The population of Medjugorje currently numbers about 4300 inhabitants. Throughout history, this area was noted for continuous migration. Before the First World War, great poverty drove them out into the world and during the period between the two World Wars political persecutions. The population of the parish of Medjugorje started to return bit by bit, fostered by supernatural events - Our Lady's apparitions, which began back in 1981.
The parish of Medjugorje consists of five villages belonging to the municipality of Čitluk. The largest village is also called Medjugorje. Bijakovići is the village where Our Lady first appeared, almost 30 years ago, on a hill. On the first day (June 24th) Our Lady appeared to six children, Ivanka, Mirjana, Vicka, Ivan, Ivan and Milka. The following day Marija came instead of her sister Milka and little Jakov instead of Ivan. Today the parish of Medjugorje is one of the largest pilgrimage sites in the world.
But unlike the Marian shrine at Lourdes, which became a commercial paradise because more than 6 million pilgrims come every year, Medjugorje has still kept its charm. It’s the place where pilgrims find their peace in faith. The centre of all gatherings and events in the Shrine of Queen of Peace, the official name for the Medjugorje shrine, is the Church of St. James. The church is located in the centre of the parish.
Until June 24, 1981, Medjugorje lived like all other villages of this region: people worked on their land, planted tobacco and vineyards, produced wine and vegetables to acquire just enough for a modest life for their families. In 1981, when the apparitions started, the life of the parish changed: Our Lady chose for her witnesses and co-workers not only the six visionaries, but the entire parish and its pilgrims. This was expressly told in the following message: “I have chosen this parish in a special way and I wish to lead it.”
Thanks to Our Lady’s apparitions, Medjugorje – a simple village parish – became a place of gathering for a multitude of pilgrims from the whole world and one of the biggest prayer centres in the world. Innumerable witnesses say that, precisely in this place, they have found faith and peace. It is estimated that more than 30 million pilgrims so far visited Medjugorje, several hundreds of bishops, thousands of priests from every continent. It needs to be also noted that more than 50 % of tourist trade earnings in Bosnia and Herzegovina comes from Medjugorje.