Medjugorje is a town located in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, close to the border with Croatia. The town is part of the municipality of Čitluk. Since 1981, it has become a popular (but still unapproved by the Vatican) site of Catholic pilgrimage due to reports of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local children, 10 years before the Bosnian War broke out.
It is a small picturesque place which is known to be one the most famous sanctuaries in the world. It is visited by more the 1.5 million Christians from all over the world. The place became a sanctuary due to the appearance of the Mother of God, that began in the second half of the XX century. This phenomenon isn’t yet accepted by the Church, but millions of believers go on visiting this place in hope for help, support and healing of illnesses.
Medjugorje was firstly mentioned as a Catholic congregation in 1599. The present day congregation was founded in 1892 and was dedicated to the patron of all pilgrims Saint Apostle Jacob Senior, a church was built here in 1897. During the First World War its foundation was damaged and the church became unsuitable for divine services. A new church was built later on and was consecrated on the 19th of January 1969.
Until June 24, 1981, Medjugorje lived like all other villages of this region, people worked on their land, planted tobacco and vineyards, produced wine and vegetables to acquire just enough for modest life for their families. Becasue of social circumstances, many went out into the world, over the ocean and to Western European countries, as well as into towne in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
On June 24, 1981, at about 6 pm, six young people – Ivanka Ivanković, Mirjana Dragićević, Vicka Ivanković, Ivan Dragićević, Ivan Ivanković and Milka Pavlović, saw on the hill called Crnica, several hundred meters above the place called Podbrdo, a young woman with a child in her arms, who gave them a sign with her hadn to come nearer. Surpirsed and scared, they did not approach her.
The next day, June 25, 1981, at the same time, four of them Ivanka Ivanković, Mirjana Dragićević, Vicka Ivanković, Ivan Dragićević, felt strongly drawn towards the place where they had seen the person the day before, which they had recognized as Our Lady – Gospa. Marija Pavlović and Jakov Čolo joined them. The group of Medjugorje visionaries was formed. They prayed and spoked with Our Lady. This is why June 25th is celebrated as the Anniversary of the apparitions. According to the testimony of the visionaries, from that day onwards, they had daily apparitions, together or separately, wherever they were. Milka Pavlović and Ivan Ivanković never saw Our Lady again.
The third day of the apparitions, June 26, 1981, Our Lady gave the call to peace for the first time with the words: “Peace, peace, peace – and only peace! Peace must reign between God and man and between man!” Attracted by Our Lady’s apparitions and messages, people – first the parishioners and then from the other villages and form all over the world – started to gather and pray.
The persecution of the visionaries, of their parents and relatives, of the parishioners and priests, and even of the pilgrims began immediately after the beginning of the apparitions. The visionaries were taken for police investigations and psyschiatrial examinations, but it was always stated that they were healthy. The same conclusion was made about further examinations done in the following years.
Fr. Jozo Zovko, pastor of Medjugorje at that time, was arrested fifty days after the first apparition. Although innocent, he was condemned by a communist court to three years and a half of prison.
Recently the world’s interest in pilgrimage has recommenced – people aim to reach sacred places, which are filled with mystique energy, to have a chance to solve internal contradictions, get an answer to vitally important questions and cope with living difficulties. Pilgrimage is known to be one of the perspective trends in world tourism and is called – religious tourism. There are many sacred places in the world. Medjugorje is one of the most famous among them. This is a place filled with peace and quietness, where each person feels the impact of this peacefulness which accompanies them further on throughout their lives.
Where the Gospa appeared
A must-see for the pilgrims is mountain Podbrdo and mountain Krizevac. The first appearance is believed to have occurred on mountain Podbrdo, that is why this is the main place for the prayer. A monument of the Queen of Peace was built here in 2001. On mountain Krizevac the pilgrims put a cross for the 1900 anniversary of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
A festival of Youth is held in Medjugorje every year and at that time the city is filled with bright colors. Near Medjugorje there is a waterfall Kravice which is without any doubt one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Hercegovina.
Medjugorje is a unique place filled with positive energy, thoughts and peace. Here there is no criminal, violence, rudeness or negativity. It is a place where each and every person can fulfill his living energy ad find motivation for a better life.
There has been some confusion over the years as to whether the apparitions have been approved by the Church, are Catholics allowed to visit there, etc. Catholics are certainly allowed to visit here, as many millions have done. We should point out that it is a complex situation involving both politics and religion but the apparition site has not been disapproved. It is under investigation and Catholics are welcome to visit. The matter was taken out of the hands of the local Bishop and is now under the auspices of a special commission in Rome. Priests are not forbidden to go there and in fact are encouraged to accompany groups to provide spiritual guidance. The only thing not allowed are official Church-sponsored pilgrimages since that would imply the apparitions are approved. But if a group from a local parish wishes to organize a pilgrimage then there is no problem with that.One of the best ways to visit Medjugorje is with a group, where you usually have a priest and local guide with you. But it is easy for independent travelers to spend time there as well. There is an English-language Mass in the Church daily and often times talks are scheduled by the visionaries with an English translator. There is an information center near the parish bookstore where the daily schedule is posted. In addition to talks by the visionaries there are often talks by guest speakers.
Since the apparitions have been on-going for over 30 years and the Church has not yet condemned them, neither will we. We await the final decision which might be many years in the future. Meantime, if you do feel called to go, we suggest you go with an open mind and an open heart…..and judge for yourself. Many of those who have gone simply out of curiosity have returned with renewed faith and hope.
Traveling to Medjugorje
Međugorje is 25 km southwest of Mostar. You can get there by yellow public bus no. 48 (it does not take off from the main bus station but the northern one) and costs KM 3.50/$ 2.00 one way. It runs about every 45 minutes to an hour.
For foreign travelers, the easiest way to get into Medjugorje is to fly into Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina (airport code OMO), which is only 20 km from Medjugorje.
Alternatively, fly into Split, Croatia (airport code SPU), or Dubrovnik, Croatia (airport code DBV). There’s a daily bus from Split/Dubrovnik to Medugorje.
It’s easy to make a day trip from Split by car. Take the A1 motorway in the direction of Dubrovnik to the exit at Vrgorac (as of July 2013, the last motorway exit), and then follow the signs to Međugorje via the Crveni Grm border crossing. From Dubrovnik, take the coastal D8 road towards Split until the sign for the border town of Metković, or alternatively through Herzegovina: Brgat-Trebinje-Ljubinje-Stolac-Čapljina-Međugorje. Any of these trips should take about 2 hours. Free parking is available next to the Konzum supermarket at the entrance into Medjugorje.