The parish of Medjugorje
Medjugorje, which is in Herzegovina, is situated approximately 20 km south-west of Mostar (the chief town of the Herzegovina region) and the same distance, as the crow flies, from the Adriatic Sea, opposite Italy's Abruzzo region. It is one of the most important centres of the Municipality of Citluk (Citluc). It is recalled for the first time in history in 1599.
Prior to the apparitions it was a small village in the province and dioceses of Mostar and it didn't even appear on geographical maps. It's name means "Amidst the mountains" or "Amidst the forests" because it is situated between two mountains: Krizevac (Criscevaz) and Crnica (Zerniza).
Krizevac, or the mountain of the cross, is 540 metes above sea level, it is called "The Mountain of the Cross" because during the Year of Our Lord 1933 a cement cross measuring approximately 12 metres in height including the pedestal was built there, in memory of the Redemption.
More than a mountain, Crnica is a hill and on its slopes there is a stony area full of bushes, where goats and sheep graze, it is called Podbrdo (Podbordo), and it is the site of the first apparitions.
The parish of Medjugorje was founded on the 15th of May 1892 and placed under the protection of Saint James, the patron saint of pilgrims, it is part of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno, and is assisted by the Franciscans of the province of Herzegovina and it spreads out over three municipalities. Citluk (with the villages of Medjugorje, Bijakovici and Vionica), Ljubuski (village of Miletina) and Ciapljina (village of surmanci). With all the inhabitants of the villages, the territory of the parish included approximately three thousand people, of which sixty were of Islamic faith. The others had all been baptised in the Catholic Church. The first parish Church was completed in 1897. It was quite large and very beautiful but it was soon reduced to ruins because it was built on land liable to slide and a short time afterwards it began to sink and become covered in cracks.
The current Church, which is much larger than the previous one, seemed to be disproportionate for the parish and for this reason it was criticised. In reality, it was already in God's plans that it would need to serve not only the inhabitants of the parish, but pilgrims from all over the world and it is now too small and so mass is often celebrated outdoors in order to accommodate the extremely high number of pilgrims who attend the functions.
People also criticised the need for the cross on mount Krizevac when it was built, but in the plans of Providence it was set to become the destination of millions of pilgrims who reach it after having embarked on the stages of the Via Crucis.
The works on the Church commenced in 1937, but there was the interruption of the war, during which time all the material was lost. After the war the works recommenced and the Church was consecrated on the 19th of January 1969. After the apparitions, Medjugorje grew extensively, especially due to the construction of guest houses. With the money from the offerings from pilgrims approximately fifty-five thousand metres squared of land was purchased, the majority of which was small vineyards owned by several owners. And so the building of private residential centres was prohibited within the immediate vicinity of the Church. The parish was renewed in terms of its fervour with the onset of the apparitions, becoming unique on a worldwide scale. Ideological divisions disappeared and people reconciled their differences.
The development of the pilgrimages created a profound social and professional change: the traditional cultivation of vines and tobacco was reduced substantially, leaving space for the development of hotel accommodation structures.
Taken from the book "The Messages of the Queen of Peace", Shalom Publishers.
Our Lady's Apparitions
In 1981, when the apparitions started, the life of the parish changed: Our Lady chose for her witnesses and co-workers not only the six visionaries, but the entire parish and its pilgrims. This was expressly told in the following message: "I have chosen this parish in a special way and I wish to lead it." (March 1st, 1984)
On June 24th, 1981, at about 6 pm, six young people - Ivanka Ivankovic, Mirjana Dragicevic, Vicka Ivankovic, Ivan Dragicevic, Ivan Ivankovic and Milka Pavlovic, 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 hand to come nearer. Surprised and scared, they did not approach her.
The next day, June 25th, 1981, at the same time, four of them: Ivanka Ivankovic, Mirjana Dragicevic, Vicka Ivankovic and Ivan Dragicevic, felt strongly drawn towards the place where they had seen the person the day before which, they had recognised as Our Lady. Marija avlovic and Jakov Colo joined them. The group of Medjugorje visionaries was formed. They prayed and spoke 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 Pavlovic and Ivan Ivankovic never saw Our Lady again.
The third day of the apparitions, June 26th, 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 men!" Attracted by Our Lady's apparitions and messages, people - first the parishioners and then from other villages and from 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 psychiatrical examinations, but it was always stated that they were healthy. The same conclusion brought about further examinations done in the following years.
Fr, Jozo Zovko, pastor of Medjugorje at that time, was arrested a month and a half after the first apparition. Although innocent, he was condemned by a communist court to three years and a half of prison.
Thanks to Our Lady's apparitions, Medjugorje - a simple village parish - became a place of gathering for a multitude of pilgrims from the whole world (in the first 20 years, more then 20 million), and one of the biggest prayer centres in the world, comparable to Lourdes and Fatima. Innumerable witnesses say that, precisely in this place, they have found faith and peace.
According to the unanimous witness of the visionaries, Our Lady gives them messages to be transmitted to the parish and to the world. They mainly address PEACE, FAITH, CONVERSION, PRAYER AND FASTING. The parishioners and the pilgrims have to become witnesses of Our Lady's apparitions and messages first, and then, together with the visionaries, join her in the realisation of the plan of the conversion of the world and its reconciliation with God.
At the end of 1982, Our Lady addressed herself through inner locutions (locutio cordis) to two ten years old girls, Jelena and Marijana Vasilj. Through their prayer group, she gave - from 1983 to 1987 - counsel to the prayer movement that was created from the very beginning of the apparitions.
Our Lady's messages given in Medjugorje constitute a specific school of peace, of prayer and of love.
© Informativni centar “Mir” Medugorje