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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 18:59 GMT
Italian statue 'weeps blood'
Police and crowds gather round the 'weeping' statue of Padre Pio
Police wipe the statue with handkerchiefs from believers
Thousands of believers have flocked to the Sicilian city of Messina after a statue of the revered Padre Pio began shedding tears some think are blood.

A passer-by noticed that the statue seemed to be crying late on Tuesday night.

Statue of Padre Pio
Police are to analyse the red liquid coming from the statue's eyes
He called a local priest who was unable to wipe away the red substance leaking from the eyes of the statue in the centre of the city, according to the Italian news agency Ansa.

The suspected miracle was reported on the evening news and sparked mass interest in the statue of Padre Pio who will be made a saint by the Pope in June.

Though claims of weeping statues are not unusual in Italy, the popularity of Padre Pio has made this a special case.

More than 2,000 people rushed to the statue overnight in the square in front of the Church of Madonna of Pompeii.


Police have taken a sample of the liquid coming from the two-metre (seven-foot) bronze statue for analysis.

Padre Pio de Pietrelcine is one of the most revered religious figures in Italy.

He was considered the first priest in centuries to show the stigmata - the wounds to hands, feet and side suffered by Jesus at his crucifixion.

He has an enormous following and the monastery where he died in 1968 at the age of 81 attracts seven million visitors a year - similar to the numbers who go to France's Lourdes shrine.

See also:

02 May 99 | Europe
Wounds, odours and miracles
02 May 99 | Europe
Pope beatifies 'miracle' monk
22 Dec 98 | Europe
Italian monk on path to sainthood
11 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Padre Pio TV goes on air
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