Međugorje, or Medjugorje,[note 1] (Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [mêdʑuɡoːrje]) is a town located in the Herzegovina region of 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 Catholic pilgrimage due to reports of alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local children.[2]

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 2,306. The Roman Catholic parish (local administrative and religious area) consists of five neighbouring villages: Medjugorje, Bijakovići, Vionica, Miletina and Šurmanci.


Early history

To the east of Medjugorje in the Neretva valley, the Serbian Orthodox Žitomislić Monastery has stood since 1566.[3] 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.[4] In the area of the cemetery in Miletina, structures from the Roman era stood, whose ruins have not yet been fully excavated.[5]

19th and early 20th centuries

Until 1878 part of the Ottoman Empire it became part of Austria-Hungary (War of 1878, Annexion 1908). In 1882 the railway line between Mostar and the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia was built, with a station in the hamlet of Šurmanci, through which the village gained access to the railway network.

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.[6][7]

Second World War

From 24 May 1942 until the beginning of June 1945, in Herzegovina, 66 Catholic friars of the Franciscan order were killed by the communists. Some were burned in the garden before their monastery.[8][9]

This was the place where, some 40 years after these atrocities took place and exactly 10 years before the Bosnian War broke out, residents began reporting apparitions in Medjugorje, which called for prayer, conversion, fasting, penance and peace.[10]

Reported apparitions


Statue of Virgin Mary at Podbrdo, place of apparition

Since 1981, when six local children claimed they had seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Medjugorje has become an unapproved destination of Catholic pilgrimage.

"Our Lady of Medjugorje" is the title given to the apparition by those who believe that Mary, mother of Jesus, has been appearing from 24 June 1981 until today to six children, now adults, in Medjugorje (then part of communist Yugoslavia).[11] "Most Blessed Virgin Mary", "Queen of Peace" and "Mother of God" are words the apparition has allegedly introduced herself with.[12]

The visionary Marija Lunetti (Pavlović) claims to receive messages from the Virgin Mary on the twenty-fifth of every month,[13] while Mirjana Soldo (Dragičević) reports receiving messages on the second of the month.[14]

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[15] in the world and has turned into Europe's third most important apparition site, where each year more than 1 million people visit.[16] It has been estimated that 30 million pilgrims have come to Medjugorje since the reputed apparitions began in 1981.[17] 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.[18][19] 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."[20]

Official position of the Catholic church

On August 21, 1996, Vatican Press Office spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls declared that Catholics may still travel on pilgrimage to Medjugorje and that priests may accompany them. Navarro-Valls declared: "You cannot say people cannot go there until it has been proven false. This has not been said, so anyone can go if they want."[21]

A Vatican commission set up by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 to study the Medjugorje question was reported on 18 January 2014 to have completed its work, the results of which it would communicate to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[22] Headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Pope Francis commented the report as "very, very good" on 13 May 2017 when speaking to journalists.[23] According to Italian media, the Ruini report divided the investigation into three main parts: the early apparitions from 24 June 1981 to 3 July 1981, the acclaimed apparitions thereafter, and the pastoral situation. The commission expressed positive findings in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first appearances, and rejected the hypothesis of a demonic origin of the apparitions. Yet, the commission expressed that an opinion cannot be reached towards the acclaimed apparitions thereafter, despite majority of the commission recognized the positive spiritual fruits that Medjugorje has brought to pilgrims,[24] including Pope Francis who commented the pastoral situation in Medjugorje: "The third, the core of the Ruini report, the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact. People go there and convert. People who encounter God, change their lives…but this…there is no magic wand there. And this spiritual and pastoral fact can’t be ignored." [23]

On 11 February 2017, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser, S.A.C., the Bishop of Warszawa-Praga, as a Special Envoy of the Holy See to Medjugorje.[25] By the end of 2017, Hoser had announced that the Vatican's position was in favor of organizing pilgrimages. “Today, dioceses and other institutions can organize official pilgrimages. It’s no longer a problem,” explained Archbishop Hoser. “Pope Francis [even] recently asked an Albanian cardinal to give his blessing to the faithful present in Medjugorje." [26]

“I am full of admiration for the work the Franciscans are doing there,” the Polish archbishop reported. “With a relatively small team—there is only a dozen of them—they do a huge job of welcoming pilgrims. Every summer they organize a youth festival. This year, there were 50,000 young people from around the world, with more than 700 priests.”

He also cited the large number of confessions, adding, “There is a massive number of confessions. They have about 50 confessionals, which are not enough.” [27]

“This is a phenomenon. And what confirms the authenticity of the place is the large amount of charitable institutions that exist around the sanctuary. And another aspect as well: the great effort that is being made at the level of Christian formation. Each year, they organize conferences at different levels, for various audiences,” such as for priests, doctors, parents, young people and couples. “The decree of the former episcopal conference of what used to be Yugoslavia, which, before the Balkan war, advised against pilgrimages in Medjugorje organized by bishops, is no longer relevant,” he said. [28]

Development of the pilgrimage site

On 24 June 1981, reports began of Marian apparitions on Crnica hill in the Bijakovići hamlet, and shortly thereafter[when?] confrontations with Yugoslav state authorities began. Pilgrims were forbidden from coming.[29] Pilgrims' donations were seized by the police and access to what was called the Apparition Hill was largely blocked.[citation needed]

In October 1981, Father Jozo Zovko, then the parish priest of the town, was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment[29] with forced labor for allegedly participating in a nationalistic plot.[citation needed] 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.[30][31][unreliable source?]

In the last years[when?] before the breakup of Yugoslavia, travel of pilgrims was no longer hindered by the state.[29][unreliable source?]

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 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.[32][33][34]

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.[35][36][37][38][39]

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 a 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 and 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.[32]

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.[40][41]

On 11 February 2017, Pope Francis named Bishop Hoser his special envoy to Medjugorje, tasked with assessing its pastoral needs.[42]

Notable people

  • Marin Čilić – tennis player, winner of the 2014 US Open
  • Ivan Dodig – tennis player, winner in doubles of the 2015 French Open
  • Andrija Stipanović – basketball player, Bosnia-Herzegovina national basketball team representative
  • Vladimir Vasilj – former Croatian football player


See also


  1. ^ "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.


  1. ^ FEDERAL OFFICE OF STATISTICS Archived 2015-05-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Medjugorje.org – Overview of Medjugorje
  3. ^ András Riedlmayer: Zitomislici, Haverford College, undated, in the Internet Archive
  4. ^ Franjo Sušac: Stećci Archived 2013-12-08 at the Wayback Machine., Turistička zajednica općine Čitluk, 2002; cf. also Town map
  5. ^ Presentation of the region's history on the website of the Informativni Centar Međugorje
  6. ^ Medjugorje, Description of the town at truepeace.com.au
  7. ^ Medjugorje auf friedenskoenigin.de
  8. ^ Remembering the Murdered Franciscan Priests
  9. ^ Martyrs Killed in odium fidei under Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, newsaints.faithweb.com; accessed 9 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Pilgrims", BBC Documentary from 2009 on Medjugorje, after 7 minutes and 40 seconds, visionary Vicka on stairs of her parents house addressing a crowd of pilgrims
  11. ^ A short history of Our Lady's apparitions in Medjugorje
  12. ^ All the alleged messages from the beginning in 1981 until today – on one page, message part of the book Messages and Teachings of Mary at Medjugorje by René Laurentin and René Lejeune, extended with the messages until this day from the website of the Parish of Medjugorje and other web sites related to Medjugorje.
  13. ^ Seer Marija Lunetti who reports to receive the twenty-fifth message
  14. ^ Seer Mirjana Soldo who reports to receive the message on the second of the month
  15. ^ Australian dies in Bosnia bus crash. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  16. ^ RomeReports: Visionaries of Medjugorje may appear before the Vatican. Archived 2013-05-05 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved Feb 26 2011.
  17. ^ Vatican Probes Claims of Apparitions at Medugorje Reuters. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  18. ^ 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. doi:10.1056/nejm198805053181820. Archived from the original on 2009-02-07. 
  19. ^ Ralph Nix MD, David Apple MD; Apple (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. 
  20. ^ Connell, Jan (1990). Queen of the Cosmos. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-55725-407-8. 
  21. ^ Vatican Warns U.S. Bishops on Medjugorje
  22. ^ News.Va: Commission to submit study on Medjugorje
  23. ^ a b "Full text of May 13 in-flight interview with Pope Francis". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2017-06-23. 
  24. ^ "Medjugorje; the findings of the Ruini report". LaStampa.it. Retrieved 2017-06-23. 
  25. ^ "Pope appoints Special Envoy to Medjugorje". Retrieved 2017-06-23. 
  26. ^ https://aleteia.org/2017/12/07/official-pilgrimages-to-medjugorje-are-being-authorized-confirms-pope-francis-envoy/
  27. ^ https://aleteia.org/2017/12/07/official-pilgrimages-to-medjugorje-are-being-authorized-confirms-pope-francis-envoy/
  28. ^ https://aleteia.org/2017/12/07/official-pilgrimages-to-medjugorje-are-being-authorized-confirms-pope-francis-envoy/
  29. ^ a b c Ulrike Rudberg: Abends, wenn Maria kommt. Die Zeit, 26 June 1987
  30. ^ Pater Jozo Zovko Archived 2010-10-12 at the Wayback Machine. at medjugorje.de
  31. ^ Jozo Zovko[not in citation given] Archived July 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., Biography on the website Kathpedia
  32. ^ a b E. Michael Jones: The Ghosts of Surmanci, South Bend, Indiana), February 1998
  33. ^ Michael Sells: Crosses of Blood, Sociology of Religion, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, Herbst 2003
  34. ^ René Laurentin: Medjugorje Testament, Ave Maria Press, Toronto 1998; ISBN 0-9697382-6-9, cited by Craig L. Heimbichner
  35. ^ Het Kaartenhuis van hoogleraar Bax by Richard de Boer in Volkskrant on 13 April 2013.
  36. ^ 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
  37. ^ 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
  38. ^ Radoš,Ivica Fikcija, a ne povijest Archived 2013-09-27 at the Wayback Machine. article in Croatian in the Zagreb based Jutarnji list newspaper, published on 10 August 2008
  39. ^ Norbert Mappes-Niediek: Die Toten, die es nicht gab. Archived 2008-09-01 at the Wayback Machine. In: Frankfurter Rundschau. 27. August 2008.
  40. ^ East European Constitutional Review Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine., New York University, 2001.
  41. ^ Presentation, nato.int, 18 April 2001.
  42. ^ Pentin, Edward (11 February 2017). "Pope Francis Appoints Polish Archbishop to Be Special Envoy to Medjugorje". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 

External links