The 17-year-old Benoni girl who has attracted thousands of visitors after claiming to have had visions of the Virgin Mary is to be investigated by the Catholic Church.
Father Barney McAleer on Tuesday confirmed that the church would investigate the claims of Francesca Zackey, 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.
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Zackey is the youngest of four daughters in a devoted Catholic Lebanese family. Underneath a long black sweater, the teenager was wearing a zip-up sweat shirt printed with the word “punk”.
“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 May 7, 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.