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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Mystery of Australia's weeping Madonna
Scientists in Australia have failed to find the source of tears flowing from the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Parish priest Finbarr Walsh
The parish priest is convinced by it
The fibreglass statue, on display at a Catholic church in Perth, Western Australia, started weeping fragrant liquid in March.

Thousands of pilgrims have visited the church since the statue's owner revealed the news last week.

Sceptics are sure the statue is a fake, but no-one has yet been able to prove it.

Devout Catholic Patty Powell, 47, paid $82 (Aus $150) for the statue in Bangkok eight years ago.

The statue, which has been dripping a rose-scented oil-like substance, has been attracting visitors from as far away as the east coast.

'Very tricky'

Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey has said he does not think trickery is involved.

"When I went to see the statue for myself a couple of weeks ago I had misgivings and was sceptical, but frankly I was impressed," he told AFP news agency.


The smell was hauntingly familiar

Murdoch University chemist Doug Clarke
But scientists still hope to prove the statue is a fake - if the owner will let them.

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

Murdoch University chemist Doug Clarke, who tested the oily liquid, told reporters he thought someone had been "very tricky", but he could find no proof the statue was fake.

He said the tears were a vegetable oil, probably olive, scented with a rose-oil mix, but a cat-scan would show definitively whether there was oil inside. However the owner is reportedly satisfied the statue is genuine and may refuse to submit it for more tests.

"The smell was hauntingly familiar, as if it were a local scent, but none of us could tell where it came from," said Mr Clarke.

Parish priest Finbarr Walsh said the statue was giving great comfort to the sick including a dying priest who was anointed with the oily tears on Wednesday.

"Two hours later he was sitting up in bed as cheerful as anything," he said.

The statue is being shown for a few hours a week at Our Lady of Lourdes church, in the Perth suburb of Rockingham.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | Europe
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