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Scientist says Mexico's famous Virgin image isn't miraculous

Posted: Friday, June 07, 2002

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Two months before Pope John Paul II is scheduled to canonize Mexico's beloved Juan Diego, a San Antonio microbiologist-pediatrician said the image of the Virgin Mary on his cloak is not miraculous.

The olive-skined Virgin, known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, reportedly appeared to Juan Diego in 1531. The image, said to have appeared miraculously on his cloak, is housed at Mexico's Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the second most popular Roman Catholic site after the Vatican.

Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, 61, part of a team that evaluated the cloak in 1999, said photos with ultraviolet and infrared light revealed the image is actually three paintings ''and one is signed and dated. So this is not a miraculous image; it was created by man,'' the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Mexican church officials say Garza-Valdes is completely mistaken and two Americans on the 1999 scientific team do not agree with him on critical points.

In views published last week in the Mexican magazine Proceso, Garza-Valdes also said Juan Diego was a 17th-century creation, not a historical figure.

A 1982 study by an art restoration expert, commissioned by the basilica's longtime abbot and recently made public in Proceso, concluded the painting was the work of human artists using identifiable 17th-century materials and techniques.



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