Vatican denounces group's claim of seeing the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times as 'work of the devil'
The Vatican has denounced a group who claim to have seen the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times in the past 27 years.
The six Bosnian 'seers' attract five million pilgrims a year to their home town of Medjugorje, providing a lucrative trade for local businesses.
The Vatican has rejected claims made by the six Bosnian 'seers' that they have seen the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times over the past 27 years
But now one of the most respected voices in the Roman Catholic church has accused the visionaries of perpetuating a 'diabolical deceit'.
Andrea Gemma, 77, a bishop and once the Vatican's top exorcist, told a magazine in Italy: 'In Medjugorje everything happens in function of money: Pilgrimages, lodging houses, sale of trinkets.
'This whole sham is the work of the Devil. It is a scandal.' He said the Vatican would soon crack down on the group.
The Medjugorje phenomenon began on June 25, 1981, when six children told a priest they had seen the Virgin on a hillside near their town.
A church investigation dismissed the vision, and the Vatican banned pilgrimages to the site in 1985. But many Catholics ignored the ban.
Today, the seers own smart houses with security gates and tennis courts and expensive cars. One is married to a former U.S. beauty queen.
Catholic officials in the U.S. have recently banned the group from speaking on church property during their world tours, on which they allegedly take the Virgin with them.