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By Greg Garrison
Religion News Service
(RNS) Thousands of pilgrims from across the country visited central Alabama for a five-day prayer retreat focused on a woman who has reported daily sightings of the Virgin Mary since 1981.
Marija Lunetti, from Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia, reported daily visions while pilgrims gathered outside the house where she has been staying in Shelby County, Ala., about 25 miles south of Birmingham.
On Thursday (July 3) and Friday, she reported visions at 10 p.m. in a field amid pilgrims gathered under a pine tree. Lunetti said the Virgin Mary appeared to her and offered blessings for everyone in the crowd.
Although no one else could see the apparitions, many in the crowd believed Lunetti sees miraculous visions.
“It’s an overwhelming experience,” said Judith Rojas of Salt Lake City, who came to Birmingham Tuesday and left Saturday. “She’s here. The Virgin Mary is visiting us from heaven. How can you comprehend that?”
Lunetti’s home village of Medjugorje, in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, has drawn millions of pilgrims since Lunetti and five other youths began reporting the visions 27 years ago.
Terry Colafrancesco, the founder of Caritas of Birmingham, promotes the visions of Medjugorje and sponsored Lunetti last week. Lunetti was seeking medical treatment at St. Vincent’s Birmingham for a broken collarbone and shoulder injured in a skiing accident earlier this year in Italy, where she now lives.
Lunetti may stay several more weeks in Birmingham to continue seeking therapy and may eventually undergo surgery, Colafrancesco said.
The Catholic Church has not ruled on the validity of the Medjugorje visions, and the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham prohibits Mass at Caritas, although it allowed a special daily Mass for visiting pilgrims at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church.

Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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