No politización sino paz en la Reina. Medjugorge.

The Events in Medjugorje
Turning our attention back to the more recent phenomenon of Medjugorje, the visions there also took place in a specific historical context. The occupation of the nation by Nazi Germany in 1941 established a Croatian (i.e., largely Roman Catholic) fascist state that was strongly resisted by several groups. Especially suffering at the hands of the fascist regime were their Serbian (primarily Eastern Orthodox) neighbors. This oppression was in retaliation for 400 years of Turkish rule during which the Roman Catholics felt they had suffered a heavy hand upon them. In any event, hundreds had died in pogroms of the period.

Eventually the dissident group headed by Marshal Tito took full control after the German expulsion of 1945 and established a communist government. Even though Tito broke with Stalin and the Cominform in 1948 to develop his own brand of communism, Yugoslavia remained a communist regime, and religion was suppressed as a result. Religion, for example, had been entirely banned from the school classroom. In June of 1981 Ivanka Ivankovic, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, was the first to experience an apparition of the Virgin Mary. (I note that Ivanka's mother had just died and Ivanka was to immediately refer to the Virgin as "Our Mother.") The apparition of the Virgin immediately gave Ivanka various messages of hope and peace to convey to the villagers (as she would almost daily do thereafter; why the Virgin chose not to speak directly with the villagers is unclear). The other two schoolgirls who were with her on the occasion of the first appearance later said that they too had seen the Virgin. Within days, hundreds of visitors began to arrive in the village to hear the messages and hopeful of seeing the apparition themselves.

The miracles in Medjugorje, while pleasing to the local Catholic peasants, set off dire concern among the party functionaries in the urban centers. Far from viewing the claimed appearances as fortuitous, the party leaders clearly feared that the apparitions might provide the focal point for a revitalization movement among the Catholics of the nation. The term revitalization movement is commonplace in modern anthropology. It refers to the largely spontaneous uprising of members of a formerly dominant (but then subordinated) group who attempt through militant action to recapture their former dominance, including the cultural and religious symbolism they favor. However, the uprising takes a singularly peculiar form. A revitalization movement typically begins in a manner that appears to be no more than a rebirth of interest in spiritual life among the oppressed. However, the apparently merely religious phenomenon in some cases provides an organizational structure for the discontented to quickly mobilize a political movement.

In any event, the Communist government of the former Yugoslavia greatly feared that the alleged appearances of the Virgin Mary might be a thinly disguised device by which a Catholic Nationalist revitalization movement might attempt to reassert its claim to the nation.

On the eighth day of the children's visions, the police attempted to break up the crowd and take the visionary children in custody. A Franciscan priest, upon seeing this, took the children to sanctuary in his local church. The priest later said that a divine voice had told him to protect the children. Some more cynical observers suggested it was the first step in the appropriation of the miracle by the organized Church. Apparently the Virgin was prepared to accommodate the new indoor arrangements, and thereafter began to appear to the children daily inside the church. Apparently, also, the Virgin was becoming increasingly interested in politics. The children were receiving ten messages each per day now, and many of these consisted of statements such as, "The Russians will become Christians" and "The West has lost its faith."

Now the miracles came fast and frequent. Accounts of miraculous healings began to occur with frequency (for examples, see Nickell 1998). A cross on a nearby hill was said to sometimes turn into "a pillar of light," and as at Fatima, the sun was said to "dance" in the sky—although only some of those present on these occasions saw the transmutation of the cross or the dancing of the sun.

Things also began to take a somewhat ugly turn within the religious community. There had been for a hundred years a competitive relationship between the lay clergy and the Franciscan priests of the area. The lay clergy, also called diocesan priests, report directly to their bishop. They are trained in seminaries that are not associated with a particular order. Priests in the orders, e.g., Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Maryknoll, and so on, are always subject to the authority of the local bishop, but their main allegiance is to their order and its mission.

The lay clergy had for some time accused the Franciscan Brotherhood of being arrogant and manipulative. Now the lay clergymen began to accuse the Franciscans of having knowingly appropriated the appearances of the Virgin to legitimate their order at the expense of the influence of the lay clergy.

Raymond Eve. Skeptical Inquirer. November 2002.

Who links to me?
Who links to me?