Sydney
9 February 2003

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Unexplained mysteries in our tale of two cities

By Marilyn Rodrigues

That's not Our Lady leaning against the fence gazing calmly across the headland at Coogee beach, but an amazing optical illusion, says Coogee parish priest Fr Desmond Holm.

But at the same time, he is not going to pour cold water on anyone whose faith has been sparked because of it.

That has been his response to the curious and the faithful calling the presbytery at St Brigid's, Coogee, since pictures of the white-robed image and wide-eyed pilgrims hit the TV news and papers.

In no time crowds were coming in their hundreds to the headland to catch a glimpse, even to pray; some leaving rosaries at the white fence post from which the image appears.

"It is an optical illusion and people see what they want to see," says Fr Holm. "The thing about it is, you can only see it on sunny days and at a certain time of the day."

He believes it is probably caused by an interplay of reflected light off the blue water and the position of the fence post in relation to the skyline.

He says the fact that it looks like a woman in flowing robes, evocative of statues of Our Lady, is the amazing thing.

A local business proprietor near the beach first noticed the image late last year.

She was quoted in the local paper saying that although she was not a religious person, she could see this thing that resembled the Virgin Mary against the fence post.

But Fr Holm will not discourage the fence post believers at Coogee beach if the image gives them comfort.

"If good comes out of it, then that's good," he says.

"People have said that it is a special place, that being there gives them a general sense of peace and that is something good."