Bishop Oscar Cantú addressed the statue in a news conference last week, saying the diocese, which serves as the governing entity for all Catholic churches in southern New Mexico, including Hobbs, is in the middle of its investigation into the occurrence at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Hobbs.
“We’ve initiated an investigation,” Cantú said. “It’ll be on a lot of different levels.”
As of Wednesday, Cantú said, he had not visited the church since parishioners first reported seeing what appeared to be tears streaming down the face of a statue of the Virgin Mary last month. The church has since become a destination for Catholics, non-Catholics and others who have traveled from near and far to see what many have called a miracle.
Several images of the statue are on the church’s Facebook page, including one that shows a long line of people waiting to see the figure.
In its investigation, the diocese will first try to determine whether the tears are a supernatural occurrence, Cantú said. This part of the probe includes laboratory tests of the liquid believed to be tears, eyewitness interviews and scrutiny of possible natural causes, including human tampering.
“We have to rule out any natural possibilities of that statue emitting liquid, whatever it is,” he said. “We will continue to conduct interviews with eyewitnesses, with the pastors, with the priests.”
He added: “We are sending the liquid for a chemical analysis, (and) we’re going to reach out to the fabricator, the producer of the statue.”
It is unclear how long the analysis will take to complete. Cantú said it wouldn’t be a quick process.
But if the diocese ultimately concludes the tears are in fact a supernatural phenomenon – which has not yet happened – officials will try to decipher the underlying message, Cantú said.
“If it is supernatural, then is it God? Or is it of an evil spirit? We do believe in the fallen angels,” he said, “and we renounce the fallen angels because we believe from the Scriptures that they’re frustrated and they want to make everyone else frustrated – and sometimes they use things, they can be rather cunning.
“So that would be other piece: What are the fruits? If it’s from God, it’s going to produce positive fruits of joy, of peace, of healing – perhaps physical healing.”
Cantú said he has not reached any conclusion, and even admitted to being somewhat apprehensive. “As the bishop, I have to kind of have a distance and a kind of a healthy dose of skepticism, as well,” he said.
Since the first sighting of the suspected tears, the church has remained open almost around the clock, closing for only a few hours, as crowds gather to pray before the statue.
Cantú views the overwhelming response as a sign that people are looking for “peace or direction in their lives,” or “illumination in their lives.”