat de supernaturalitate [the supernaturality is not proven] but also the other formula constat de non supernaturalitate [the non-supernaturality is proven] of the apparitions or revelations of Medjugorje."
On 26 May 1998, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, writing as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated that these comments of Bishop Perić "should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion."
In the same letter, Archbishop Bertone stressed that "it is not the practice of the Holy See to assume, in the first instance, a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena". Accordingly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith limited itself to what the Yugoslav bishops had stated in their 1991 Zadar declaration: "On the basis of the investigations conducted to this point, it is not possible to affirm that it is a case of apparitions or of supernatural revelations".
The same letter and similar statements of various dates reiterated what the Zadar declaration laid down regarding pilgrimages to Medjugorje: they are permitted conditionally, but are not to be "organized by any bishop, diocese, parish, or other group and on condition they do not give authentication to the events at Medjugorje".
In February 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith informed Tomislav Vlašić, the spiritual director and pastor of Medjugorje, that he was under investigation "for the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspect mysticism, disobedience towards legitimately issued orders, and charges contra sextum" (i.e., of sexual misconduct), and ordered him to stay at a Franciscan convent in Lombardy, take a course of theological and spiritual formation, not have contact with the "Queen of Peace..." association, not get involved in juridical contracts or acts of administration, and not engage in preaching, spiritual direction, public statements. His faculties to hear sacramental confession were withdrawn, and breach of these instructions would involve automatic interdict. In May 2008, the Congregation informed Bishop Perić that Vlašić had in fact incurred the penalty of automatic interdict. In July 2009, Vlašić, who was unwilling to accept the sanctions imposed on him, was laicized at his own request.
On 17 March 2010, the Holy See announced that, at the request of the bishops of Bosnia Herzegovina, it had established a commission, headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to examine the Medjugorje phenomenon.
On 21 October 2013, the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States communicated, on behalf of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that, in the light of the 1991 Zadar declaration about the Medjugorje events, Catholics, whether clergy or laypeople, "are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted".
Development of the pilgrimage site
On 24 June 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.
In October 1981, Father Jozo Zovko, then the parish priest of the town, was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment with forced labor for allegedly participating in a nationalistic plot. After Amnesty International, among others, appealed for his release and a judicial appeal was made, the sentence was reduced in the Yugoslav Federal Court in Belgrade to one and a half years, and the priest was released from prison in 1983.
Medjugorje during the Bosnian War
During the Bosnian War Medjugorje 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, Medjugorje 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 2 April 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 Medjugorje, 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.
The Dutch professor of anthropology at the Free University, Amsterdam, Mart Bax, wrote in several publications that there had been mass killings due to a vendetta between clans during the beginning of the Bosnian war in 1991 and 1992. After much investigative research by journalists in several newspapers and comments from other scholars it turned out beyond reasonable doubt in April 2013 at latest that these mass killings never occurred.
Development after the war
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 Medjugorje remained part of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The town and its environs boomed economically after the war. Over a thousand hotel and hostel beds are available for pilgrims to the town. With approximately one million visitors annually, the municipality of Medjugorje has the most overnight stays in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
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. The road network was expanded after the Bosnian War. In addition the hamlet of Šurmanci in the lower Neretva valley has a train station on the route from Ploče to Sarajevo.
On 6 April 2001 demonstrations occurred in the region, with some violence, after the NATO-led Stabilisation Force had closed and searched the local branches of the Hercegovačka banka ("Herzegovina Bank"), through which a large part of the currency transactions in Herzegovina, including international donations intended for Medjugorje, were carried out, on suspicion of white-collar crime. The Franciscan Province responsible for the parish was a shareholder of the bank.
- "dj" was replaced by "đ" in Gaj's Latin alphabet, but continues to be used in the majority of English-language sources, either by choice or out of typographic limitation.
- Medjugorje.org – Overview of Medjugorje
- András Riedlmayer: Zitomislici, Haverford College, undated, in the Internet Archive
- Franjo Sušac: Stećci, Turistička zajednica općine Čitluk, 2002; cf. also Town map
- Presentation of the region's history on the website of the Informativni Centar Međugorje
- Medjugorje, Description of the town at truepeace.com.au
- Medjugorje auf friedenskoenigin.de
- E. Michael Jones: The Ghosts of Surmanci, South Bend (Indiana), February 1998
- Roger Cohen: Serbian Church Blocking Pope's Visit to Belgrade, New York Times, 6. September 1994
- A short history of Our Lady's apparitions in Medjugorje
- Seer Marija Lunetti who reports to receive the twenty-fifth message
- Seer Mirjana Soldo who reports to receive the message on the second of the month
- Australian dies in Bosnia bus crash. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
- RomeReports: Visionaries of Medjugorje may appear before the Vatican. Retrieved Feb 26 2011.
- Vatican Probes Claims of Apparitions at Medugorje Reuters. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
- Randy Campo MD, Jack Sipperley MD, et al. (May 1988). "Correspondence". New England Journal of Medicine (Republished on the internet by Mary Ann Button, O.D.) 318 (18): 1207.
- Ralph Nix MD, David Apple MD (August 1987). "Solar Retinopathy from Sungazing in Medjugorje". Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society (Republished on the internet by Mary Ann Button, O.D.) 139 (8): 36–40. PMID 3655763.
- Connell, Jan (1990). Queen of the Cosmos. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-55725-407-8.
- Normae Congregationis
- "Biskupije Mostar-Duvno Trebinje-Mrkan". Cbismo.com. 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- . Ratko Perić, Bishop of Mostar (2 October 1997). "Letter to Thierry Boutet, editor of Famille Chrétienne". Retrieved 2 December 2013.
- A Letter from Rome on Medjugorje Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei. Pr. No 154/81-06419 "Retrieved 13 March 2013."
- Medjugorje Documents: Are pilgrimages to Medjugorje permitted or not???
- Simon Caldwell (5 Sep 2008). "Vatican disciplines ex-spiritual director to Medjugorje visionaries". Catholic News Service.
- Ratko Perić (31 August 2008). "Canonical Status of Rev. Father Tomislav Vlašić, OFM". Diocese of Mostar.
- Simon Caldwell, "Pope Benedict XVI unfrocks Medjugorje priest" in The Telegraph, 27 July 2009
- "Holy See confirms creation of Medjugorje Commission". Catholic News Agency (ACI Prensa). March 17, 2010.
- Medjugorje Documents: 2013 CDF, twice to US Bishops on Medjugorje...
- Ulrike Rudberg: Abends, wenn Maria kommt. Die Zeit, 26 June 1987
- Pater Jozo Zovko at medjugorje.de
- Jozo Zovko, Biography on the website Kathpedia
- Michael Sells: Crosses of Blood, Sociology of Religion, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, Herbst 2003
- René Laurentin: Medjugorje Testament, Ave Maria Press, Toronto 1998, ISBN 0-9697382-6-9, cited by Craig L. Heimbichner
- Het Kaartenhuis van hoogleraar Bax by Richard de Boer in Volkskrant 13 April 2013.
- Circumventing Reality: Report on the Anthropological Work of Professor Emeritus M.M.G. Bax by Michiel Baud, Susan Legêne, and Peter Pels, Amsterdam, 9 September 2013, commissioned by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
- Kolfschooten, Frank van, October 2012, Ontspoorde Wetenschap (Engl.: "Derailed science"), De Kring publishing house, Dutch language monograph about various cases of scientific misconduct, ISBN 9789491567025
- Radoš,Ivica Fikcija, a ne povijest article in Croatian in the Zagreb based Jutarnji list newspaper, published on 10 August 2008
- Norbert Mappes-Niediek: Die Toten, die es nicht gab. In: Frankfurter Rundschau. 27. August 2008.
- East European Constitutional Review, New York University, 2001
- Presentation from NATO of 18 April 2001
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