Oliveto Citra
Oliveto Citra, a town in Italy south of Naples, was the site
in the 1980s of a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary, unusual
for the number of people who reported sightings. They
began on May 24, 1985, the feast day of Saint Macarius, the patron
saint of Oliveto Citra. In the evening, as the townspeople
gathered for the celebration, some dozen boys ages eight to ten
were playing at a small square just off the piazza Garibaldi,
where the main celebration took place. Suddenly, behind the
iron gate that led to the castle ruins that dominate the town, the
boys heard a baby crying. It startled them, and they did not
know what to do. Then, they saw what was variously reported
as a light, or a light in the shape of a person. A few saw a young
woman; several reported seeing an infant in her arms. Excited,
they ran to the piazza to report that they had seen the Virgin.
Two women returned to the spot, and one of them, Anita Rio,
saw the young woman and the infant with a rosary in his hands.
The woman spoke to Rio and said that she would see the
woman in the evenings. Rio entered a state of shock and was
taken to the town’s small hospital. One of the boys who had
seen the woman asked her who she was, and she replied, ‘‘I am
Our Lady of Graces.’’ The next evening, Gino Acquaviva and
his twin brother, Carmine, saw the Virgin again, and asked her
name. This time she replied, ‘‘I am Our Lady of Consolation.’’
The Lady appeared frequently over the next months. Rio saw
her regularly and was told that she wished a small chapel built
at the castle gate. That chapel was dedicated in 1987. As word
spread of the sightings, the castle gate became a place of pilgrimage
and by the end of the 1980s, a site of nightly worship
services built around the recitation of the rosary and the mysteries
of Mary. One resident wrote a hymn to the Virgin, and
one evening as it was being sung, she supplied a new melody
heard by some as coming from a heavenly choir. One man in
the village, crippled since birth, was healed. A number of subsequent
healings have been reported. Some 20 people saw the
Virgin with some degree of regularity and by the end of the decade
over 100 had signed statements recording at least one
sighting. While many are children or youth, a number of adults
have become a part of the group who regularly sees and/or
speaks to the Virgin. Many also report a sweet-smelling perfume
as indicative of her presence. Of those who have heard
her speak, the Lady has spoken words of personal admonition
as well as general admonitions supportive of Catholic piety.
Several of the visionaries have been told secrets by the Virgin
that they have not revealed to anyone. The parish priest at
Oliveto Citra, Don Peppino, took a pastoral interest in the visionaries
and soon took it upon himself to record all that has
happened. He became convinced of the reality of the apparitions
and believes the number of people who have seen the Virgin
makes the sightings unique among the many reported
sightings worldwide. Though the local archdiocese has made
an initial investigation of the events, the archbishop has yet to
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make a definitive statement. The sightings continued through
the 1990s, though they have remained spontaneous and sporadic.
Regular services continue at the site of the chapel, and
several books have been written about the sightings. Like Medjugore,
in Herzegovina, it appears that Oliveto Citra will remain
a site of pilgrimage well into the twenty-first century.
Sources:
Faricy, Robert, and Luciano Pecoraio. Mary Among Us: The
Apparitions at Oliveto Citra. Stubenville, Ohio: Franciscan University
Press, 1989.