"It appears miraculous."
Priests and other witnesses reportedly made this initial remark after seeing what some believers say is a weeping statue of the Virgin Mary at a residence in Fresno, California.
The unnamed priests, according to the statue's caretaker, visited the residence of Maria Cardenas recently following reports from a local television station that the statue was shedding oily tears that smelled like roses.
The Cardenas family says the statue has been shedding tears for about a year and a half now, according to CNA and EWTN News.
The witnesses say the tears appear to well up in Mary's right eye and stream down her face.
Maria Cardenas has placed a glass under the statue's chin to collect the apparently miraculous tears, sharing them to visitors upon requests.
She told ABC30 Action News that the Virgin Mary statue was given to her as a gift 10 years ago. However, she said it only started weeping when her cousin was killed more than a year ago.
The family requested the media not to disclose their exact address since they do not want to be swamped by people. However, they have already invited many people into their home to see the weeping statue for themselves.
"We're not hiding her, but at the same time, we don't want anything to happen to her [Virgin Mary statue]," the caretaker who requested anonymity told ABC30.
Bishop Armando Ochoa of the Diocese of Fresno said in a statement that he has been informed about the apparently miraculous statue but has not seen it himself.
"It is unknown who the priests are that were being referenced in a related televised news story, as the Diocese has not had any member of the clergy report this matter to the Bishop's Office, to date," Bishop Ochoa said.
According to Catholic miracle expert Michael O'Neill, the Church could take one of three possible options after conducting an investigation of an alleged miracle.
If scientific investigations—in this case, DNA testing of the tears—proved that the miracle was authentic, the Church could give its highest recognition that the phenomenon is "worthy of belief."
The Church could also decline to make a determination on whether or not a supernatural character is present in the reported miracle but state at the same time that it is not contrary to the faith.
Lastly, the Church could reject the supposed miracle once it determines that it is only a hoax.
"The Catholic Church is very cautious with these matters and employs science where possible to ferret out hoaxes and other non-supernatural explanations," said "Miracle Hunter" O'Neill.
"Tears are collected and tested to see if they are human (pig's fat has been found in some false cases) and statues may be x-rayed to rule out any internal mechanism used to fraudulently mimic the flow of tears," O'Neill told CNA in e-mail comments.
"Some weeping icons have been shown to have natural causes—condensation or leaking ductwork in the wall behind them. On a few very rare occasions these lachrymations (tears) have been found to have no explanation and are worthy of belief as being miraculous," he said.