A woman in Samoa claims she developed Stigmata while performing in a church play on Good Friday.
Stigmata is primarily linked to the Catholic faith. It's a phenomenon wherein a person develops bleeding wounds similar to those suffered by Christ during the crucifixion. The faithful see such a condition as a miracle and a sign of holy influence.
In the latest Samoan case, twenty three year old Toaipuapuaga Opapo says started bleeding from wounds on her palms, feet, forehead, and side. She says the wounds appeared while she was performing as Jesus in a play re-enacting the crucifixion.
Footage of her at the church was broadcast on television and shows what appears to be blood running down her arms, and later, emerging from her side.
In an interview with TV1 Samoa, Opapo told reporters that she spontaneously started bleeding while news cameras were rolling. The station did not confirm the claim. Opapo told reporters:
"I'm just another human being...but my body has been used as a reminder because God knows that the faith of his servants are dying."
Samoa is a largely Christian country and even the Prime Minister weighed in on the stigmata case. PM Tuilaepa Sailelel Malielagaoi told the Samoa Observer newspaper:
"We should be happy about these events that it has happened to a daughter of a pastor in Samoa. If it happens to someone, it means they are holy."
Some controversial aspects have developed around the case. Opapo it seems, is not Catholic, but a member of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS). A spokesman for the church, general secretary Afereti Uili stated:
"Stigmata is not part of the Reformed tradition of which CCCS is a part. If it really is stigmata, it would be a unique occurrence. We are therefore undertaking our own investigations into the matter."
Uili added that the Church would release an official statement once their investigation was complete.
"The Catholic Church has since been taking care of her, they have held a Mass for her. There have been villages who have invited her as they want to meet her and touch her.
But there are other churches who are warning people not to believe it, saying it is the work of the devil...Some people say she was possessed by an old boyfriend's spirit."
As is always the case with reports of stigmata, the doubting cry hoax and the faithful proclaim miracle, but the debate continues.