A Mary sculpture in a town near Rome has attracted large crowds of spectators in recent years
A Catholic bishop in Italy has asked worshippers not to attend events to view a Virgin Mary statue alleged to shed tears of blood, saying the church is still investigating "supernatural" claims about the icon.
In a press release issued on Thursday, Bishop Marco Salvi of the Diocese of Civita Castellana, located 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Rome, urged people to avoid viewings of the so-called Madonna of Trevignano sculpture, noting the ongoing probe into the matter.
"In reference to the alleged supernatural phenomena at Trevignano Romano, I inform you that the Diocesan Commission, constituted by me and in charge, is still working to... reach an overall and definitive judgment on the part of the church," the bishop said of the statue.
Salvi went on to state that Catholics should not "organize public meetings... that give the impression or certainty that the church has authenticated the facts of Trevignano," adding "the faithful are not advised to participate in such events until there is a definitive pronouncement by the responsible authority."
According to local media reports, the Trevignano statue is owned by a 53-year-old woman named Gisella Cardia, a "self-styled soothsayer" who holds monthly events to show off the allegedly supernatural bust.
Despite an ongoing police investigation following complaints about the sculpture - as well as an order to demolish a sanctuary built for Cardia's viewings - she said she "won't budge an inch" and will continue to host the events. She has developed a significant following in the five years since she started holding the gatherings, where she often points out 'apparitions' to spectators, such as blood-red tears alleged to seep from the Virgin Mary statue.