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Coogee pilgrims lobby for beach chapel

Two years after the alleged Sydney beachside apparition of the Virgin Mary, pilgrims of the "Coogee Madonna" are pushing for the building of a chapel.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Carmina Sarvino, of Bondi, has "lobbied Randwick Council, bent the ear of the Premier, Bob Carr, and written to the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell", imploring them all to help build a chapel.

"This is holy land," he claims.

The Herald says no fewer than three academic papers have delved into the Mary apparition at Coogee, first reported in January 2003 at Dolphins Reserve, at the northern end of Coogee Beach. At least two papers have found a link between the outpouring of grief over the Sari Club bombing in October 2002 and growing national insecurities but for those who venerate Mary it is purely a matter of faith.

Jenny Veselcic, from western Sydney, journeys two hours every Tuesday to the shrine, her original visit prompted by a vision in her bedroom.

"I promised God and Mother Mary I would follow her," she says, clutching a well-thumbed prayer book containing holy pictures, and pressed rose petals from which she sees the faces of Mary, Jesus and the angels. She says she has seen a vision of a blue veiled Mary while praying at Coogee.

Dr Carole Cusack, senior lecturer in religious studies at the University of Sydney, said it was no coincidence the apparition grew in popularity as the world prepared for the Iraq war.

"Pilgrims to Coogee are joining in an age-old religious practice, older than Christianity, and it functions to alleviate stress experienced by the community."

No rest in the quest for Coogee's holy rail (Sydney Morning Herald 5/2/05)

Archdiocese of Sydney

Vandals destroy Coogee 'virgin' (CathNews 10/2/03)
Apparition of Our Lady of Coogee Beach (CathNews 31/1/03)

7 Feb 2005