Page 1, 15th March 1996

15th March 1996
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Page 1, 15th March 1996 — New twists in the FRENCH PRIEST ARRESTED IN PRO-LIFE DEMONSTRATION
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New twists in the FRENCH PRIEST ARRESTED IN PRO-LIFE DEMONSTRATION

tale of holy statue

BY OUR ROME CORRESPON

DENT

IN THE LATEST development in the saga of the bloodweeping Madonna of Civitavecchia, a North Italian parish priest has been accused of illicitly replacing the allegedly miracle-working statuette with a copy.

Fr Aldo Rosati, 53, has denied the accusations contained in a police report filed on Sunday in Civitavecchia, the port of Rome about 40 miles north of the city.

Fr Rosati, who was on a pilgrimage to see the white plaster figurine with 51 parishioners, said he had been given permission to remove the statuette from its special niche in the garden of its owner's home.

The priest, who had been received in audience by Pope John Paul II just hours before visiting Civitavecchia, was apprehended by motorway police, who stopped the parochial coach on its way back to Bologna. Police said they found the figurine on the coach but said that the statuette's owners, the Gregori family, were not pressing charges. The family has denied giving Fr Rosati permission to remove it from its niche.

Last February, the Madonna of Civitavecchia which had been bought at the shrine of Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia, began to weep dark red liquid which Rome forensic laboratories later identified as male blood.

The phenomenon is now the object of a parallel inquiry, by forensic police and by a Vatican theological commission. The figurine, about a foot high and said by the Bishop of Civitavecchia to have wept blood as he held it in his hands, is still attracting hundreds of pilgrims a week to the Gregoris' home.•




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