November 1, 2009 / 7:11 PM / 9 years ago

Irish turn out for apparition, defying church plea

A man walks past the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland in this May 20, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Some 10,000 people gathered at a Irish shrine hoping to witness an apparition of the Virgin Mary on Saturday despite pleas from an archbishop to ignore invitations to the event by a self-proclaimed spiritual healer.

The Knock shrine in northwest Ireland, which dates back to an apparition in 1879 of Mary, St. Joseph and St. John, attracts 1.5 million pilgrims each year, including Pope John Paul in 1979.

The head of the local Roman Catholic archdiocese issued a statement on Monday urging the faithful to disregard the forecasts by Dublin-based “spiritual healer” Joe Coleman that Mary, venerated by Christians as the mother of God, would reappear.

“Faith makes Knock pilgrims firm in hope,” Archbishop Michael Neary said in the statement. “They do not expect visions or seek further apparitions.”

Some of those present said Mary appeared on Saturday, most attributing her presence to the sun suddenly breaking through the clouds, changing color and appearing to come closer.

“I saw the sun spinning,” one pilgrim told public television RTE. She added, however: “Who is to know that it isn’t climate change or something like that causing that?”

Reporting by Andras Gergely

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