Church cautious on S African Virgin vision claims

Seventeen-year-old South African girl Francesca Zackey is claiming to have received visions of Our Lady surrounded by bouquets of roses and pictures of the crucified Christ but church authorities remain cautious.

PR Inside reports that hundreds of people of all religious persuasions are flocking to be blessed by the girl claims.

Sightings like this are rare in South Africa, where only 6 per cent of the population is Catholic. Johannesburg Archbishop Buti Tlhagale was not in his office Monday to respond to Zackey's claims.

Zackey's parents have converted the front room of their house in Benoni, a small town east of Johannesburg, into a prayer room.

The sideboard buffet has been turned into a shrine, fronted by a child-sized statue of Mary surrounded by bouquets of roses and pictures of a crucified Jesus.

"She's always been a different child, very bold," said Bridget Zackey, the girl's mother, who had a blue string of rosary beads wrapped around her right hand. She said the visions seemed to come at an opportune time for her daughter who has just finished school and was going through a transitional period in her life. "I think this is her calling."

The teenager said she first saw the Virgin Mary on 7 May interrupting the family's evening meal.

"My brother-in-law asked for an encyclopedia, and as I was replacing the book back, I just smelt the strongest fumes of roses and it just hit me, and I fell to my knees and I started crying the tears of joy," she said.

Zackey said she called her family to the bookshelf and they also smelled roses. Then she said she was compelled by the "Holy Spirit" to go to her bedroom where she saw the Virgin Mary sitting on the right side of her bed.

"She had ice blue eyes, brown hair, long brown hair, and an ice blue cloak. Her hands were open, there was light coming out of her hands," Zackey said.

Zackey said at first she was scared by the visions, but "then the Holy Spirit took over" and gave her strength.

In her visions, the mother of Jesus Christ called on the teenager to write a book documenting her visions and start a youth prayer group.

"She said to me that she wants people to pray with their hearts. She said: 'I want you to open your house for seven days and I want you to put statues where I have been"'.

Zackey said she had had about 20 visions of the Virgin and each site is marked with candles, idols of Mary and roses.

The South African Independent Online adds that Fr Barney McAleer confirmed yesterday that the church would investigate the claims but said this would be done in the same manner that other revelations of this kind were handled by the church.

"This kind of thing can take years," he said.

According to McAleer, the Catholic church "is used to these sorts of things, they happen all around the world".

He referred to the claims made by Zackey as the experience of a private revelation or message, which could be described as a manifestation similar to those reported by other religions.

"But the church is cautious. We do not encourage or discourage what is happening," he said, referring to reports that thousands had flocked to visit Zackey at her home, where a front room had been converted into a prayer room where she receives visitors.

South African teenager claims to have visions of the Virgin Mary (PR Inside, 11/6/07)
Catholic Church to probe 'Virgin vision' girl (Independent Online, South Africa, 11/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg

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13 Jun 2007