After the fall of communism in 1989, countries across East and South East Europe witnessed a revival of religion and a strengthening of the position of religious institutions in society. The recent revitalisation of military pilgrimages is one of the explicit manifestations of this transformation.

The NATO-led multinational Kosovo Force (KFOR) was established in Kosovo after fighting broke out between the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Liberation Army during 1999. Thanks to the KFOR media content posted on the internet, it is possible to trace the transformation of the Catholic Black Madonna cult site in Kosovo (Letnica/Letnicë in the county of Vitina/Viti). The cult had attracted pilgrims from far and wide before the 1990s conflicts; besides those from Kosovo, visitors came from Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. It had also been supported by Croat Catholics in the Letnica area, but their presence declined significantly during the 1990s. Their departure from the Kosovo municipalities of Vitina (villages of Letnica, Šašare, Vrnez and Vrnavokolo) began in 1992 and intensified during the 1999 conflict.

Analysis of the reports published in the English language online monthly review, KFOR Chronicle, as well as the author’s personal experience during field research in Kosovo 2001–2005, showed that KFOR celebrated the pilgrimages to the Letnica shrine in terms of what one might call ‘double communitas’ and ‘double peace commitment’. KFOR representatives also joined the International Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes. Furthermore, KFOR was also actively involved in the physical protection of Orthodox monasteries and maintained good relations with the monks.

Data from the KFOR Chronicle show how the pilgrimages to Letnica and Lourdes were interpreted by some soldiers at least. Their comments emphasise what they shared together, i.e. a belief in God and in the strength and comfort provided by religion, moral culpability, a belief in the efficacy of prayer and in religious transformation during pilgrimage.

Hence, through these two pilgrimages, KFOR’s leaders sought to promote peace-building. In the process, they actively participated in the transformation of an initially multiconfessional (but still Catholic) Kosovo shrine into an international, multilingual Catholic pilgrimage site. By raising the rank of a local Kosovo shrine to an international level, Letnica was linked to the other Black Madonna shrines across Europe as well as to sites connected with Mother Teresa.