Some people are calling it a miracle, while others think it's just a trick of the light or optical illusion: A painting of the Virgin Mary at Saint Charbel's Maronite Catholic Church in Punchbowl, Sydney, Australia, showed her lips moving while the priest and the congregation were reciting a prayer.
Members of the congregation have uploaded a video of the "miraculous" painting on their social media accounts, according to Yahoo7 News. It was first shared by churchgoer George Akary, who took the video showing a portrait of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus on her arms.
Her lips were seen moving as the church members read their prayers out loud. Akary insisted that his video was not a trick since he had seen the lips move with his own eyes under different lighting.
"To clarify for the viewers... I saw this during mass and at the end of mass [when] the rosary is prayed. I went to the altar and wanted to confirm via recording it... lights are not relevant ... as I have seen this occur under various lighting and have considered those possibilities. It is what it is. I also did notice whilst the people were praying [that] the lips sped up or slowed down to the prayer [being] said," he wrote.
Akary also claimed that other images inside the church also show "miraculous" movements every time the faithful do the rosary prayers.
He encouraged people to visit their church and witness the miracle for themselves.
Meanwhile, Kirsten Keirouz, another Catholic who uploaded the same footage on her Facebook page, told the Daily Mail Australia that she first saw the Virgin Mary move her lips when two of her friends nudged her during church service and told her to "look at the painting."
"Once I looked up, I had no idea what they wanted me to look at and I saw her, the Virgin Mary's mouth moving. I then asked my friend: 'Is it her mouth?' She replied, 'yes.' And then I got the shivers throughout my whole body. I couldn't believe my eyes, I kept blinking in case I was seeing things," Keirouz said.
However, Saint Charbel's own Father Superior Joseph Sleiman believes that what churchgoers have been seeing is a mere optical illusion. "I do not consider this to be a miracle, but I still encourage personal reflection and spirituality," he said.
In its own official statement, the Saint Charbel's Maronite Catholic Church said, "What has unfolded was just a personal experience for those parishioners that witnessed it, and not a miracle declared by the church."
The statement said, "the Catholic Church is very cautious to approve purported miraculous events until they have been proven to be of a supernatural power. If any miracle was to occur in this parish or any location, the Bishop of that particular Diocese is the only person that can declare it officially a miracle."
The church said, "miracles are a way that people see God touching the world. For the Church, a miracle is a discernible, divine act in the world, outside, above, or beyond the natural order of things, that manifests some aspect of God's power and love. According to the New Testament, all miracles are to heal mankind. This is God's greatest miracle, not oil, incense or eyes and lips moving in an icon or statue."
"The Church is not in pursuit of miracles. The Church is about communicating the good news of Jesus Christ and that He has redeemed the human race," the Saint Charbel church statement said.