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 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.
Faricy, Robert, and Luciano Pecoraio. Mary Among Us: The Apparitions at Oliveto Citra. Stubenville, Ohio: Franciscan University Press, 1989.