by Marco Corvaglia
§ 1. Introduction
In 1991, the then "official" historian of Medjugorje and a great advocate of these apparitions, Father René Laurentin, speaking of the "spiritual risks" that the seers had to deal with, stated that Marija "had gone from the poorest family among all the visionaries to a condition of wealth that led her to a very different culture and to an easy and brilliant life" ["Eco di Medjugorje", No 84, July 1991, p. 6] and the twenty-six-year-old Ivan "has begun to like playboy clothing and has developed an exaggerated care for his own person" [ibid.].
In 1994, Father René Laurentin wrote:
Ivan now owns a beautiful new house, which will allow him earn a living by hosting pilgrims. This is already the source of income for Mirjana, Ivanka, Vicka and soon Jakov.
[René Laurentin, Dernières nouvelles de Medjugorje, No 13, O.E.I.L., Paris, 1994, p. 24]
It is quite clear that in the absence of an official recognition by the Church, if the alleged apparitions and the messages ended, it would lead to a gradual decline in interest in Medjugorje.
Well, here is the problem: if the "apparitions" ceased, the visionaries (and many of their relatives) would find themselves deprived of their current sources of income.
§ 2. The case of Marija Pavlović - Hotel or spirituality center? The amazing effects of not calling things by their name
Here is a report by Andrea Casadio on the economic activities of the visionaries. It was aired in the program PiazzaPulita by the Italian televison LA7 on March 30, 2017 (for English subtitles, select the relevant function in the player bar):
Let's analyse the question, focusing on the case of Marija Pavlović.
The seer Marija Pavlović divides her time between the Italian town of Monza (where she officially resides with her husband, Paolo Lunetti) and Bijakovići, a village that is part of the Medjugorje parish.
In 2010, she founded, in Medjugorje, the Antares Association (reg. R-1003/10 of the Cantonal Ministry of Justice), with the aim of collecting, especially among the devotees from the North of Italy, funds for contributing to the construction of a so-called "spirituality center", named "Magnificat", on a land owned by her, in Bijakovići (for donations, also a bank account, titled “Antares Association”, was opened at Banca Prossima, agency of Milan, Paolo Ferrari Square, 10 [IBAN IT42Q0335901600100000015985]).
In reality, the "spirituality center" is a hotel with 54 rooms (double or triple accommodation and small apartments are available) and 120 beds, a conference room and a chapel.
The following footage (shot on 16 April 2011 at the Campagnola restaurant, at Riva del Garda) immortalizes what is presented as a “charity dinner" to raise money from Medjugorje devotees to build the Magnificat Center.
The person who introduces the event, before calling upon Marija Pavlović to speak, says:
[0:35] It's a great feeling to be here tonight for this charity dinner: a convivial evening to raise funds for the building of a prayer center at Medjugorje. A prayer center born thanks to the inspiration of Marija herself. It’s a center that will host prayer groups, families, even individuals, who want to spend a week, a few days, a month, in the spirit, along with Our Lady. [1:10]
[2:24] At your place setting you'll find an envelope. We're giving the proceeds from the dinner to the charity, and then we'll have a drawing, a very generous drawing with a surprise first prize. Then, with the envelope, anyone who wishes can make another offering, voluntarily, from the heart, there's no obligation. If you'd like to make another offering for the center, you are free to do so. [2:53]
All these facts led the Diocese of Alessandria, in the person of the Bishop Msgr. Giuseppe Versaldi (now Cardinal), to issue, on 16 June 2011, a Clarification on Medjugorje by Msgr. Versaldi:
As also in the Diocese of Alessandria some faithful and faith groups are involved in the events that have happened in Medjugorje since 1981, and go on pilgrimages there and meet here to practice their devotion to Mary and since recently in these meetings there is an alleged seer [...] I [also] ask the priests to not allow, during celebrations within our churches, offerings to be given to private persons (even if they are alleged seers), intended for private works, in order to avoid exploitation and suspicion.
[La Chiesa e Medjugorje. Precisazioni del Vescovo, "La voce alessandrina. Settimanale di informazione e opinione della Diocesi di Alessandria", No 23, 17 June 2011, p. 12]
The "Magnificat" was opened in May 2012 (address: Ulica Kraljice Mira, 106).
The Vatican correspondent of the Italian weekly magazine Panorama, Ignazio Ingrao, in his reportage from Medjugorje, writes:
Marija Pavlovic lives in Monza with her husband Paolo Lunetti and four sons, but in Medjugorje she opened the hotel Magnificat. Formally it is a "hospitality center", actually a four-star hotel with 54 elegantly furnished rooms, all with baths.
[I. Ingrao, E se chiude Medjugorje?, "Panorama", year 53 No. 25, 24 June 2015, p. 90]
The "Magnificat", the 120 bed-hotel, in the advertising brochure of an Italian travel agency (Rusconi Viaggi). In it one can read that "Marija Pavlovic [...] will be often present in the center to give her testimony." The brochure also contains the charge for organized groups (travel and three nights).
§ 3. Evasions, inspections and Marija Pavlovic’s "volunteers"
Let's watch this clip again from March 2017, when investigative journalist Andrea Casadio checks out from Marija Pavlović’s "Magnificat" and pays the bill, filming everything with his hidden camera (for English subtitles, select the relevant function in the player bar):
The Croatian researcher Vencel Čuljak, in his 2014 doctoral thesis, titled Fenomen Međugorje kao svjetski brend i top destinacija vjerskog turizma ("The phenomenon of Medjugorje as a global brand and a top destination for religious tourism"), calculated that in the 1981-2013 period the majority of dealers and hoteliers in Medjugorje were infringing the law, not issuing receipts (fiskalni računi):
32% of total revenue was obtained legally and 68% illegally.
[Vencel Čuljak: Međugorju se ne piše dobro, an interview with Vencel Čuljak published on August 16, 2014 by 24sata.info website]
On top of this tax evasion, there is the problem of the informal economy: jobs paid under the table, evading payroll taxes and social insurance contributions:
In Medjugorje, there are currently 18,500 beds, 4,600 residents and 1,500 employees, 58% of whom are uninsured or are working illegally.
An even more severe assessment came from an industry expert, Zdenka Krezić, the director of a hotel that apparently works honestly, the "Medjugorje Hotel & Spa". Interviewed by the journalist Renato Pugina for the program Falò, broadcast on March 31, 2016 on RSI (Italian Swiss television), the manager estimated that 90% of Medjugorje hoteliers employ workers illegally (select: Settings > Subtitles > English):
The June 25, 2013 issue of the Bosnia-Herzegovina newspaper Večernji list reported about an inspection carried out in various Medjugorje hotels, including Marija Pavlović’s "Magnificat".
Here is the translation:
IN THE DAYS OF CELEBRATION
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA FEDERAL INSPECTORS
ENTER THE PROPERTY OF VISIONARY MARIJA PAVLOVIĆ
Just a day before the 32nd anniversary of the apparitions in Medjugorje, where tens of thousands of pilgrims were pouring in from around the world, the inspectors of federal and state security agencies raided several magnificent buildings, including one owned by one of the visionaries, Marija Pavlović-Lunetti. This caused quite a surprise, and many people complained openly.
"We had to choose these days, when the stream of pilgrims is high, so that now we can see in the best way who does what and how they work. We are just doing our job. We've already been here in the past and we found a number of irregularities related to the way of working. The law has to be respected", the inspectors responded, to those who complained that they had chosen precisely the days of the most important celebration in Medjugorje. [...]
[R. Soldo, Na dane proslave. Inspektori FBiH upali na imanje vidjelice Marije Pavlović, "Večernji list", 25 June 2013, pp. 4-5]
Within the same article there is a box specifically dedicated to Marija Pavlović (MARIJIN SUPRUG: "Imam sve dokumente potrebne za valjan život i rad u Međugorju"
[THE HUSBAND OF MARIJA: "I have all the documents needed to live and work in Medjugorje"]):
They [her guests], she says, "are mostly our friends from around the world, especially from Italy, where we have a building like this to house pilgrims. There there are fewer problems with papers and legal issues, and everything is in perfect order. We are trying to create here a space for spiritual renewal, for which, believe me, there is great interest. So some volunteers help us, and in return they study Italian here", the famous seer Marija Pavlović–Lunetti said. Inspectors asked her husband, an Italian, whether he has a residence permit, apparently knowing already through unofficial channels that it had expired and that he has been staying illegally in Bosnia-Herzegovina; he said that he has got everything necessary to live in Medjugorje.
[Ibid, p. 5, emphasis added.
Original text: To su mahom naši prijatelji iz čitavog svijeta, osobito iz Italije, gdje imamo sličan objekt za smještaj hodočasnika. Tamo je manja komplikacija oko papira i zakonskih nejasnoća i sve štima u najboljem redu. Radimo na tome da ovdje stvorimo prostor za duhovnu obnovu, za čime, vjerujte, postoji veliko zanimanje. Zbog toga nam i pomažu volonteri, koji zauzvrat ovdje uče talijanski jezik" – objašnjavala poznata vidjelica Marija Pavlović – Lunetti, čijega su supruga, inače Talijana, inspektori pitali ima li uopće boravišnu dozvolu, očito baratajući s neslužbenom informacijom da mu je istekla te da ilegalno boravi u Bosni i Hercegovini, a na što im je on odgovorio da ima sve potrebno za život u Međugorju.]
§ 4. Mirjana, Ivan and the others
On 16 June 2011, Italian TV (Rai News, L'Inchiesta - I misteri di Medjugorje) made known what follows:
Given the large flux of pilgrims, Mirjana has recently expanded her hotel with a new wing.
The new wing built by Mirjana Dragičević, mentioned in the Rai News report, is a hotel, which opened in the spring of 2011, and offers double and triple accommodations. Its name is Mirjana i Marko (ie, "Mirjana and Marko", after the name of the visionary and of her husband, Marko Soldo).
See also: An Inquiry on Ivan.
Updated on 3 April 2017
Thanks to Richard Chonak for linguistically revising videos' subtitles and paragraph 3.