Church says ‘weeping’ statues are fakes

The Catholic Church has officially declared the oil-seeping and “bleeding” artefacts at the Inala Vietnamese Catholic Centre as fakes.

Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby yesterday apologised to all those deceived.

He released an investigative report and issued instructions for the principal statue and other objects to be removed from public veneration.

Archbishop Bathersby said he had asked for a full accounting of any money received “during the time of these pilgrimages”.

News of the weeping, seeping artefacts swept around the world and thousands of devotees have visited the centre in Brisbane’s southwest since May. The so-called phenomenon included a large plaster statue of the Virgin Mary, rosary beads, a picture of Jesus and a crucifix.

Archbishop Bathersby said a commission of investigation, headed by Dr Adrian Farrelly, had found the rose scented oil on the artefacts was “very likely one that is commercially available and it is possible that the substance was applied to them by human hands”.

“The principal statue was X-rayed and the oil samples subjected to analysis by gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy,” he said.

“The red substance found on some of the artefacts was shown not to be blood.”

The commission was “not satisfied the phenomenon was, within the proper meaning of the word, a miracle”.

“Given that there is the possibility that human agency could produce the phenomenon then . . . I must declare that what has happened at Inala cannot be said to be of supernatural origin.”

Archbishop Bathersby apologised to “the people who believed this to be so”.

X-rays of the main statute revealed two fine holes through which liquid could have been injected.

Archbishop Bathersby said that the centre’s priest, Father Joseph Nguyen Thanh Liem, had believed the phenomenon to be a miracle but had accepted the archbishop’s “direction”.

Fr Joseph, who was unable to be contacted yesterday, had said he had no idea who had perpetrated the fraud.

He had also denied knowing of a DVD on the artefacts being sold on the Internet.

Archbishop Bathersby said Fr Joseph had revealed that extra money earned from increased sales of rosary beads and crucifixes had gone into a special account to ease poverty in African countries.

He said those claims would be investigated and Fr Joseph had confirmed “substantial amounts had been raised”.

At the centre yesterday, the statue of the Virgin Mary which had been “weeping”, was locked in a cabinet in the hall. Previously, the statue had been placed in a glass cabinet on the chapel altar.

Many parishioners said they still believed the weeping and bleeding were miracles.

“I don’t care (about the report),” one parishioner said. “With my eyes I saw that. I believe it in my heart.”

Truong Phan, 29, of Melbourne, came to see the statue and when told about the church’s report also dismissed it. “I think it’s genuine,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of this.”

At a service at the Inala church attended by about 200 people last night, Father Thu Nguyen told worshippers to respect the church’s findings. But he said later that people would “believe what they believe”.

Father Thu said he had witnessed three separate weeping Mary statues at homes around Inala.

Church member Trung Nguen said he still believed the weeping statues were “a sign from God”.

“I saw it, it’s a miracle. No one knows what happened but it’s a sign from God.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Courier-Mail, Australia
July 30, 2004
Margaret Wenham, Emma Chalmers and Amanda Watt

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday July 29, 2004.
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