Archbishop Barry Hickey’s Statement
Below is the official statement released to the media by Archbishop Barry Hickey on 26th February, 2003. Directly below is Patty Powell’s reply to the commission findings.
Due to widespread interest in the “weeping” statue of the Virgin Mary at Rockingham over the past months, I formed a Commission of Inquiry on November 18, 2002 to investigate the alleged miraculous nature of the phenomenon and to advise me of its conclusions.
The statue was reported to have wept on March 19 last year, the Solemnity of St Joseph, and then again over the four days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, and a third time on June 22, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The process began again on August 15 and continued unabated until the statue was handed over for investigation on December 10,2002. It became widely known around the world after a report in the diocesan newspaper, The Record, on September 5, 2002.
The Commission, which convened on November 26, 2002, at first reviewed all the then known facts including the results of investigations previously carried out.
The statue was dried and subjected to a number of tests and observations by the Commission and scientists. It was closely examined with magnification, x-ray and CT scan. Enquiries were also made of the statue’s origin and reports were obtained regarding the process of manufacture in Thailand. In conjunction with me, the Commission also undertook various interviews.
The tests revealed the complex structure of the statue, but there was no evidence of internal interference and the cavity was empty and dry.
The liquid that covered the face and front of the statue and collected in a dish under the statue was scientifically analysed. The Commission was informed by the statue’s owner that over the two weeks before testing the volume collected and measured amounted to a large glass full of oily fluid (355 ml). Analysis of a sample of this oil, provided by the owner, found it be vegetable oil, strongly suggestive of olive oil. In addition, there were small globules of another substance present which probably accounted for the rose fragrance. This suggested that two oils might have been mixed together. In the view of the Commission, this mixing could be accounted for by physical explanations.
During the whole time the statue was under the observation of the Commission it showed no sign of ‘weeping’. However, the “weeping” commenced again from December 15 when the statue was returned to its custodians. On January 9, 2003 when members of the Commission, Bishop Sproxton and I visited Rockingham to inspect the statue, it was “weeping”. Bishop Sproxton gained permission to dry the statue and did so. It did not resume “weeping” during our stay.
At my request, the statue was the placed in the care of the Parish Priest and isolated from all other people. The statue did not ” weep” for a full month. On February 9, 2003 a tear appeared in one eye.
In light of these observations and all the other scientific evidence obtained by the Commission, I have accepted its advice that one cannot safely conclude that this phenomenon is of divine origin. The hesitations of the Commission are in Keeping with the Church’s traditional prudence and reservation concerning matters purporting to be miraculous.
It is therefore my rightful duty as Archbishop of Perth, for the correct guidance of the people of God, to say that the case for a miraculous happening has not been proved. The Church requires very strict criteria for a miracle that rule out other explanations . In this case the criteria have not been met.
I am pleased that His Grace Archbishop Hickey has released the finding of the commission. I have always stated that I would abide with his discernment regarding the statue, whatever they were to be. I am completely at peace with the events which have occurred and with his deliberations. A declaration of a miracle has never been one of my priorities during this time. All I have prayed for is that people return to a meaningful and personal relationship with God and try to determine the message from the tears.’
The message of the statue can not be diminished because as yet, it has not been approved as meeting all the criteria for a miracle. It is a message of hope and faith which strikes to the core of our very existence.
The numbers who have been to see and pray at the church come from a wide and diverse range of ages, nationalities, cultures, and beliefs. Some are believers, some are not but most are struck with a profound sense of peace and faith.We live in a divided world but for one brief moment in time divisions were forgotten and God has become a pre-eminent thought in the minds of many, worldwide. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Orthodox, Pentecostals and other religions have all been moved and led to offer support and prayer. In itself the effect on such fragmented religious groups could be classified as a miracle.
I believe the message is to accept the diversity, loose distrust and encourage selflessness.
We all have a common link in that we share this same small earth, all breathe the same air and all seek a secure future for our children. A future without hunger, want, prejudice or war. A future which allows for differences and celebrates diversity and freedom to worship how and where we wish, without fear and with full acceptance. I believe God has facilitated this dream, and will continue to do this through the outworking of his spirit in many wonderful ways. I thank all who have supported me during this time of blessing and grace and pray for God’s blessings on all people, everywhere.
– Patty Powell