Five people who showed up at Knock Shrine in Mayo last month and stared at the sun in hopes of seeing the Virgin Mary are now almost blind a leading Irish eye doctor has stated. He called the Knock gathering a "cheap circus trick."

Irish 'spiritual healer' Joe Colemanbrought thousands of people to the shrine in November, claiming that the Virgin Mary would appear. He expects to bring another large crowd there on this weekend.

Pilgrims reported that the sun danced in the sky and changed color but these are classic symptoms of eye damage says Dr. Eamonn O'Donoghue of University College Hospital in Galway.

He stated that he had treated five people for a serious condition called solar retinopathy which is caused by the sun's rays burning into the central part of the eye's retina.

He told the Irish Independent newspaper that victims have suffered 50pc vision loss and have seriously impaired vision.which hinders basic abilities such as reading and driving.

He stated it was "monstrous" to mislead people into thinking that altered vision and effects, such as seeing the sun dance, were a religious apparition when they were classic symptoms of solar retinopathy.

"If it did not have such monstrous effects you could describe it as a cheap circus trick," he said.

He stated that pilgrims attending the shrine this weekend would be doing "grievous bodily harm" to themselves if they insisted on staring at the sun.He stated that the numbers of those affected was much larger than the five patients he had treated. He particularly warned that young children would be hardest hit.