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Teenage hoaxers or living saints

Are the six Bosnians who claim to see the Virgin Mary for real?

  • Six children claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary on a hillside in the village of Medjugorje, Bosnia, in 1981
  • Their nightly visions have continued to the present day
  • Thousands of pilgrims from around the world travel to the spot every year

By Chris Rogers and Marshall Corwin

There is something special in the air as they prepare for Christmas in the village of Medjugorje.

Gangs of workmen put up brightly decorated fir trees in the streets, shops and cafes are covered in tinsel and twinkling lights. A blanket of snow lies across the valley, shrouding its dark pinewood forests, and outside the parish church, a giant crib is near completion.

Tonight, the hotels and guesthouses are packed with pilgrims drawn by the sort of holy scene that might grace a Christmas card – and by something more, besides.

The visitors, old and young, are not here for cut-price festivity or for a Balkan break. They are here to witness one of the most controversial acts of faith in Christendom – and the six ‘visionaries’ of Medjugorje, who claim to see and speak to the Virgin Mary daily.

Since she first appeared in 1981, the Madonna of Medjugorje has attracted countless devotees from around the world. One-and-a-half million pilgrims pour into the village every year, hundreds of thousands from Great Britain. Many millions more remember the shrine in their prayers. And in their devotion they have split the Catholic Church.

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