The mysterious picture with the "Marian Apparition" and (inset) Father GobbiThe remarkable image appears to show the shape of the Virgin Mary appearing towards the front of a packed crowd, as if being beamed in from a source up above.It was taken at a mass held by a high-ranking Catholic priest who claimed to receive messages from the Madonna herself.Yet the shape of Mary is a striking white in contrast to the yellowish light behind her.The person who handed the image to an organisation that investigates UFOs and the paranormal has not been named, however they sent in what appears to be a photograph of the original printed picture.The source claims the original snap was taken in 1994 during a huge Catholic mass called a cenacle given by Italian priest Father Stefano Gobbi at the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.Father Gobbi, who has toured the world, was encouraged by the then Pope and was scrutinised by the church over claims of having mystical dealings with the Virgin Mary.The source of the image gave no other information than to mysteriously say it had been given to them by a stranger - who also went unnamed unnamed.They wrote to the investigators: "A stranger gave me this photo. My first thought was the Virgin."The image was bizarrely sent to a team of UFO researchers, but has been logged for investigation due to the extraordinary nature of the photograph.Express.co.uk enquires have established that Father Gobbi died aged 80 on June 29 2011, but spent more than three decades holding special mass gatherings centring around the Virgin Mary.
In his liftime he "traveled the world holding Cenacles of Prayer on every continent", according to an article on Father Gobbi by Colin Donovan, vice president for Theology, at the Global Catholic Network, on the organisations's website.
The mysterious image in full
Express.co.uk used Photoshop to lighten the image which reveals a bigger audienceCenacles specifically centre around Mary and refers to the gathering of the apostles around the Blessed Mother, as she is known, in the Upper Room in which the Last Supper was celebrated and in which they awaited the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. **The gatherings began in 1972 after Father Gobbi set up the Marian Movement of Priests in 1972 while visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.The movement was formed to encourage Consecration, especially of priests, Immaculate Heart of Mary and whole-hearted fidelity to the Pope.But it also sparked some controversy by Father Gobbi's claims "to receive interior locutions from the Blessed Virgin", according to Mr Donovan.These "messages" said to be received by him in prayer were published in his spiritual diary To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons.According to Mr Donovan there had been some scrutiny of Father Gobbi's "claims of mysticism" high up in the Catholic Church.He added: "In the case of alleged mysticism there is always the possibility of mental illness, fraud, vivid imagination, or even the demonic.
"It is the task of a qualified spiritual director to discern, in the first instance, the authenticity of mysticism, basing himself on his knowledge of Catholic teaching, the personality, character and prayer life of the alleged mystic and his own experience in directing others.
The picture is said to have been taken at Paolo Soleri Amphitheater, which can seat thousands
"The spiritual director is the Church's first line of defence in protecting individuals, and the faithful in general, from false mysticism.
"From the beginning Father Gobbi has been under the care of a spiritual director, one who judged his locutions to be authentic and who determined which of the messages would be published.
"The final judgment of the alleged mysticism of the Father Gobbi rests, therefore, with the Church.
"In his favour, however, are the opinion of his spiritual director, his own zeal to promote Consecration to the Immaculate Heart and fidelity to the Magisterium, the great numbers of lay, religious and priestly vocations strengthened, and in some cases saved, through the Marian Movement of Priests, and the good will shown him by very many members of the hierarchy, including the Pope, who has received him and encouraged him in his work on several occasions."
There was no mention in the report of Father Gobbi ever talking of an actual Marian Apparition of the Virgin Mary appearing such as is said to have happened at Fatima or Lourdes in France, which are now pilgrimage destinations.
There is a record of Father Gobbi holding a Cenacle at the Santa Fe venue in 1994, but there is no independent confirmation the new mystery image was taken there.
Express.co.uk has sent a copy of the image to the Global Catholic Network and the Marian Movement of Priests for comment and awaits responses.
• If you know anything about the picture or attended the cenacle in question contact reporter Jon Austin via firstname.lastname@example.org.