There are two sets of Marian apparitions of the 20th century (one extending into the 21st) that have had much in common, and whose similarity is quite noteworthy for the immeasurable consequences. They are the apparitions of Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the apparitions of Kibeho, Rwanda.
Both apparitions began in 1981. Both contained a group of young visionaries, mostly teenagers, experiencing the phenomena – six visionaries at Medjugorje, seven at Kibeho. Both featured extraordinary supernatural signs witnessed by thousands of people. Both contained visions of the afterlife given to the young visionaries. Perhaps most importantly, both apparitions correctly predicted significant world catastrophes, from war to genocide.
More specifically, Our Lady of Medjugorje correctly predicted the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the end of Communism in the region, while Our Lady of Kibeho correctly predicted the Rwandan genocides. What is most remarkable is that these correct prophecies came years before any serious political or military conflict was noticeable in the regions of these apparitions.
In Medjugorje, Our Lady told the visionaries that Communism would end in the Balkans after a war. This prophecy, given in the early ’80s, came years before Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian war criminal, came into power in the former Yugoslavia and began advocating a hegemonic “Greater Serbia” to rule the Yugoslavian states. The prophecy came long before Milosevic applied nationalistic language to incite Serb antagonism toward the Croats and Muslims in the region. The prophecy came long before any military action was undertaken in the region, long before the concentration camps were reestablished in Europe, for the first time since World War II, long before war broke out in 1991. The warning – from Our Lady of Medjugorje – was there years earlier. Unfortunately, people were not listening.
Bishop Paolo Hnilica, a Jesuit who survived the GULAG slave camps in Soviet Europe and who was one of Pope John Paul II’s closest friends and Vatican advisers, once explained: “In Medjugorje, Gospa [Our Lady] started with the warning that there would be war if we were not converted. Nobody took these messages seriously. Maybe if the bishops of former Yugoslavia had accepted these messages more seriously it [the war] would not have gone that far.”
The nearly identical scenario transpired in Kibeho, in southern Rwanda. Years before political or military conflict was present in the region, Our Lady of Kibeho predicted the bloodshed that would follow through war and genocide. Not only that but, like in Medjugorje, Our Lady of Kibeho asked the people to pray to prevent a terrible war from coming. Similarly, in Medjugorje, Our Lady has frequently repeated that with prayer and fasting even wars could be stopped,
The great prophecy of Kibeho came in August 19, 1982, when the Kibeho visionaries experienced an unusually long apparition, which lasted eight hours. During this apparition the seers were shown a horrifying and disturbing vision of the Rwandan genocides that were to come. In this terrifying vision, they saw “a river of blood,” people slaughtering each other indiscriminately, killing, mass murder, human corpses – many without their heads – too numerous to bury.
Over a decade later in the summer of 1994, the vicious civil war broke out in Rwanda between the Tutsis and the Hutus, resulting in the murders of nearly one million people, including the Kibeho visionary Marie Clare Mukangango. What’s fascinating, and that much more disturbing, is that the killing style of the genocides fulfilled the Kibeho prophecy. Many of the victims in Rwanda were beheaded by machetes and their corpses dumped into the Kagea River – this was exactly as Our Lady prophecized, twelve years earlier, in giving the seers a vision of a “river of blood” [as found in the Kagea River] and of headless corpses laying amidst mass killing. Like in Medjugorje, the Kibeho prophecy came many years before military and political conflict erupted in the region. Like in Medjugorje, the Kibeho prophecy came as a warning, urging the people to pray, fast, reconcile, and convert to God in order to stop these evils from arriving,
Even in the spiritual sense, the content of the messages between Medjugorje and Kibeho has been strikingly similar, beyond the terrifying prophecies.
In the book, “Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary,” the Catholic author Catherine M. Odell observes some of the connections between the apparitions in Kibeho and the apparitions in Medjugorje. She especially noticed the remarkable similarity between the content of the devotional messages given by Our Lady of Kibeho and Our Lady of Medjugorje, very likely pointing to the same spiritual source at each location.
“Many Rwandans must have recalled the words they heard from the seven youths of Kibeho. The young people had communicated a message from the Mother of the Word. Like the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje, she had pleaded for reconciliation, conversion, penance, and prayer! Our Lady also begged to be seen as a loving Mother of all peoples. She had come to bring a message of love and consolation to a nation that was soon put upon a cross.”
Prayer, penance, fasting, reconciliation, these simple—but deeply mystical—messages have been given by Our Lady in both Medjugorje and Kibeho for years. Interestingly, the continuing similarities between the two apparition sites go even further. In both Medjugorje and Kibeho, Our Lady has given the young seers visions of the afterlife.
Alphonsine Mumureke, who was a student at Kibeho College during the apparitions and the first visionary to see the Virgin, experienced an unusual phenomenon from March 20-21 of 1982. Alphonsine told the Sisters of the college and her classmates, “I will look dead, but don’t be afraid. Don’t bury me.” As March 20th arrived, so did Alphonsine’s predictions. Her body seemingly turned into stone – in other words, it was not possible to move the young visionary. Alphonsine fell into a deep sleep, it appeared. Her body was so heavy that priests, nuns, and medical doctors from the Red Cross could not lift her. Even her hands, which were clasped together as if in a state of prayer, couldn’t be separated from one another.
Alphonsine remained in this strange state for eighteen hours. What was truly fascinating, perhaps even more so than what was happening externally, is what was transpiring internally through the visionary. In this eighteen hour state, Alphonsine experienced a mystical journey. She was showed what many people would die to see (no pun intended): the afterlife. Our Lady showed Alphonsine heaven, purgatory, and hell.
The visionary was shown what happens to a person’s soul after they die, the realm that they travel into. Heaven was a place aglow with illumination, great lights, joy and happiness permeated the realm. Purgatory was a sad place of reconciliation. Hell was a disturbing and dark place of fierce fire and complete separation from God.
After experiencing this phenomenon, after eighteen hours, Alphonsine’s body returned to its normal state and the young seer finally awoke.
Similarly, the visionaries of Medjugorje were also shown the afterlife. As in Kibeho, the Medjugorje visionaries describe seeing three realms – heaven, purgatory, and hell. Two of the visionaries, Vicka Ivankovic and Jacov Colo, report being physically taken by the Virgin to these locations, while the others were simply given visions of these realms.
Heaven, according to the Medjugorje visionaries, is a huge place of great lights, beauty, and immense joy. Meadows, mountains, hills, beautiful countrysides are all present; people possess an inner light, radiating a serene joy from their presence. Purgatory is a very sad and chilling place. The visionary Vicka described it as a gray area with misty fog through which people could be heard trembling, weeping, moaning, and where an extreme loneliness permeates the atmosphere. Hell is even more disturbing. The visionaries have described it as a vast space with many people and a great sea of fire in the center. According to the visionaries, the people in hell are enraged, cursing, ugly, angry. They enter the fires naked and come out horrific, no longer in human shape, in vastly darkened, blackened skin.
What is fascinating is that, in addition to the similarities of the Kibeho visions, these descriptions of the afterlife given by the Medjugorje seers match the Fatima visions as well. As one of the three secrets of Fatima, the visionary Lucia Santos was shown a vision of hell. She later described this vision thus:
“Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent.”
It is interesting how the Medjugorje visionaries described a sea of fire in the center of hell, like Sister Lucia did in Fatima. It is further interesting how the Medjugorje visions describe people who, after entering the flames, no longer resemble humans but take on different (inhuman) forms with darkened, blackened skin. Incredibly similar to Sister Lucia’s vision in describing what appeared as a “repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent.”
The similarities are important for they show a coherency in these apparitions, pointing once again to the same spiritual source in each location. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, who has been an astute observer of these matters, once observed: “I am fascinated with the coherence of Medjugorje with other Marian shrines, apparition sites. I always say that there is a grammar of Mary’s apparitions. That style has something special with Our Lady. I think that theologians have to study the syntax of Mary’s apparitions and in that context to study the phenomena of Medjugorje.”
The same coherence that Cardinal Schonborn spoke of, between Medjugorje and other Marian shrines, Pope John Paul II noticed years ago, once famously explaining that “Medjugorje is the fulfillment of Fatima.” Given the fact that the late Polish Pope likely constituted one of the individuals in the third Fatima secret, his expertise on the matter, and his role as the great pontiff, are unmatched.
What is noteworthy is that there are even more similarities, and thus more coherence, between Medjugorje, Kibeho, and Fatima. Perhaps Fatima’s most famous event occurred when thousands of people – many of them skeptics – saw the sun dance in 1917, thus a visible supernatural sign was given by God to prove the authenticity of the apparitions. The miracle of the dancing sun has been reported also a few times at Kibeho while the visionaries experienced their apparitions. At Medjugorje, likewise, the miracle of the dancing sun, which was seen once in Fatima and a couple of times at Kibeho, has been so frequent and so constant that a simple online YouTube search will produce several video clips of the phenomenon in the Bosnian village, recorded by countless of pilgrims, thousands having witnessed the occurrence. This is very important to note because it was the widely reported miracle of the dancing sun, witnessed by an estimated of 70,000 people in Fatima, which quickly led to the approval of the apparitions by the Church.
Invoking Fatima, it is also noteworthy that the famous apparition of Portugal prophesized the coming of World War II and the end of Communism in Russia. Thus both Medjugorje, in correctly prophecizing the wars of the former Yugoslavia and the end of Communism in the region, as well as Kibeho, in correctly prophecizing the Rwandan wars and genocides, have their predecessor in the apparitions of Fatima. Again, as Cardinal Schonborn acknowledged, there is a syntax, a coherence between Mary’s apparitions.
There is one major difference between Fatima and Kibeho, on the one hand, and Medjugorje on the other. The difference is not spiritual but ecclesial. Both the Fatima and Kibeho apparitions have concluded and have been subsequently approved by Roman Catholic authorities. In Medjugorje, on the other hand, the apparitions have not concluded but continue to this day, nearly thirty years later, and are currently under investigation by the Holy See.
Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger acknowledged that in investigating Medjugorje what the Church will consider are the facts and the fruits. The fruits, of course, have been abundant. From the millions who have converted and reawakened their faith at Medjugorje, to the thousands that have discovered their vocations to the priesthood at Medjugorje (see, “The Amazing Fruits of Medjugorje – Religious Vocations Point to Authenticity” on MinistryValues).
But, as the Holy See continues its diligent investigation of Medjugorje, it will no doubt (to quote Cardinal Schonborn’s advice) also look for the coherence of Medjugorje with other Marian apparition sites, especially those that have been approved by the Church. This is where the facts come in. In this sense, the coherence present between what is happening in Medjugorje and what happened in both Fatima and Kibeho, from the catastrophic prophecies of war and genocide, to the spiritual messages of prayer, fasting, and conversion, to the extraordinary supernatural signs and witnessed miracles like the dancing sun, to the coherent visions of the afterlife at each of these three locations, is both abundant and impossible to ignore. All of the evidence points to the presence of the same spiritual source at each site – the Mother of God.
Daniel Klimek recently completed his Master’s degree at Yale Divinity School and is now pursuing a Doctoral degree in Spirituality at Catholic University in Washington D.C.