Thousands visit 'weeping' statue of Mary in Bangladesh


BANGLADESH: Thousands of people are thronging to a Roman Catholic church in Bangladesh for a glimpse of a statue of Mary, the mother of Christ, that appears to be weeping.

Parishioners saw what they took to be teardrops in the eyes of the statue, at Patharghata in southeastern Chittagong, late on Sunday and 15,000 people have visited since, authorities estimate, with more streaming in.

"I myself have seen drops just below the eyes of the statue ... The source of the drops is still unknown," said Mr Ronald Gomes, a Catholic who is deputy administrator of the Association of Baptists, a non-government group in Chittagong.

Christians make up less than 1 per cent of the predominantly Muslim population of 131 million.

"Many people, irrespective of religion, are still crowding the church and the authorities have called in police to maintain order," Mr Gomes said yesterday.

A police officer also spotted traces of liquid on the statue.

"Something that looks like a teardrop is stuck on the chin of the statue encased in a glass container," said Insp Habibur Rahman.

Scientists were sceptical. "It is hard to believe that a marble statue can secrete water," said Prof S. K. Sinha, of the chemistry department of Chittagong University.

The statue, chiselled in Italy and installed at the 150-year-old church in 1955, has been the focal point for prayer for the tiny Christian community in the port city.

Church authorities had no explanation of the phenomenon. "We are trying to ascertain the cause," Bishop Patrick Rosario told reporters.