Holograms: Seeing double www.independent.co.uk
Holograms have come a long way since the blurry images of the 1980s – and they're letting people appear in two places at once, discovers Holly Williams
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Hatsune Miku is a dream pop star. She's cute and perky, with extremely long blue pigtails; she's hit the number one spot in Japan and never hits a bum note. She won't ever cancel a gig because she's "exhausted" or get papped doing something she shouldn't – and she can even wear stockings with thigh-skimming schoolgirl skirts without anyone shrieking jailbait.
Why? Because she isn't real. She's a hologram.
Miku was first created as a piece of Vocaloid – voice meets android – technology. Powered by Yamaha and developed by Japanese company Crypton Future Media, Hatsune Miku was basically a bit of software you could buy and create pop tunes on. Real-life singing was broken down into a bank of tiny snippets of sound, that could be reassembled to create any words and phrases, letting program users type in their own lyrics and hear them sung right back at them.
It gets stranger. As the Miku program got more popular, so did the cartoon face of it: the animated avatar named Hatsune Miku. Soon, you could get a tool that allowed you to create a 3D Miku, in all her virtual glory. Events for Miku fans followed, culminating in a recent series of sell-out concerts where Miku appeared as a hologram, strutting her stuff onstage in front of crowds of excited Japanese fans. She's the biggest pop star going – and she's just a trick of the light.
It's not the first time a hologram has taken the place of the real deal: a virtual Will.i.am has duetted with an in-the-flesh Cheryl Cole onstage, while German band Tokio Hotel have done whole holographic tours. When it comes to cartoons, Gorillaz got there a while ago, appearing "live" as 3D holograms at the Grammys in 2006 – thoroughly confusing the audience by appearing to be accompanied by a real Madonna, who turned out to be just a projection too.
A British company, Musion, has also been exploring the potential of holograms. Applying recent technology to a 19th-century theatrical trick, it creates images which walk and talk in real time and have a brain-fooling, 3D appearance (the Will.i.am and Cheryl Cole performance at a German awards ceremony in January was reported in one newspaper without any mention that the Black Eyed Peas singer was an optical illusion).
So how does it work? Different companies may use slightly different systems, but Musion's director James Rock explains the company's technique. A large reflective surface is put at a 45-degree angle to a stage; historically, glass was used, but Musion has patented an "eyeliner foil", made of very tightly stretched, thin, transparent Mylar plastic. An image is then projected down on to a screen that's flat on the floor in front of the stage. The precise angle of the reflective foil means that the image appears as if on the stage. For the trick to work, the projected images have to have been filmed against a black background, and the stage must have a dark backdrop, so that the background of the projection "disappears" into the dark, leaving just the colourful hologram.
Professor John Henry Pepper came up with essentially the same trick in the 1860s – named Pepper's Ghost – but using glass. "For a large piece of glass to support its own weight on the 45-degree angle, it has to be very thick," Rock explains, "and that means you get a double image. It was called a Pepper's 'ghost' as the image wasn't very bright when using pre-electric light sources." The discovery by German inventor Uwe Maass in the early 1990s that polymer foil could be used instead, plus the advent of high-definition video and much brighter projectors, means the image no longer looks ghostly; it looks disarmingly real.
The last experience of holograms for many of us, apart from the little authenticating panels on our credit cards, was probably those novelty floating red and green 3D images around in the 1980s. So how did we get to these lifelike apparitions? Rock confesses that what I've been watching are not – technically – holograms. "We use the term 'holographic effect'. But the general public think of lots of things as holograms, and we sort of ride on the back of that. It's usually people who've seen Star Wars and Princess Leia going 'Help me, Obi-Wan' as a hologram." However, Musion isn't quite at Star Wars level yet – there is no such thing as a volumetric hologram (one you could walk around), and you have to sit face-on to see their creations.
One of its developments does have a distinctly sci-fi whiff to it, however: telepresencing. This allows you to appear as a hologram in real time, at multiple locations around the world. You can even chat to an interviewer, or take questions from an audience. The Telepresence technology relies on super-fast fibre-optic cables, which transmit the image and ensure there's no time lag (latency is a minuscule 0.2 seconds), but these are not available everywhere yet. It seems bound to take off, though: keynote speakers could address several conferences at once; those worried about carbon emissions could cut down on air miles; anyone who gets sweaty palms when facing the prospect of public speaking could deliver their speech from the safe haven of their office. Indeed, Prince Charles has already used the technology to deliver a keynote speech at the Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi, while staying in the UK and eliminating carbon footprint guilt.
So that's the tech – but what's the experience like? I have a go at becoming a hologram, and while I may be beaming into Musion's studio only from a little room upstairs one floor, I feel as excited as if I'm about to be beamed up, Star Trek-style. The reality, however, is far from that. It's a very simple set-up – I'm in a small room against a black backdrop, with panels of bright LEDs aimed at me. A small mic is looped over my ear, so I can interact with my "audience" downstairs. In front of me is a television screen, on which I can see a sort of see-through version of my holographic self on the stage, as well as the sofas facing it (where my listening – and potentially questioning – audience would be). An unobtrusive HD camera sits underneath the screen, recording me. I feel a little awkward, knowing I'm being watched in a totally different space, but at my end it's no more remarkable than the first time someone turned their camera phone on me.
Far more fun was being downstairs, watching Musion employee Jude Collins demonstrating the holographic Telepresence onstage. There she was, life-size, walking her walk, talking her talk. Her legs seemed to disappear (she was wearing black tights, but dark clothing is a no-no if you want to look like you've got a full complement of limbs), and faded in and out slightly as they tweaked the light – bright enough to appear real, but not so bright as to be luminescent.
I also have a go onstage, next to a hologram. Rock is enthusiastic about the many applications for Musion's holographic effects; one of the most popular is sure to be hologram karaoke. Forget Rock Band – this could give you the chance to duet with David Bowie, become a Beyoncé to a holographic Gaga, or Lennon to a Musion-McCartney. It's already been used at Abbaworld, where you could sing along next to cartoon versions of the Swedes.
So I take to the stage in an attempt to fill Cheryl Cole's shoes, for her duet with Will.i.am (actually, I just dawdle about feeling self-conscious and making no attempt to sing; the nation's sweetheart can rest easy). Again, the experience is much less strange when you're behind the scenes – the audience is visible through the foil, but slightly hazily as there's also a "heads-up" video display, so you can see how you and the hologram appear to the audience. This helps you to avoid sticking your arm through the hologram's face while busting out some particularly hot dance moves, which would somewhat give the game away – because you can't actually see the hologram when it appears to be standing next to you. A face-to-face meeting between me and my own hologram is, therefore, rather weirder for those sitting on the sofa than for me and my shadow onstage.
Holograms are already proving lucrative in advertising and corporate markets, and Rock even tells of some market research suggesting that 3D images are more memorable than looking at standard 2D video, because you have to use both sides of your brain. "You're processing more and hence it becomes a more memorable experience. There's a big ramification in that for advertising," Rock says.
Of course, the technology is not cheap, costing thousands or tens of thousands to hire, meaning that for a while, the technology is likely to be used mostly by big corporations, for flash entertainment, and in advertising. But with "stars" such as Miku in Japan proving the mass appeal of the unreal, and the business potential of telepresencing, a world in hologram could be closer than you think. Beam me up!
20 August 2010 www.bbc.co.uk
Visions of the Virgin fuel Croat fervour in Medjugorje
By Allan Little BBC News, Medjugorje
The village is the fastest-growing Catholic pilgrimage site in the world I first came to this part of Bosnia 15 years ago. Back then, a ferocious war was being fought, Europe's most violent conflict since the defeat of the Nazis.
Bosnia was being torn apart - the three national groups who lived here each fighting for their own conflicting dreams of statehood and national liberation.
I've returned because I don't think the tensions that fuelled that war have been resolved. Bosnia is failing as a state - its three peoples, Muslims, Croats and Serbs, are still pulling away from each other.
At the centre of this region is a remarkable town, Medjugorje. It's remarkable because 29 years ago, on a steep, sun-baked hillside, six schoolchildren in what was then Yugoslavia reported that they'd seen the Virgin Mary and that she had spoken to them. That's the reason why so many pilgrims now come here.
They come from all over the world to climb the rocky hillside, often in bare feet, stopping to pray at intervals or to sing hymns. Groups of young men carry disabled pilgrims on stretchers to the place where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared. Elderly nuns stride up the hill, holding their shoes and their rosaries in their hands.
The six children who saw the Virgin are now middle-aged. They have rock star status among the pilgrims. When they speak to the masses assembled here, pilgrims listen in on little headsets that provide simultaneous translation in a dozen or more languages. When they leave the stage, they are mobbed by the faithful.
Ivan Dragicevic was 16 at the time of the first apparition. He still sees the Virgin Mary every day and he invited me to witness one of the apparitions that takes place at precisely 6.40pm in the chapel he has built in his back garden.
A small group of pilgrims gathered and at precisely 6.40pm, after 40 minutes of prayer and Bible readings, Ivan got up from his seat, walked to the front of the chapel, kneeled down with his back to us, crossed himself and then, gazing directly ahead, began to move his lips.
He was muttering, inaudibly, sometimes nodding his head as though in agreement. After about seven or eight minutes he crossed himself again to indicate that the apparition was over and he turned to take questions from pilgrims about what the Virgin told him.
One asks about her appearance. Ivan tells her: "The beauty of Our Lady is very difficult to describe. Her eyes, her lips, her face. I'll tell you the most important thing. She has a grey dress, white veil, blue eyes, rosy cheeks, dark hair. She has a crown of stars and she floats on a cloud, never touching the ground."
I asked what language she used to communicate with him. "Our Lady speaks in Croatian," Ivan revealed.
Some in the Catholic Church are sceptical about these apparitions. The Vatican does not recognise the Medjugorje apparitions and that is the line church leaders in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo take too. Marto Zovkic is archbishop of Sarajevo. He was a member of a Vatican Commission of Inquiry set up to examine the Medjugorje phenomenon.
"I was not very convinced that the events are somehow spontaneous, natural," he says.
Once a month, the parish asks for guidance. The archbishop says he was there on one occasion, when the woman who experienced the apparition and should have asked for guidance, admitted that she had forgotten to do so.
The pastor, he says, gave the woman a paper with a written text, asking her to go back into her trance and "ask Our Lady, could this be the programme for the next month?"
A minute or so later the woman delivered the answer: "Yes, Our Lady confirms that this is the programme for the coming month."
Spiritual energy
But in Medjugorje, no-one has a shred of doubt.
The apparitions have made what was once an unremarkable and impoverished mountain village prosperous. You can buy a piece of Virgin Mary memorabilia in plastic. Have it blessed by a Medjugorje priest and you take a piece of the miracle home with you - its value, to the faithful, limitless.
We have the right to start a war - it is our right”
Petar Milic Nationalist member of parliament
And everywhere, mingled with the Christian imagery, are the symbols of Croatian national identity. Flags, football jerseys, jewellery, umbrellas, caps, walking canes. For here, religion and national identity are inseparable. Being a Catholic is what defines you as a Bosnian Croat. The Catholic Church - through the decades of Communism - became a way to assert an otherwise suppressed Croatian national sentiment.
Father Tomislav, a Franciscan monk, accepted the truth of the apparitions straight away. For him, the miracle chimed with a very secular, very political aspiration - the deliverance of the Croatian people from what he saw as foreign domination.
He described the effect that the first apparition had on local people: "We were asking for freedom - praying for freedom here - freedom of speech, freedom of movement, even our religion and that was for us a sign of release after centuries and centuries of enslavement. It was like a response to our prayers that Heaven should give the people a sign that they are not forgotten."
Bosnia is usually thought of as a predominantly Muslim country. In fact it's not. Most of its people are Christian - Orthodox Serbs mostly in the north and east, Catholic Croats mostly in central and western parts. In the war that tore this place apart not long ago, many (though by no means all) Serbs and Croats fought to dismember the country called Bosnia-Hercegovina. They didn't want to be part of it, they believed it had no legitimacy. They did not want to share statehood with their Muslim neighbours.
The Bosnian war gave to the lexicon of conflict a grim new euphemism: ethnic cleansing. In much of this part of Hercegovina, Croatian nationalists seized control and drove their former Muslim neighbours out.
I came to Medjugorje during the war. Then, the place was full of young men in military uniform, fresh from the frontlines, tired, drawn, taciturn. In my mind's eye I could still see them after all this time, in the spaces where the pilgrims are now.
Some who fought cling to the dream of separation from Bosnia even now - the dream of a separate Croatian ethnic state here - even if the cost is a return to war. "We have the right to start a war - it is our right," Petar Milic a nationalist member of parliament, told me.
"What we're doing now is waiting to see if the politics will bring results in getting our own republic. If not, we might take unilateral action - whether that would be a war or revolution, that's something else. But we certainly have the right to self defence."
I asked him about the potential for Medjugorje to become a rallying point for such Croatian national aspiration. "Hopefully in the future it might become a place where we can absorb the spiritual energy to help us achieve our goal," he said.
Shining symbol
In the evening, as the sun dips below the horizon, a torch-lit procession snakes through the heart of Medjugorje, brimming over with something resembling religious ecstasy. Many of the pilgrims are carrying their national flags.
When you first see it, it looks like a tremendous celebration of immense diversity and unison - there are flags from all over the world, French, Spanish, Portuguese, there's a Polish one, there's a South Korean one, a Brazilian one and, of course, dozens and dozens of Croatian ones.
And it's only after a while that you realise that there's one flag that's very striking by its complete absence and that's the flag of the country we're actually in - there's not a single symbol anywhere in this crowd of Bosnian national identity. There's nobody here whose primary national allegiance is to the country that we're actually in - and that is troubling.
Many local Croats fought, not long ago, to dismember Bosnia-Hercegovina. They nearly succeeded. But an internationally brokered peace plan placed them in a state shared with Muslims and Serbs - their former enemies.
For millions around the world Medjugorje is place of pilgrimage. But it stands here amid the mountains as a shining symbol of Croatian national aspiration on the territory of Bosnia-Hercegovina, its people not yet reconciled to their place on this side of the border, or to a future shared with their Muslim and Serb neighbours.
H.E. Most. Rev. Eduardo Porfirio PATIÑO LEAL, Bishop of Córdoba (MEXICO)
Nowadays it is becoming particularly important to understand the proper relationship between the public and constitutive Revelation of the Christian creed and private revelation, and establishing the pertinence of the latter to genuine faith (Lineamenta 8). Illuminating examples of this include the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas by His Holiness Pius XII and the explanatory note to the Third Secret of Fatima by the then Cardinal Ratzinger. We gratefully recognize the spiritual fruits that God has granted to the Church through these religious experiences.
Number 7 of the "Instrumentum laboris" ascertains that frequently current religious experience is “more emotive than convinced, because of the lack of doctrinal knowledge”: people tend rather to subjectivity and the pleasure of creating for themselves a tailor-made religion. Simple people of good will are drawn to alleged manifestations, but, sometimes, they transform themselves into isolated religious groups within the Catholic Church who spread devotions and spiritual pointers whose origins are to be found in “private messages and revelations”, that have to be evaluated with care and that still have to provide an impulse to overall public Revelation in the living Tradition of the Church. What we propose, therefore, is reaffirming the doctrine of Dei Verbum 4 and the catechism of the Catholic Church 66-67, as well as repeating the recommendation to pastors that they channel these religious experiences properly, through criteria that have been actualized according to the environment of mobility and globalization in which we live.
'Apparitions' of Guazapa not approved by Church in El Salvador catholicnewsagency.com
San Salvador, Jun 11, 2008 / 11:48 am (CNA).- Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador has said the Catholic Church has not approved the alleged apparitions of Mary at the hill of Guazapa, despite claims made by the supposed visionary to a local newspaper.
During a press conference, the archbishop lamented “the abuse by a group of people in Guazapa who sent false documents to the press, making them believe the apparitions had been approved by the Archdiocese.”
The newspaper El Mundo recently published a series of reports on the events in Guazapa, which is located several miles north of San Salvador.
The alleged seer, identified as Bessy Rodriguez, gave false documents to the newspaper supposedly showing the apparitions had been approved.
Archbishop Saenz pointed out that “no official of the archdiocese has signed, sealed or sent documents to anyone.”
“There has been a lot of, shall we say, commercialization of these legends, but the visions of Guazapa have never been approved,” he said.
New book - Nouveau livre
Just published : “ Ces 10 jours qui ont fait Medjugorje ” by french historian J.Bouflet (called by René Laurentin a ‘qualified expert’; see his Testament D.N. 17 p.56)
This new study examines ALL known and less known documents (registrations, publications) about the first 10 days . Day by day.
What appears? The later versions of the ‘seers’ have been modified, compared to the original registrations during the first days by Grgo Kozina, a villager of Medjugorje!!! In those days Jozo Zovko had interviewed very thoroughly the ‘seers’ and was NOT convinced that they could have seen the ‘Gospa’. He said :” There is NO message, there is NO sign ; you must have seen SATAN.”
Later he manipulated the ‘seers’ by insinuating that he, Jozo Zovko himself, should tell the people what ‘Gospa’ had said. And he insisted that the ‘seers’ should have their ‘apparitions’ INSIDE the church. So he integrated the ‘seers’ into the liturgy of the church…
After Jozo was arrested on August 17 1981, it was Tomislav Vlasic who was in charge in Medjugorje and who directed the ‘messages’ and gave them their definite structure. From then on the ‘messages’ were more biblical and… franciscan(!)
Is this surprising? Unbelievable? Bouflet proves this using the many books with successive versions, written by ADVOCATES of Medjugorje like René Laurentin, Fr.Daniel-Ange, Fr.Rupcic, Fr. Vlasic, Fr.Kraljevic, Cyrille Auboyneau, Fr.Bubalo, Daria Klanac, André Castella, René Lejeune, Rooney and Faricy, Sr. Emmanuel Maillard…
Bouflet cites 645 references. Especially Vicka is an expert in distorting her earlier declarations, in inventing blatant lies and pure fantasies. René Laurentin is collaborating by omitting ABSURDITIES in the ‘messages’ and glossing over the lies of the ‘seers’. Later on many naïve charismatics copied everything what the ‘seers’( or better the ofm of Medjugorje manipulating them) and René Laurentin imposed upon the world.
Quid prodest??? Who takes profit by all this? Financially of course the ‘seers’ and the rebellious franciscans of Medjugorje. Abuse of false ‘messages’ is sacrilegious and a criminal fraud. Most guilty are Fr. Jozo Zovko ( already suspended 3 x and still disobedient ), Fr. Tomislav Vlasic (procreated already a child with a nun before the ‘apparitions’), Fr.Slavko Barbaric ( sanctified by ‘Gospa’ one day after his death ), and the actual ofm who now do still exploit the goldmine Medjugorje. There is nothing against Holy Mass, adoration, rosary, confession,etc. But this is a deception when the bait is false manipulated ‘apparitions’.
In his new book Bouflet shows accurately how Medjugorje did evoluate from dubious vague ‘apparitions’ during the first 10 days to 6 villagechildren (2 others, namely Ivan Ivankovic and Milka Pavlovic, did not return after one day of ‘visions’; can you believe such a thing???) to neverending and banal (dixit Laurentin) repetitive ‘messages’, manipulated by a minority of arrogant and rebellious franciscans without scruples and or obedience to the local church authorities.
Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum
Title : “ Ces 10 jours qui ont fait Medjugorje “ ISBN : 978-2-85443-512-2
Author : Joachim Bouflet
Editor : CLD 31 rue Mirabeau F-37000 Tours Tel. 02-47282068 Fax : 02-47288548 E-mail : contact@editionscld.com Price : 21 Euro
Many thanks to Mr. Waterinckx Mark for his comment.
When religious belief clashes with science... www.int.iol.co.za
By Alex Eliseev
A 17-year-old Benoni girl - who claims to have seen the mother of Jesus - is telling her pilgrims to look into the setting sun to witness a beautiful miracle. But a renowned medical doctor, with a lifetime of experience, says people should never look into the sun with the naked eye. In one corner is a teenager who has attracted global interest because she has reported spiritual sightings. She has no proof of these apparitions, except for her faith and that of her visitors. Zackey speaks in tongues
Francesca Zackey speaks in tongues, which only she can understand, and her family are convinced the water supply at their home has turned into a holy oil. Zackey believes that by looking into the burning star, believers will see it spin while an amazing kaleidoscope of colours pour out around the Virgin Mary herself. To protect delicate eyes against the hydrogen giant, Mary places a protective shield in front of the sun. In the other corner is ophthalmologist Dr Percy Amoils, who bravely operated on former president Nelson Mandela in 1994. The doctor, also a world-known inventor, has received the highest honour in the country: the Order of Mapungubwe. He has also received prestigious awards for his work in England and America. He lives in a world where there is no room for speculation: a textbook world of science and biology, where only proven facts count. Amoils was horrified at the fact that religion was causing people to damage their eyes - something he had previously only seen after eclipses of the sun.
'People have been losing their way'
He used words like "disaster" and "tragedy", and called for urgent exposure to stop people looking into the sun in the name of religion. What shocked me most when I visited Francesca at her home was that she and her mother Bridgette could not comprehend the danger of looking into the flaming star. Bridgette said the sun was still spinning and she looked into it every day. Francesca seemed unshaken by the fact that a woman whom she had "blessed" now faces a possible life of darkness. Should Nassif not get her sight back, which is a very real and frightening possibility, her life will be changed forever. Francesca did say she was praying for Nassif, but there was not a spark of guilt in her eyes. She firmly believes she is a vessel for the divine message. After all, the sighting of Mary inside the sun is a phenomenon that has been recorded around the globe. Strangely, when I interviewed Nassif, 37, she did not express any anger towards the teen. "At least Francesca has got people praying again. People have been losing their way," she said. Just before the paper was published, her sister Sandra - who also looked into the sun but was lucky not to have suffered any damage - said: "Please just write that we still believe in Our Lady." If one takes a sober look at what happened, it boils down to a religious woman - hungry for a miracle - staring into the sun and losing her sight. But her faith remains intact. Such is the power of religion. Such is the danger of religion. Faith, for so many people, is a wonderful thing. It gives hope and comfort, and brings people together. But if it is abused by fanatics, it mutates into an ugly weapon that can be used to spark atrocities. People argue that, with free will, people have choices. If told to jump into a fire, surely common sense will prevail, they say. But this is an underestimation of religious indoctrination.
Yes, people have choices. But sometimes belief is too strong. With hundreds of people flocking to see Francesca each day, the church must take serious note of the latest developments.

Marian apparitions: Age-old phenomenon or modern-day hoax? iafrica.com
Rebekah Kendal
Wed, 04 Jul 2007
Benoni has once again caught the attention of South Africa, not because Charlize Theron has won another Oscar, but because one of its residents, 17-year-old Francesca Zackey, claims to have repeatedly had visions of the Virgin Mary. Francesca, a charismatic Maronite Christian of Lebanese decent, who speaks in tongues and has purportedly had visions in the past, claims she first saw the Virgin Mary on 7 May during a family meal. “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,” said Zackey according to Independent Online. Following her revelation, hundreds of devout Christians, and the occasional sceptic, have flocked to Zackey’s home to receive her blessing. Some claim to have been healed by her touch, while others – like 37-year-old Amal Nassif – have been blinded by following her advice and staring at the sun in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Virgin. The message
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is inclined to disbelieve Zackey’s claims according to Sapa, which quoted general secretary Eddie Makue as saying, “I doubt it very much…We know that people in desperate situations search for answers from God. The God that we know reveals himself in a meaningful manner.” According to the Sunday Independent, the Virgin Mary’s message to Zackey was to “pray the rosary, and to get others to pray it, as though it were the last day on earth” and to complete a book that is to be called ‘Doorlight to Heaven’. Johannesburg Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, while not dismissing Zackey’s claims outright, set a cautious tone during an interview on Carte Blanche. “I think one would be extremely cautious about the spiritual phenomenon, the invisible part of it, making claims. But I think one also wants to see as a practical outcome, if there is a message, how does it affect the community that believes? So one would be looking at whether there is anything that contradicts the official teaching of the church.”
According to the Archbishop, “people often have visions and we do not investigate every case”, however, a team of Catholic priests will undertake the investigation because of the massive public interest in this particular case.
So, just how do you go about investigating a Marian apparition and what does it take to get the Catholic Church’s stamp of approval?
Famous Marian apparitions During a Marian apparition, the Virgin Mary supernaturally appears to one or more persons. Apparitions sometimes reoccur at the same site over an extended period of time. In Zeitun, Egypt, for example, thousands of people claimed to have seen the Virgin over a three-year period. The first Marian apparition occurred in 40 AD while Mary was still alive. The apparition of Mary appeared to St James in Saragossa, Spain. She gave him a pillar and a wooden statue of herself and instructed him to build a church in her honour - Our Lady of the Pillar. The more famous apparitions include Our Lady of Lourdes in France, where Bernadette Soubirous (1888) claimed she saw the Virgin Mary 18 times. She was beatified in 1925 and canonised in 1933 by Pope Pius XI. Lourdes Spring, where the apparition took place has been the site of over 60 spontaneous healings (out of thousands) which have been classified as ‘inexplicable’ by the physicians of the Lourdes Bureau. At another revered site, Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, three prophecies (the three secrets of Fatima) were given by the Marian apparition to three children – Lucia Santos, Jacinta and Francisco Martos. The first secret foretold World War II, the second of the destructive nature of communist Russia and the third, which was only made public in 2000, apparently predicted the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. Seeing is believing
According to the website www.livingmiracles.net, percipients usually see the Virgin as a luminous figure, sometimes holding her son, dressed in a long robe and surrounded by a bright white light. Other than that, the apparitions tend to be rather personalised – she often takes on the ethnicity of the region in which she appears, speaks the language of the visionary and wears clothing of the particular period. The apparitions are often accompanied by other miraculous signs: the spinning of the sun, strange physical sensations, the scent of roses and the transformation of ordinary objects (rosaries from silver to gold and water to oil). Zackey’s apparition was allegedly accompanied by the spinning of the sun, a gentle breeze, the scent of roses and the household water supply has supposedly been mixed with holy oil. In the cases where apparitions have been approved by church authorities, huge shrines or churches have been built and millions of devotees have flocked to the sacred spots in search of blessings and miraculous cures. During the 20th century, which was nicknamed the ‘era of Mary’ due to the proliferation and frequency of alleged apparitions, more than 400 apparitions were reported from around the world. Of these, only seven have been fully approved by the Catholic Church. Contemporary apparitions tend to be serial in nature and often occur in the presence more than one person. Investigating apparitions
Apparitions are usually investigated by the local bishops at their discretion, but the Vatican can intervene at the request of the bishops or of its own initiative. In the 1970s the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith set out guidelines for evaluating apparitions. The evaluation is based on positive and negative criteria. Positive criteria include an evaluation of the personal qualities of the person in question; an evaluation of the content of the actual apparitions (it must not diverge from the morals or faith of the church); and finally, an indication that the revelation will result in healthy devotion and spiritual practices. Negative criteria include glaring factual or doctrinal errors, the pursuit of financial gain in relation to the alleged apparitions, any psychological disorders or gravely immoral acts committed at the time of the event by the percipient. Having completed their investigation, the Church deems the apparition ‘Not worthy of belief’, ‘Nothing contrary to the faith’ (not condemned but not endorsed) or ‘Worthy of belief’. Divine intervention or delusions of grandeur?
Considering that it is impossible to scientifically prove the existence of an apparition, it is not surprising that there are many that question the legitimacy of Marian apparitions. The most common critique is that they are not apparitions, but rather hallucinations. If Zackey has been visited by the apparition of a man called Bob, she would, no doubt have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Why then, is it different if she is visited by a virgin called Mary? Other critics suggest that apparition claims are in fact hoaxes, aimed at attracting attention or financial gain. Apparitions often occur in poorer areas - or in the case of Benoni, an area which has few other attractions - attracting pilgrims and with them money and trade. If indeed the Virgin Mary did appear to Zackey, instructing her to pray and complete a book, then surely these were private revelations, which have very little to do with the rest of Benoni, let alone South Africa? While it is not likely that Zackey’s alleged visions of the Virgin are part of a greater Benoni tourism conspiracy, one does need to question whether the publicity and blind faith given to her claims is productive.

Apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Mbuye are false sundayvision.co.ug
THOUGHT OF THE DAY - John Mary Waliggo
WHEN the alleged Marian visions began at Mbuye on November 29, 1987, the now retired Bishop of Masaka Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu, immediately appointed me and Rev. Dr. Dominic Kateregga to investigate the new phenomenon and come up with a report which would help him to guide the people of God.
We followed this Marian movement from December 1987 to the end of August 1990. We were present at all the alleged Marian visions from December 27, 1987 to August 1990. We observed everything from the afternoon before the claimed day for the apparitions, throughout the night and to the very end of the following day. We even remained there for a few days to observe the impact on the people. We interviewed many people, including Speciosa Mukantabana. We visited very many places where other claimed apparitions had occurred.
We interviewed several Catholic priests, religious sisters and brothers who had become supporters of this movement. We visited many Catholic parishes where groups of Mbuye visionaries belonged and observed how they were behaving.
Having obtained the necessary data, we analysed it in the light of the biblical teaching, the Catholic doctrines, the authentic Catholic devotion to the Virgin Mary, the Catholic theology and the Vatican II and post-conciliar teaching.
It is from all the above that criteria for discerning what is authentic and what is not are drawn.
A genuine Catholic devotion can be discerned on the following criteria:
It conforms with the biblical message as interpreted and explained by the Catholic Church.
It conforms with the Catholic Church teaching on the Virgin Mary or any other devotion.
It respects the liturgical worship of the Church and other prayers.
It gives due respect to the Catholic leaders, both local and universal.
It encourages people to work and meet all their responsibilities in life.
It does not lead to exaggerations in prayers and in wearing multiple religious objects.
The members of such a devotion are not secretive.
The devotion should be uniting the people of God and not causing disunity and tensions within the Church.
The leader of the devotion must have a clear historical record of loving and respecting truth in his or her life.
The leader of the devotion or the visionary who claims to receive visions must be humble and not aiming at personal honour and fame.
The devotion must not lead its followers to form another Catholic community.
The devotion must clearly show signs that it is not moving towards a satanic cult.
The alleged apparitions of our Blessed Virgin Mary at Mbuye and the devotion based on them did not, in our view as theological investigators, conform to the above criteria and many other criteria not mentioned above.
The claimed apparitions at Mbuye were diverting Christians from the true teaching of the Catholic Church and leading them into a cult that would become dangerous if the Church leaders left it to continue. We handed over our findings to Bishop Ddungu who wrote a pastoral letter: Okulabula ku By’okulabikirwa e Mbuye. (Warning on the Marian apparitions at Mbuye). Catholics were ordered not to go to Mbuye for the apparitions. The podium of cement where Mukantabana would stand and fall claiming talking to the Virgin Mary was dismantled.
The priests at Mbuye were ordered not to entertain such people, looking for Marian visions. Those groups of visionaries were to be counselled and guided back to the authentic veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All the Catholic Bishops of Uganda supported this position.
Published on: Saturday, 30th December, 2006

Appearances can be downright deceptive www.timesonline.co.uk
By Simon Caldwell - February 11, 2006
A rash of dubious miracles and rival congregations is trying the Vatican’s patience
RELIGIOUS fervour swept southern California this winter when a statue of the Virgin Mary was claimed to be crying blood. A priest at the Church of the Vietnamese Martyrs in Sacramento tried to wipe away her tears but they reappeared, running down her face and on to her dress. While pilgrims dashed to the church, Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento was in no hurry to make a pronouncement. “I’m letting it sit for now,” he said. If the bishop was not as excited as everyone else, it is probably because this is not an isolated event. Last summer women visiting a church near Naples said that a plaster statue of the Virgin Mary had turned the “pinky” colour of human flesh and that it had moved. In May a statue of St Pìo of Pietrelcina wept blood in a church in Marsicovetere, southern Italy — although in this case the diocese excluded “supernatural intervention” when tests showed that the blood belonged to a woman.
Indeed, such “private revelations” have proliferated. Around the Millennium there was an explosion in claims of heavenly visions, messages, stigmata and Eucharistic miracles. But of the 295 such episodes reported since 1905, the Vatican has affirmed the authenticity of just 11, among them the appearances of the Virgin Mary to three children at Fátima, Portugal, in 1917, and the visitation of Jesus to St Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun, in the 1930s.
While the faithful may accept or reject such revelations, most, according to the Vatican, involve false seers who are either deluded or on the make, and these are beginning to cause problems for the Church.
First, they create tensions between the faithful who believe in them and bishops who do not. Secondly, unauthorised cults often congregate around charismatic seers who claim a direct line to God but who teach in opposition to the Church.
In September, for instance, Dominic Sanchez Falar founded the “Mary is God Catholic Movement”, which claims that the third secret of Fátima revealed Mary’s divinity. This secret was covered up, he says, by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Rantings of this kind would be risible were they not gaining so much currency, particularly in the US.
Pope Benedict, for one, takes them seriously. Three years ago, while Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), he said that private revelations posed a threat to the unity of the Church and warranted an “exemplary pastoral response” from the Holy See.
By that time the future Pope had already ruled against claims that Mary appeared at Garabandal, Spain; forbade Catholics to go on pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the Virgin Mary is also said to be appearing; warned the faithful against the apocalyptic murmurings of Vassula Ryden; and ordered Father Stefano Gobbi to stop using Our Lady Speaks to Her Beloved Priests as the title for books containing similar eschatological content.
Benedict is now already moving against private revelations in a way his predecessor did not. Two cases signal his intent. Barely a month after his election, the CDF issued two documents. One was a decree removing Father Gino Burresi from active ministry, and the other was a letter to the Filipino bishops effectively declaring as false the claims of Ida Peerdeman, a Dutch seer, that the Virgin Mary had revealed new truths about her status.
Burresi had founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary which now numbers 150 priests, including Father Angelo Tognoni, an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State who was often seen by John Paul’s side during the weekly General Audiences in Rome.
He claimed to have received the stigmata and was compared by his followers to St Pìo, a 20th-century monk renowned for his piety. Burresi exuded the “odour of sanctity”, it was said, and had the ability to “read souls” and produce works of art miraculously.
But Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger thought that Burresi was a fraud, was guilty of “pseudo-mysticism” and “asserted apparitions, visions and messages attributed to divine origins”.
The CDF stripped Burresi of the right to hear confessions, preach, give interviews, publish or broadcast. The process had been initiated when Ratzinger was at the CDF, and he made the ruling his own as Pope by confirming it forma specifica and denying Burresi any right of appeal.
Days later the CDF took the unusual step of overruling the decision of Bishop Joseph Maria Punt, of Haarlem in the Netherlands, to approve claims that the Virgin Mary had appeared in Amsterdam under the guise of “Lady of All Nations who once was Mary”, sounding the death knell for an international movement to redefine the Virgin as “coredemptrix, mediatrix and advocate”.
Critics say such a status would have made Mary virtually the fourth person of the Holy Trinity, jeopardising not only the interior unity of the Catholic Church but also prospects of closer union with Orthodox and Protestant communions. The initiative to stamp it out, Vatican sources say, came from the top. Furthermore, they point out that “old cases of dubious apparitions” are likely to be reopened and dealt with in a similar way by Benedict and his like-minded officials in the CDF.
But by far the biggest challenge to any efforts by the Pope to deal decisively with the phenomenon of private revelations are the claims of six seers from Medjugorje who say the Virgin Mary has been visiting them for more than 20 years. In that time the Madonna has allegedly dispatched 40,000 bland messages, given 57 secrets (none of which has been revealed), performed countless miracles (none of which has been confirmed), and has toured the world with the seers, appearing on demand even in the backs of vans.
Between four and five million pilgrims have visited Medjugorje, including the Spanish tenor José Carreras, who performed there, and the American actor Jim Caviezel, who sought inspiration while filming The Passion of the Christ.
Yet the only rulings to date on Medjugorje — made by the local bishops, the competent ecclesiastical authorities — are that the claims are false and that the seers are lying.
There is a mounting expectation that Benedict will eventually move against this unauthorised Marian cult, some of whose supporters, like those of Father Burresi, hold high office in the Church and were rumoured to have persuaded John Paul not to intervene.
But the Burresi affair has shown Benedict’s resolve to deal with factions who have their own agendas.
The Pope is about to reform the Curia, and so far the signs are not very promising for those who prefer miracles and wonders to the simple darkness of faith.