Pope Francis Endangers Tourism in Međugorje

Total Croatia News

Number of tourists in Međugorje has declined substantially after Pope’s criticism.

It sounds impossible, but it is true: 36 years after Međugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina became a global pilgrimage destination, which was visited on average by about a million Catholics (and others) a year, there has been a noticeable drop in the number of visitors, primarily those coming from Italy, reports Slobodna Dalmacija on February 21, 2017.

Italians were among the first who started coming to the location of alleged apparitions and they were the most numerous visitors for years. But now their numbers have been more than halved. Gianni Mauro, the owner of the Mauro travel agency, announced in the Italian media that he would close his business, which was dependent on Italian pilgrims. Mauro says that every year more than 200,000 pilgrims from Italy used to come to Međugorje, but by the summer of 2016 that number decreased to only about 50 people per ferry coming from Italy.

He said that the reason for such a decline in visitor numbers was twofold: the economic crisis in Italy, but also criticism about the Međugorje phenomenon by Pope Francis, who on several occasions said that “the Virgin Mary is not a letter carrier who brings her messages every day”.

In Milan, Solo Croatia travel agency has been bringing tourists and pilgrims to Međugorje for more than 20 years, but owner Rea Karninčić confirmed that the number of pilgrims has been rapidly falling for the last two years. “Earlier, we would have pilgrim groups which would fill eight full busses with 55 seats, but now we are happy if we can fill forty seats in a single bus. That cannot be compared with previous years. Pilgrims from south of Italy used to travel on ferries to Split, while those in the northern part of the country came by bus. There has been a decline of both these groups”, explains Karninčić, confirming that, in addition to the economic crisis, Pope’s criticism has led to a decline in organized pilgrimages.

“Pope John Paul II seemed supportive of Međugorje, Pope Benedict did not declare his position, while Pope Francis is extremely critical, which affects the faithful. Although he occasionally issues statements that could be related to Međugorje, it would be good for him to express his official position, because it has been almost two years since he received a report of the international theological commission on Međugorje. In that way, organizers and people could decide what they want to do”, says Karninčić.

According to unofficial sources, in contrast to the Italian visitors, pilgrims from Poland are coming in growing numbers. Unfortunately, official data on the number of pilgrims who come to Međugorje do not exist, and estimates are made according to the number of communions given – which means that a pilgrim can take five communions in five days and be counted as five visitors, while those who do not take communion are not counted at all. Still, the figure of about a million visitors a year could be correct. It is estimated that there are around 20,000 beds in various accommodation facilities, but there are no firm data. No wonder, given that 70 percent of buildings have been constructed illegally.


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