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2. Visionaries Unaware of Apparitions?

by Marco Corvaglia

Go to the page Responses to Saverio Gaeta (Part 1)

Copertina del libro di Saverio Gaeta

In his book, Saverio Gaeta challenges my skepticism (which I consider fully argued) against the visionaries' statements when they claim that, at the time, they had never heard of Our Lady's apparitions (and therefore, according to them, could not invent an apparition).

Some supporters of Medjugorie believe that what makes these statements credible is the fact that Yugoslavia was ruled by a communist dictatorship and therefore influenced by the principles of state atheism.

The reasoning seems to flow, but only on the surface.



The Yugoslavian regime (unlike other communist regimes in Eastern Europe) tolerated religion.



There were therefore (in the Catholic world) bishops, priests, friars, nuns, parishes, catechisms, religious books (including those on Marian apparitions, e.g., Bozidar Nagy, Lurd: susret neba i zemlije  [Lourdes: Where Heaven Meets Earth] Zagreb, 1979; Josip Sukner, Veliki znak. Ukazanja i poruke Presvete Djevice [The great Sign. Apparitions and messages of the Blessed Virgin], Zagreb, 1975; religious periodicals with circulation numbers in the tens of thousands (e.g., Glas Koncila [The Voice of the Council]).


The regime even built new churches. Saverio Gaeta himself, recalling the history of the church of St. James of Medjugorie, reminds his readers that it was completed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and that "three sister churches were also built during the same period: one in Šurmanci in 1964, one in Vionica in 1969 and one in Miletina in 1970" [S. Gaeta, Medjugorje. La vera storia, San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, 2020, p. 6, n. 2].


Saverio Gaeta believes the "visionaries'" statements and writes:

Corvaglia argued, "In Medjugorie, rosaries were prayed regularly in all families, and people went to mass every Sunday, but they had never heard of Lourdes and Fatima? Who would believe that?" But let's read what his colleague Bouflet [a critic of Medjugorje, ed.] writes, "A survey conducted among 300 people reveals that the name Medjugorie means nothing to 213 of them."
If it's feasible that in democratic France, more than two thirds of these respondents were unaware of the existence of Medjugorie after a good seventeen years of apparitions, then how can it be said with certainty that in 1981, in a remote village in communist Yugoslavia, did six teenagers have to know about Lourdes and Fatima?
[Ibid., pp. 33-34]


To begin with, it was not necessary for all six to know about Lourdes or Fatima (one or a few of them would have been enough), but let's let Father Jozo (the parish priest of Medjugorie at the time the "apparitions" began) respond.


Recalling his first conversation with "visionary" Mirjana (which took place three days after the first "apparition"), he says in the interview-book with Sabrina Cović:


I was surprised that she had never heard of Lourdes or Fatima, and I lent her a book translated into Croatian for her to read.
[Sabrina Covic, Incontri con Padre Jozo, Sakramento, Grude, 2006, pp. 53-54]


If Father Jozo was surprised, this means it was normal that a Yugoslavian Catholic teenager would know about Lourdes and Fatima.


Therefore, if, after becoming a "visionary", a Yugoslavian Catholic teenager says he or she didn't know about Lourdes or Fatima, it's suspicious.
If more Yugoslavian Catholic teenagers, after becoming "visionaries", say they didn't know about Lourdes or Fatima, it's extremely suspicious.
It's simple.

The statistical and probabilistic comparison provided by Saverio Gaeta between the (actual) lack of knowledge of Medjugorie in France and the (hypothetical) lack of knowledge of Lourdes and Fatima in the former Yugoslavia, also cannot stand, for logical reasons.


To begin with, it's obvious that Lourdes and Fatima have always been much better known than Medjugorie. If we really feel the need to resort to numerical data, just use Google Trends (the tool that provides data on searches performed by users in Google's search engine). These are the results for worldwide searches from January 1, 2004 (first available date) to June 30, 2020:

Confronto popolarità Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje



As can be seen, Lourdes and Fatima have more than six times more than Medjugorie. As such, we cannot compare knowledge of Lourdes and Fatima, on the one hand, and knowledge of Medjugorie on the other, as if they were two homogeneous variables.


Even less can we compare the two nations, whose differences run in the exact opposite direction to that expressed by Saverio Gaeta, who underscores "Democratic France" in opposition to "Communist Yugoslavia".


France is notoriously one of the countries in the world with the highest rate of indifference to religion. According to a survey conducted in 2006 by The Harris Poll and The Financial Times, it turns out that 64% of the French describe themselves as agnostic or atheist. According to a 2018 survey, practicing Catholics in France represent 13% of the population.


Consequently, if in 1998, more than two-thirds of French respondents had never heard of Medjugorie, this data cannot in the slightest be used as a term of comparison to estimate the possibility that Lourdes or Fatima were known to a Catholic teenager from Medjugorie.


And, by contrast, what was the level of religiousness (and Catholicism) in Medjugorie in communist Yugoslavia in 1981?



Let's hear it from "visionary" Mirjana who in her autobiography writes:


Even before the apparitions began, most families recited the Rosary together every evening...
[Mirjana Soldo, Il mio cuore trionferà, Dominus Production, 2016, pp. 51-52 (English version: My Heart Will Triumph, Catholic Shop Publishing, Cocoa FL 2016]



To use a term of comparison, certainly no one could say that, for example, in Catholic Italy in the early 1980s, it was prayed in every home.


It should be clear by now that the political regime had absolutely nothing to do with the knowledge of Lourdes and Fatima on the part of the "visionaries".



At any rate, in 2001, Mirjana herself, when she attempts to reinforce her claim with an outright lie aimed at the naïve Italian public says (emphasis added):


I knew nothing of either Lourdes or Fatima because we were not allowed to read religious books.
[Riccardo Caniato, Vincenzo Sansonetti, Maria, alba del terzo millennio, Ares, Milan, 2005, p. 439]


You couldn't read religious books?



Mirjana needs to be reminded of a few passages from her first conversation with Father Jozo, tape recorded on June 27, 1981:

FRA JOZO ZOVKO: Do you read any holy books?
MIRJANA: I read some.
[James Mulligan, Medjugorje. The First Days, Boanerges Press, 2013, p. 78]



A few seconds later, Mirjana also added:


I also read, Is the Bible really the word of God? I love to read the Bible.


It's obvious that the situation is exactly the opposite of what's now being described. If there was one place in the world where a young person was most likely to be prompted to invent an apparition in the 1980s, it was probably in rural Herzegovina, in the former Yugoslavia.


Finally, take a look at this painting entitled Gospa iznad Međugorja (Our Lady Over Medjugorje):

La Madonna su Medjugorje, di Vlado Falak



At the start of the Medjugorie phenomenon, this naïf painting (120 x 80 cm) was located above the entrance of the church in Medjugorie. It dates back to 1974 and is the work of parishioner and amateur painter, Vlado Falak, from Šurmanci. As can be seen, Our Lady is depicted descending upon Medjugorie.


It's not unfathomable that this could be a possible trigger for a group of teenagers, considering they saw it every Sunday upon leaving church (of course, among supporters, it's, instead, a prophetic painting).


In the mid-1990s, the visionaries' spiritual leader, Father Slavko Barbarić, strangely enough, had the prophetic painting transferred to the nearby village of Vionica, donating it to the chapel of the Community of the Sisters of the Wounded Family, led by his niece (his sister's daughter) and former Franciscan nun, Josipa Kordić, where it can still be found [cf. Gianfranco Fagiuoli, La Madonna ci ha parlato, ho cercato di abbracciarla, "La Domenica del Corriere»"  vol. 83, no. 39, 26/9/1981, p. 20 and Paolo Brosio, I misteri di Maria, Piemme, Milan, 2016, p. 53].




On July 2, 2020, Saverio Gaeta kindly sent me the following comment on this page:


​Regarding the third issue [the one dealt with on this page, nda], I think we should just stick to our opposing views, since our reasoning is, in fact, based on the assumptions that respectively seem closest to our beliefs. 


Marco Corvaglia


Go to the page Responses to Saverio Gaeta (Part 3): The Communist Regime, Intimidation and the Bishop

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