UPDATE / VIRGIN MANIA HITS IRELAND AS THOUSANDS FLOCK TO MARY IN A TREE / CLICK HERE
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Irish Catholics are banding together to save the Virgin Mary, who has appeared on earth, in a tree stump.
More than 2,000 protestors have signed a petition to save the stump, which they say depicts the Holy Mary, from being cut down on the grounds of a County Limerick church.
Catholics across Ireland are making the pilgrimage out to the “holy” stump at Holy Mary Parish Church in Rathkeale to say prayers, light candles and lay their hands on the “relic.” A shrine has even been erected around the mystery block of wood.
“People have been coming from Kerry and Clare to see this tree, which we believe shows a clear outline of Our Lady,” local shopkeeper Seamus Hogan said.
Stump supporters began their now 2,000 signature-strong petition after workmen accidentally discovered the wonder while cutting down trees in the area.
The stump was due to be dug out on Wednesday, but according to Noel White, Rathkeale Community Council graveyard committee chairman, plans have been changed.
“I have given assurance that our committee will not be removing this tree stump. Nature has a funny way of showing things up and let it be a freak of nature or something else, but, whatever it is, surely it is a wonderful thing to see so many people coming out to pray, especially young people who have been saying the rosary in the church for the past few nights,” he said.
"Maybe this is Our Lady's way of getting people back to the church."
Some Catholic leaders disagree, and are skeptical about the worshipped wood.
Local parish priest Fr. Willie Russell, urged people to stop idolizing the stump. “There’s nothing there . . . it’s just a tree . . . you can’t worship a tree.”
A spokesman for the Limerick diocesan office said the church was wary of superstition, and said that the “church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great skepticism.”
Tree stump devotees, like Hogan, insist on continuing their plant praying. “It’s doing no harm and it’s bringing people together from young and old to black and white, Protestant and Catholic, to say a few prayers, so what’s wrong with that? There’s enough violence and intolerance going on in the world,” he said.