MORE than 2,000 pilgrims braved the bloody civil war raging in the ex-Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzogovina to march to the Marian village shrine at Medjugorje last week.
The pilgrims, who had travelled from all over Europe and from as far afield aS Australia, made their way to Medjugorje from the Croatian town of Split on the Dalmatian coast to celebrate the I 1th anniversary of the apparitions at the shrine.
Guy Horton, one of the 50 pilgrims from England, said the walkers had passed burned-out buildings, personnel carriers and tanks on the way to the village.
But Mr Horton said Medjugorje, which in recent weeks has been living under siege conditions, was just as it had been before the war. "1 never thought I would be so glad to see the souvenir stands," he said.
The restaurants and the shops were open, and the telephones, electricity and water supplies had been restored, Mr Horton said.
Serbian forces have been pushed back from the area surrounding Medjugorje. Some have attributed the shrine's escape from the devastation all around it to the miraculous intervention of Our Lady.
On the June 25 anniversary of the apparitions, the Church in the village was packed to bursting point with pilgrims. Thirty-nine priests concelebrated a Mass led by Archbishop Franic of Split, at which prayers for peace in the rest of Bosnia-Herzogovina were said.
During the fighting two bombs fell on Medjugorje, but failed to explode. A Serbian fighter pilot who bailed out of his plane over the village said his mission to hit the Catholic shrine had ended when his instruments stopped working overhead.
Sporadic fighting is continuing in Mostar, the nearest sizeable town to Medjugorje.