By Estefania Aguirre
Two Vatican officials are attending the annual international youth festival ‘Mladifest’ for the first time since it was launched 30 years ago at Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Marian apparitions have allegedly been taking place for the past 38 years.
From Aug. 1 – 6, around 50,000 youth from around the world are participating in Eucharistic Adoration, Mass concelebrated with over 500 priests, confession, veneration of the cross, and climbing the town’s Podbrdo (‘Apparition Hill’) and the Križevac (‘Cross Hill’) while praying either the rosary or the stations of the Cross.
Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of Rome, presided over the opening Mass on Aug. 1 and Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation is expected to preside over the closing Mass on Aug. 6.
Pope Francis has stated his doubts on multiple occasions such as during his return flight from Fatima in May 2017. “Personally, I am more skeptical. I prefer Our Lady to be a Mother, our Mother, and not a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time. This is not the mother of Jesus.”
But on May 12, both the Vatican’s apostolic visitor to the site, Archbishop Henryk Hoser, and Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, apostolic nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina, announced that the pontiff now allows pilgrimages to Medjugorje while the apparitions continue to be studied.
Papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said this move was not to be seen as an “authentication” of the apparitions, but rather as the pontiff’s “pastoral attention” to Medjugorje, an acknowledgment of its “abundant fruits of grace” and to promote those “good fruits”.
Although fruits presumably include conversions, vocations and long lines of confession, the Vatican has not given it official shrine status, despite contrary belief.
Alleged conversion stories
French nun Emmanuel Maillard who was in the occult in her youth, moved to Medjugorje years ago where she now prays, writes books and giving talks to visitors on the dangers of the occult, as well as on the importance of praying with one’s own family.
During a short visit to Medjugorje encouraged and accompanied by writer Diego Manetti, once promiscuous Polish model and substance user Ania Golędzinowska declined her new modelling contract, returned to her Catholic faith and stayed there in a convent for three years “to pray and feed the chickens”. Ania, who arrived to Italy and escaped a prostitution ring, entered the life of modelling, drugs and dating men, such as Silvio Berlusconi’s nephew, Paolo Beretta. During her time in Medjugorje she met her husband, Michele Doto, and they married on March 25, 2014. Upon returning to Italy, Ania founded Cuori Puri (Pure Hearts) which offers annual retreats and support to youth in Italy in order to help them live their lives chastely. She has also authored four books available in Polish, Italian, German, Slovak and Czech on her conversion.
After their four children got divorced, another became homosexual, and another became a drug addict, millionaire Canadian couple Nancy and Patrick Latta moved permanently to Medjugorje where they built a “castle” (structured and named after saint Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle). There, they allegedly live off of charity , host pilgrims for free, foster vocations to religious life and pray for their children.
Medjugorje also has two separate homes – one for males and the other for females, located on two opposite ends of the town – known as ‘Cenacolo’, founded by Italian nun Mother Elvira. Drug addicts and alcoholics stay there working and praying with supervision, under very strict conditions until they are considered to be healed from their addiction.
Famous people who have said to have returned to their Catholic faith after visiting the town include The Passion of the Christ actor Jim Caviezel, Italian singer Filippo ‘Nek’ Neviani and retired tennis champion Mara Santangelo.
The nuns sisters Kornelia & Josipa of Medjugorje founded the ‘Comunità delle Sorelle della Famiglia Ferita’ (Community of the Sisters of the Wounded Family) and opened orphanages in the nearby towns of Čitluk and Vionica. Nolan, editor of L’Osservatore Romano from 2010-2016, volunteered at one or both of the orphanages for some time before moving to Rome.
Romanian professional violinist Melinda Dumitrescu claims she was earning thousands per performance before giving up her career and moving to Medjugorje after a visit nearly 20 years ago. She founded a community there for musicians that live poverty, chastity, obedience, and often play at the local church’s Mass.
Chiara Corbella whose beatification case opened in 2017 met her husband Enrico Petrillo in Medjugorje. When she was dying of cancer, she visited the town for the last time.
After presumably a reawakening of his faith in Medjugorje, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow founded Mary’s Meals, which gives daily meals to over 1.5 million school children in Africa, Asia and South America.
Critics of Medjugorje
Aside from Pope Francis himself, other critics include E. Michael Jones, author of the book ‘The Medjugorje Deception: Queen of Peace, Ethnic Cleansing, Ruined Lives’.
Dr Jones, who visited Medjugorje several times in the past, calls the alleged apparitions “one of the biggest hoaxes of the 20th century”.
On his website, he wrote that “Proponents of the apparition like to talk about its fruits. All right, let’s talk about the fruits: the broken families, the pregnant nuns, the poor people bilked of their money, the division in the Church, the de facto schism, the worst fighting in Europe since World War II, the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from Gradno, just five kilometers from Medjugorje – all of it followed inexorably from those children on that hill in Bosnia in June of 1981.”
He also received death threats for his investigations into the site.