Pope approves visits to contested Bosnian shrine
Pope Francis has approved pilgrimages to Medjugorje, a village in Bosnia that is steeped in controversy over whether the Madonna appears to local people, the Vatican said on Sunday.
A statement by spokesman Alessandro Gisotti, said, however, that the official approval should not be interpreted as Church authentication of the alleged apparitions, because more investigation and study was needed.
Six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary in 1981 in a scenario reminiscent of famous apparitions in the French town of Lourdes in the 19th century and more then 100 years ago in Fatima in Portugal.
In the following years, the Bosnian village became a major pilgrimage site, attracting hundreds of thousands each year and giving many visitors what they say is a renewed sense of spirituality.
The pilgrimages, which include faithful from as far away from North America and Asia, took place although they were not officially authorized by the Vatican. They also gave locals a steady source of much-needed revenue.