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

By William H. Swatos Jr | Go to book overview

a bishop's commission that was skeptical about the Yugoslav miracle. We know of no analysis of the political economy that even considers, let alone systematically treats, the travel industry. The impact of this institution -- so identified with postindustrial society -- on a remote village in Yugoslavia might point the way for a novel inquiry in the social sciences.

Since 1991 there has been a well-developed network in the United States that promotes Medjugorje through education and pilgrimage. We live in Kalamazoo, a medium-sized city without a large Catholic population. Yet our city has a "Mary Hot Line": Anyone who calls the phone number "375-MARY" receives Mary's monthly message from Medjugorje; in addition, one receives antiabortion information, an opportunity to receive various mailings, and the phone number of "Caritas," a Birmingham, Alabama, organization that promotes Medjugorje with daily messages about the apparition. Many of the missives are overtly political. For example, the 2 October 1991 Caritas update accused drunken Serbs of terrorizing Medjugorje pilgrims, causing two to perish from heart attacks. While Croats were identified as Catholics, Serbs were labeled as communists and fascists.

There is no doubt that an infrastructure exists in America for the promotion of Medjugorje. Yet its characteristics as a social movement -- funding, organizational structure, membership, and so on -- have not been systematically investigated.


CONCLUSION

For pilgrims, the significance of Medjugorje is undoubtedly theological. For the country as a whole, its significance -- past and future, for the two are so intricately related -- is more complex. As one analyst has written of Lourdes: "It was no fairy story, though an uncritical religiosity may seem to have turned it into one. It was a political, social, medical, theological, mystical, and certainly dramatic event" ( Neame, 1967: 15).

The same might be said of Medjugorje. It is often presented as a simple story, a devotional beginning with the vision of six peasant children and ending with the pilgrimage of millions of faithful. But nothing is simple in Yugoslavia: to Croats the apparition is a reaffirmation of faith but also "a focal point for [nationalistic] solidarity" ( Ramet, 1985: 15); to the Serbs, Gospa Ustasha recalls a nightmare but a generation removed. So the Medjugorje narrative needs to be placed in a sociohistorical context of ethnic and religious disagreement, strife, and conflict. The village of Medjugorje is part of the complex and tortured Yugoslav history.

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