Weeping Mary withdrawn from church display

Australian Associated Press, Feb. 18, 2003
http://www.smh.com.au/

A statue of the Virgin Mary – the subject of scientific tests after apparently “weeping” an oil-like substance – has been taken off display in a Catholic church south of Perth.

The fibreglass Madonna attracted thousands of worshippers to Our Lady of Lourdes church at Rockingham after revelations that it began to “cry” on March 19, during the feast of St Joseph, and then over the four days of Easter.

From August 15 last year, the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Our Heaven, it wept continuously.

However, it stopped weeping in mid-January.

In September, scientists from two Perth universities tested the statue but were unable to find the source of its reported weeping.

Murdoch University chemist Doug Clarke said he believed the “tears” were fake but could find no proof that the Madonna had not wept.

He said the tears were a vegetable oil, likely olive, scented with a rose-oil mix.

Curtin University X-ray expert Rob Hart found no cavity or sign of fluid inside the statue, although he reported an unexplained mass at the statue’s feet.

Keen to try to uncover a definitive answer, Perth Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey then handpicked a team of three people – a non-Catholic scientist, a priest and a surgeon – to arrange scientific tests.

The Archbishop is now examining the findings of the tests.

He said yesterday the statue had been withdrawn from display in the interim.

“The parish priest will be absent from the parish for a while and I thought it wise to cease public veneration pending conclusion of my consideration of the investigations,” he said.

The 70cm figurine was purchased by a parishioner, Patty Powell, for $150 in a Thai religious shop eight years ago.

It is understood the statue has been returned to Ms Powell.

A Catholic church spokesman could not say when the Archbishop would release the test findings.

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