Act of God or fake religious curiosity

AAP (Australia), Nov. 23, 2002

Investigators have been asked to prove if a weeping statue of the Virgin Mary in Western Australia is an act of God or a fake religious curiosity.

The inquiry into the “miracle” is unprecedented in Australia, according to the Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey.

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Scientists from two Perth universities have already tested the 70cm sculpture, but were unable to find the source of the rose-scented oil that trickles from its eyes.

The Reverend Father Finbarr Walsh, from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Rockingham, south of Perth, where the statue is displayed, has been inundated with requests from around the world for samples of the liquid.

Archbishop Hickey now wants to know if the statue is merely an interesting curiosity or a miraculous symbol of Christianity.

“The phenomenon has been going on for more than three months now,” he Hickey said.

“The faithful and the community at large are entitled to as clear a statement as I can make, about whether the tears can be explained by some natural process or human intervention, or whether they defy scientific explanation.”

Archbishop Hickey has appointed a team of three, one a non-Catholic, to find out why the Madonna has been “crying” for the past 100 days.

The investigators are scientist and non-Catholic; Doctor Thelma Koppi, the Reverend Father Kevin Long and surgeon Michael Shanahan.

“The three will arrange whatever scientific test they consider necessary,” Archbishop Hickey said.

“As well as their own scientific, theological and historical expertise, they will be able to take suggestions from anyone in the scientific community who has ideas on what would be needed to determine whether the phenomenon can be explained.”

The Archbishop has made only one stipulation for the sculpture’s examination, and that is not to damage it.

He’d like an answer, if possible, within a month.

Fake or miracle, the statue has drawn thousands of people to the tiny church.

The Madonna statue, which cost parishioner Patty Powell $150, from a religious shop in Thailand, was first seen weeping on March 19 during the feast of St Joseph, the husband of Mary, and then over the four days of Easter.

It again began to “cry” on August 15, the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into our Heaven, and has wept continuously since.

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