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Jesus painting said to wink and shed tears in Bethlehem

icon November 29, 1996
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT)

BETHLEHEM, Israel (CNN) -- To some, it's a miracle. To others, it's a question of perspective. But Greek Orthodox leaders here have no doubt that a 12th century painting of Jesus has begun to weep.

The picture on the column in the Church of Nativity is right over the grotto where tradition holds Jesus was born.


"This is a miracle and a sign that Jesus sent us to strengthen our belief," said Father Anastasios, Bethlehem representative of Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Archbishop Diodoros.

Greek Cypriot pilgrims in the church Thursday fell to their knees and wept before the painting after saying Jesus had winked at them.

But disbelievers dismissed the winking Jesus as an optical trick. They said one of Christ's eyes was brighter than the other, creating an illusion that the dark eye opened and closed.


Father Anastasios dismissed skeptics' belief that the weeping Jesus was a ploy to bring pilgrims and holiday cheer to Bethlehem this Christmas, its second under Palestinian rule. Bethlehem is located in the West Bank region, now under the authority of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

"I don't know what this means for tourism, this is a religious matter," Father Anastasios insisted, saying, "I saw him closing and opening his eyes."

Local savants said one needs to peer intently at the picture for 20 minutes until the miracle is revealed.

Pilgrims are doing just that.

"I don't believe in miracles," said one Danish pilgrim. "But I can believe in Jesus Christ and he can do miraculous things."


Sadika Hamida, a Moslem cleaner in the Church, said she was the first to see Jesus weep.

"They were real tears, red tears," Hamida said. "It was beautiful, so beautiful."

Some believers say the tears could be a sign of Jesus' frustration with the modern world.

Along with the belief in the miracle, there is much skepticism too.

"If you look at anything long enough it will do whatever you want to," one tourist said.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel   and Reuters contributed to this report.


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