Politics and Religion in Central and Eastern Europe: Traditions and Transitions

By William H. Swatos Jr | Go to book overview

13
Medjugorje and the Crisis in Yugoslavia

Gerald E. Markle and Frances B. McCrea

On 25 June 1991, the states of Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia, thus precipitating a political crisis. One interesting fact has been ignored by all political analysts: This particular date was the tenth anniversary of the purported "miracle" at Medjugorje. It was no coincidence: the actors in the Yugoslav drama were certainly aware of Medjugorje, which has been visited by millions of pilgrims since 1981 and celebrated for ten years as the site of daily apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

In June 1981, six youngsters in Medjugorje, a remote village in Hercegovina, claimed they saw the Virgin Mary. Almost every day since then, at 5:45 P.M., the children have gathered in the small rectory of the local church to see and converse with Mary. In 1991, two of the original six, now young adults, still claimed daily conversation. An estimated ten million pilgrims, sometimes over 100,000 per day from all over Europe and the United States, have visited Medjugorje.

Package tours to Yugoslavia now feature four to eight days in the village, with only short stopovers to other major cities in the region. Included in the tour are masses in English and audiences with the visionaries. "You can walk to the village church for morning Eucharist in English," promises Brendan Tours ( 1989) on day "one" of its Medjugorje tour, "and meet with the parish priest in the afternoon. . . . Days will be free to visit the Podbrdo -- the Hill of Apparitions."

To explicate the changes now sweeping over Eastern Europe, most analysts rightly focus on political economy and, in some settings, on

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