What is it about Birmingham, Alabama? First a synagogue there hosted the wily Bosnian chief mufti Mustafa Ceric, doing the interfaith song-and-dance while working to usurp Bosnia and parts of Serbia under Islam. And now there’s a Croatian woman that Birmingham residents are flocking to, because she claims to have been seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Bosnia for the past 30 years:

Visions of Virgin Mary draw thousands to Alabama (July 6)

STERRETT, Ala. — A visit from a Croatian woman who says she sees the Virgin Mary on a daily basis drew thousands of people to a small Alabama town this week, many of them traveling long distances to be near the self-proclaimed visionary.

Despite skepticism of prominent Catholics, the faithful said they trekked to Sterrett, about 30 minutes south of Birmingham, with hopes of hearing a message from the mother of Jesus, witnessing miracles and receiving direction about how to follow their faith.

The woman at the center of the gathering, Marija Pavlovic Lunetti, said she saw the apparition or appearance of Mary in 1981 at age 16 with a group of five other youth in Medjugorje, then part of Yugoslavia.

That is where she later met Terry Colafrancesco, a Catholic and former landscape excavator from Alabama who runs Caritas of Birmingham, a Christian non-profit dedicated to spreading news about the visions of Our Lady of Medjugorje.

In 1988, Colafrancesco invited Lunetti to stay on his family farm after he helped arrange her kidney donation to her ailing brother at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.

Lunetti, now 47, has returned 11 times since and has attracted a large following…

“She is coming to bring the scriptures alive, to bring about the conversion of our country to Christ,” said Colafrancesco, whose organization is not connected to the Catholic church or charity groups with the Caritas name.

The Roman Catholic Church acknowledges historic appearances of Mary in Guadalupe, Mexico; Lourdes, France; and Fatima, Portugal - all of which were studied and authenticated by local bishops.

But the church continues to investigate the status of the apparitions in Medjugorje….That has not stopped 60 volunteers at Caritas of Birmingham from working year-round to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje in Croatia [sic: Bosnia-Herzegovina] and run an extensive religious printing operation.

Colafrancesco has built a complex on his 130-acre (52.6-hectare) property that includes a new $8 million printing press and office building, as well as a chapel, gift shop and mobile homes for the community members.

Some detractors describe the group as a cult, saying it fosters isolation, family estrangement and control. A lawsuit filed by former residents and families of residents accused Colafrancesco of enticing devout Catholics to the complex, draining their assets and keeping them from their loved ones. The suit was settled privately.

There was no charge this week for those who came to be near Lunetti. Colafrancesco told local media that the five-day visit drew about 15,000 to 18,000 people by the time it ended on Thursday.

Gina Hall, 49, of Washington, D.C., said she sold her condo and most of her possessions to drive to Birmingham and begin a life of discipleship.

On Monday, the second day of Lunetti’s visit, she announced the Virgin had told her she would appear at 6:40 p.m. As about 2,500 people gathered to pray in a field decorated with a statue of Mary, a smaller group waited in Colafrancesco’s bedroom for the vision.

The faithful prayed the rosary as they kneeled around the bed, which was covered with roses and prayer requests. Lunetti entered the room and began to pray aloud in Croatian. Then she fell silent, still moving her lips and looking upward.

Some witnesses began to sob and wail as they awaited what they believed to be a message from the mother of Jesus.

“She blesses you all,” Lunetti announced in English. […]

As Liz, who circulated the item, asked: “Could it be that ‘Lunetti’ (lunatic) has visions of murderous Ustashe, Ante Pavelic and (Saint) Alojzije Stepinac dressed in drag, dancing in her Ustasha head? For anyone who may not know, the Medjugorje region is where Croatian Ustashe dumped thousands of Serbs into open pits, in WWII.”

Indeed, if Mary really does appear at Medjugorje, it’s probably to remind the Croatian Catholics of the Serbs they put under the ground there. (Mary is Jewish, as she herself reaffirms when appearing to America’s most credible medium, George Anderson.)