That's right - even the BBC are reporting on this "miraculous" event, as more than 2,000 people sign a petition to save the stump, which was discovered in the grounds of Holy Mary Parish Church in Rathkeale as workmen cut down trees on Monday. Noel White, chairman of the Rathkeale Community Council Graveyard Committee, explained the significance of the find:
"One of the lads said look, our Blessed Lady in the tree. One of the other lads looked over and actually knelt down and blessed himself, he got such a shock. It was the perfect shape of the figure of Our Lady holding the baby."
But, says the BBC, "the Catholic Church's hierarchy in Ireland also feels dubious about the tree stump, according to Limerick diocese spokesman Fr Paul Finnerty":
"The Church's response to phenomena of this type is one of great scepticism. While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition."Of course this is understandable – the Catholic Church only approves genuine Marian apparitions, like those at Lourdes, or Fatima, or Tepeyac, or Laud, or La Salette, or Banneux, or Beauraing, or Pontmain . . . you get the picture.
So just in case you were wondering why Ireland needs blasphemy, now you know. And we can start with what Christina Martin wrote when she sent me the tree stump story:
"Mary looked like that?! No wonder she was a virgin".
And speaking of blasphemy, Michael Nugent, who is spearheading Atheist Ireland's response to the law, has an opinion piece on the matter in today's Irish Times, in which he argues that Ireland should be building an open, secular society, not passing medieval blasphemy laws.
If you're in Ireland and want to get involved in opposing the law, you can go along to Atheist Ireland's AGM tomorrow (Sat 11th) at Wynn’s Hotel,Dublin from 2pm-5pm.