1998-02-26 00:00:00

Two Catholic bishops are among the hundreds of people who believe they may have witnessed miracles in which consecrated hosts have turned into flesh and blood in the mouth of a woman in southern India.

Following the reputed miracles and claims of the Blessed Mother appearing to Rani John Palumparambil, the woman´s house in Kanjikode village of Kerala state´s Palghat district has become a pilgrimage site.

Official Church comment on the phenomena that now attract some 2,000 people daily to the house is yet to come, but neither Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Trichur nor Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat doubt their authenticity.

Archbishop Thoomkuzhy says he saw flesh and blood in Palumparambil´s mouth "a few minutes" after giving Communion to the 30-year-old woman at a Mass on Feb. 12 for some 100,000 people attending a Bible convention.

The Syro-Malabar archbishop told UCA News that the "reality behind the miracle and its message is yet to be known," and that the Church would give its official position only after "a detailed study."

The event came to light after convention volunteer George Kanichai saw Palumparambil in distress and went to aid her. "To our astonishment, we found her mouth full of blood and a piece of flesh on her tongue," Kanichai said. Palumparambil said she felt "great pain" after receiving Communion.

After Archbishop Thoomkuzhy asked Palumparambil to narrate her experience before the congregation, she went on the convention stage and showed people her mouth with a piece of flesh and blood in it.

Some people later drank the water attendants used to wash her face.

Palumparambil told the gathering at the charismatic renewal center in Potta managed by the Vincentians that she had already had two similar experiences, the first having occurred Oct. 26, 1997, at Kanjikode´s Good Shepherd Church.

Recalling the event, her parish priest Father Joseph Pulavelil told UCA News in Kanjikode that people brought her to the sacristy after they saw blood flowing from her mouth. Bishop Manathodath was the Mass celebrant.

Father John Mylamvelil, the bishop´s secretary and an eyewitness, said that Bishop Manathodath placed his hand on Palumparambil´s head and asked her to eat the Eucharist. "Immediately, she could consume the sacred host," he added.

Father Mylamvelil said that although the bishop has refused to discuss the matter with the press, he has mentioned it at priests´ meetings and other Church events.

Father Pulavelil said that when the second transformation came 13 days later at a parish retreat, they allowed parishioners to see the "miracle."

According to Palumparambil, her first "vision" came on Oct. 8, 1996, after she fell into a trance while praying before an image of the Blessed Mother.

Her husband, Johnson Palumparambil, whom she married in 1992, said he heard Jesus speaking through her while she was in the trance. "We kept it a secret and continued to pray," he told UCA News.

Less than a month later, on Nov. 2, 1996, while on a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, she had a vision of the Blessed Mother with the Child Jesus during which Mary gave her a rosary that is now on her family altar, she said.

Father Pulavelil, a retired chemistry professor, said the Palumparambils are "an innocent lot" living in a small cottage who have no reason to "cook up the story." He noted that the family has had problems controlling the pilgrims.

Some 2,000 people "pray to Our Lady" at the couple´s house daily, Rani Palumparambil´ father-in-law told UCA News on Jan. 22. The couple´s 5-year-old daughter has had to move in with a maternal aunt for the time being.

Father Pulavelil said the messages Palumparambil claims to relay resemble Mary´s message in Lourdes: pray the rosary for the world´s conversion.

Carmelite theologian Father Thomas Kalam says he has "much reservation" with regard to the alleged miracles" centering on Palumparambil, but Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios of Trivandrum said he has no reason to disbelieve them.

According to the Syro-Malankara metropolitan, the messages are "in tune" with the Catholic faith. Unless proved otherwise, he said, he has reason to believe that the miracles are genuine and part of God´s design.


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