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Virgin Mary statue 'started crying days before terror attacks'

Worshippers at an Ecuadorian church claim their statue of the Virgin Mary has started crying tears of blood.

According to the Extra newspaper, the wooden statue started crying days before the US terror attacks.

Local priest Fr Alfredo Viera said the timing of the phenomenon is significant. Church authorities are keeping an open mind.

Fr Viera said the tears show Mary's distress at mankind's sinful nature.

The phenomenon apparently happened first during a wedding at the church in Cotogchoa. The bride, Marķa Jaramillo, says she noticed red tears running down the statue's cheeks which are painted white.

The church has now become a site of pilgrimage for hundreds of residents of Pichincha province.

Scientists suggest the 'tears' are a result of a seasonal change in temperature, making the wooden statue exude sap. But parishioners claim the statue is too old to contain sap. Scientists are also unable to explain why the tears are red rather than white.