The Catholic Church claims a modern-day miracle is unfolding in Rockingham.
It says that a 50-year-old father of three, whose identity is being kept secret, is displaying stigmata on his hands and feet – wounds that appear to be similar to those on the crucified body of Christ.
The Rev Father Finbarr Walsh told The Sunday Times this week that he had witnessed the phenomena, which lasted 24 hours and included visions of and messages from the Virgin Mary.
He said he had never seen such a thing in his 50 years as a priest, with the wounds appearing to be covered in blood.
He believed the stigmata was real, saying he had no reason to think the man was a fraud.
“I haven’t come across anything like this before,” Father Walsh said.
“I have seen the wounds. They are not fake. He is getting the wounds of Jesus on his hands and feet.
“You see them bleeding. When he has them, he is in great pain. But they disappear within 24 hours. It has to be a miracle.
“Who knows how it happens. You ask God how he does it.”
There have been 500 reported stigmatics who have displayed wounds similar to those inflicted upon Jesus.
The first case was that of Archbishop Stephen Langton, of England, recorded in 1222.
St Francis of Assisi suffered wounds in La Verna, Italy, in 1224.
Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey refused to speak to The Sunday Times this week about the incident. He said through a spokesman that he was aware of what was happening in Rockingham.
“He won’t talk with anyone about it,” spokesman Hugh Ryan said.
The Sunday Times contacted the man this week.
Identifying himself only as Ian, he said he had been asked by the Catholic Church not to speak to the media.
“I can’t answer your questions. It’s a humility thing and I have to be obedient to those who have said I can’t talk about it,” he said.
“Different things happen to people and they happen for a reason.
“Why they happen, we don’t understand.”
Asked if he was frightened by what was happening to him, he said: “No, why should I be?”
Father Walsh said the man had received hundreds of messages from the Virgin Mary.
She appeared to him on the eighth day of every month and sometimes more often.
“I have been there when he says he has seen Our Lady,” Father Walsh said. “He is the only one who sees her. The only evidence is his word.
“I don’t think he (is lying). He is a holy person.”
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