The Vatican has opened an investigation into reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the small town of Medjugorje in southern Bosnia which have drawn more than 30 million pilgrims and divided the Catholic Church.
Since six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary on a hillside near Medjugorje in 1981 — reminiscent of famous apparitions in the French town of Lourdes and Fatima in Portugal — Catholics have debated whether the visions were a modern-day miracle, wishful thinking or an elaborate fraud.
“This commission, composed of cardinals, bishops, theologians and experts, will work in a confidential manner and submit the result of its investigation to the Congregation (for the Doctrine of the Faith),” the Vatican said in a statement.
Unlike Fatima or Lourdes, the Vatican has not officially recognized the apparitions in the small town, some 100 km (62 miles) southwest of Sarajevo, and claims about it are controversial. Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar, the nearest city in Bosnia, warned Catholics last year against uncritical belief in the Medjugorje sightings and issued a series of restrictions on the parish.