(MNIS, Caritas of Birmingham, Alabama) – The impact of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as first second of the month in 23 years, without an apparition to Medjugorje visionary Mirjana Soldo, was illustrated by relatively empty streets. This image was a drastic difference to the thousands, mostly Italians, who normally flocked to Medjugorje for the second of the month apparitions. The local health authorities for Medjugorje have continued to monitor the growing coronavirus situation. Dr. Jurica Arapovic, head of the Infectious Diseases Department of SKB Mostar, Bosnia-Hercegovina stated:
“I am afraid that Covid-19 will be drawn into citizenship and we will not be able to connect and make some contacts, which is a prerequisite for what has happened to us in one of the European countries. Given our health system, this is not good.”1
Among those infected in Medjugorje are a local monastery of nuns who work an orphanage, as well as two priests. The monastery and orphanage have both been quarantined. The village of Medjugorje is still relatively healthy at this moment.
Medjugorje is not the only place where a vivid image of emptiness has been noticed. Italy was the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, and for many days, the Vatican has been closed to visitors. His Holiness Pope Francis prayed publicly, in an empty St. Peter’s Square on Friday, March 27, 2020. Italian historian Aldo Grasso wrote in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera about the extraordinary solemn Urbi et Orbi blessing of Pope Francis on March 27:
“One day we’ll remember these sad times we’re living with many other images: the daily count of the dead, the lines at the hospitals, the frantic challenge to an invisible enemy,” he wrote. In comparing to previous events, Aldo Grasso wrote, “The wind that blew the pages of the Gospels during the funeral of John Paul II, or the helicopter ride of Pope Benedict when he resigned, both moved us, but they’re nothing in comparison to the shock of seeing the empty square [on March 27] surrounded by the colonnade of Bernini.”2
In the United States, churches are still closed to the public, with Masses going on privately. Some priests have offered drive-up confessions and other ways to reach their parishoners. On March 31, 2020, Most Rev. Robert Baker, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Birmingham, made an appeal to the priests of the diocese to distribute Holy Communion to the people. Bishop Emeritus Baker wrote:
“With this letter, I wish to appeal to your pastoral sensitivity and ask that you find an appropriate way to distribute Holy Communion to your people on Holy Thursday, April 9, 2020… it would be good if you could offer expanded hours for Confession on the days ahead, so that all may be properly disposed to receive Holy Communion.”3
A Friend of Medjugorje, founder and director of Caritas of Birmingham, largest Medjugorje center in the world, closed Caritas to visiting pilgrims for the first time in 32 years. He noted that while many people are now at home, the mission of Caritas is operating at full throttle:
“The mission of Caritas will continue to operate at full capacity. We will also continue to answer the phones and are taking prayer requests, especially for those sick, and those who are scared at this time. Our print shop is still operating, we are shipping out orders every day, and we can say that since this event has started, the demand for our mission has increased many times over. I built Caritas to be ready for such an event when we would be needed most.”
A Friend of Medjugorje, whose BVM Pilgrimage group is the longest continuous running Medjugorje pilgrimage from North America, remarked:
“When this coronavirus blows over, and it will, we will most likely see a boom in pilgrimages to Medjugorje. A virus cannot kill Our Lady’s plans, and the second of the month apparitions ending is not the end, but a fulfillment. What I have always said Medjugorje is all about, is really about to begin.”
It was also announced on March 30, that a Friend of Medjugorje will continue the second of the month Radio WAVE broadcasts and writings in the absence of newer second of the month messages given. Since this announcement was made, other Medjugorje groups have also since decided to offer other ways of celebrating the second of the month.
Press Contact: Medjugorje Network Information Services (MNIS) Caritas of Birmingham (Alabama) 205-672-2000 [email protected]
1. Klix.ba, March 30, 2020 2. Corriere della Sera 3. Pastoral Letter, Bishop Emeritus Robert Baker, March 31, 2020