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June 28, 2017

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What does he know? Bosnian town defends Virgin sightings despite pope's doubt

MEDJUGORJE, Bosnia -- Pope Francis is dismissive of claims that the Virgin Mary appears daily in Medjugorje, but Danielle Pitau is convinced that her pilgrimage to the small Bosnian town cured her of cancer.

"Whoever tells me that nothing happens in Medjugorje, I tell them to come here and try it," the 72-year-old Belgian woman said.

She told AFP that "a warmth did not stop rising" inside her stomach on her first visit to the town 11 years ago, which followed surgery on a bladder tumour and a pessimistic diagnosis from doctors.

In June 1981, six Bosnian teenagers said they had witnessed the appearance of the Virgin in the southern town near the Croatian border.

She continues to "appear" to three of them daily, and to the other three once a year.

With some of them now living between Medjugorje, Italy and the United States, they proclaim themselves "seers" and say the Virgin is transmitting them messages, which they publish for the edification of believers on the multi-language website, medjugorje.hr.

In a rare interview to local media, one of the self-declared seers, Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic, described Mary's visitations, which occur "every day at 6:40 pm".

"Before her arrival, a light appears three times. This is the sign that she is coming."

The Virgin "has a grey dress, a white veil, a crown of stars, blue eyes, black hair, pinkish cheeks. She is floating on a grey cloud and does not step on the ground," said Ivankovic-Mijatovic, now 52.

In early March, Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo, another one of the six "seers", transmitted a message from the Virgin calling on people to "live with love for the word of (her) Son, so that the world can be different."

Every year, some 2.5 million pilgrims visit Medjugorje, according to Polish archbishop Henryk Hoser. Many of those descend in June to mark the 1981 visions.

In February Hoser was sent by the Vatican to analyse their "needs" and "acquire a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation."

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