Page last updated at 22:49 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

No worship on 'Virgin Mary' hill

By Prime Ndikumagenge
BBC News, Bujumbura

Virgin Mary image
Worshippers claim only those with a "special gift" see the apparition

Worship has been banned on a small rural hill in Burundi, where a woman claims to see the Virgin Mary on the same day of every month.

The 23-year-old's claims of an apparition have become so widely known that thousands of people gather on the hill at the same time to pray.

But the governor of the northern province says the worshippers are troublemakers and they should stop.

The Catholic church in the area is also investigating the claims of a "vision".

The woman in question is called Euzebie and comes from a rural village known as Masinde, in the province of Kayanza.

Sing and cry

She claims to see the Virgin Mary on the 11th day of each month.

Provincial governor Edouard Nduwimana says people come from all over the country, as well as nearby Rwanda and Uganda, to join Euzebie on the hill.

The archibishop of the northern diocese has formally advised worshippers to stop going to see Euzebie while the church investigates
Edouard Nduwimana
Provincial governor

He says they stay for three nights each month, from the 11th to the 13th, during which time they pray, bang drums, sing and cry.

"Among the growing controversy surrounding the Euzebie saga, the archibishop of the northern diocese has formally advised worshippers to stop going to see Euzebie while the church investigates to confirm whether or not she has been seeing the Virgin Mary," said Mr Nduwimana, who also comes from Masinde village.

Police are to start patrolling the hill in case the request is not met.

According to followers of Euzebie, she began to see and talk to the Virgin Mary when she was four years old.

Regina Pacis regularly travels for about an hour from another province in the north to see Euzebie.

She claims she hears the voice of the Virgin Mary when she talks to Euzebie. But she says only a few people, with what she calls "a special gift", can also see her.

Repenting sins

Mubiligi is a senior magistrate in the capital Bujumbura. He started to worship with Euzebie last May.

He claims he once saw a "miracle" when communal bread fell from the sky into the hand of Euzebie.

Both say the message from the Virgin Mary focuses on repenting sins and loving one another.

In a written message, the Archbishop of Kayanza, Monsignor Gervais Banshimiyubusa, said that in a country emerging from war, it was normal that people were attracted to a place where they believed they could receive relief for their suffering and mercy for their sins.

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