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3 Apr, 2010 05:29

Georgian claims to suffer from “Wounds of Christ”

Christians all over the world are marking Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. It commemorates the day Jesus lay in the tomb – and this year is celebrated on the same day by Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant believers.

Final preparations before Easter are going ahead with many churches holding traditional services.

Holy Saturday is also the time of the descending of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem. This centuries-old ritual is considered to be a message from Jesus that he has not forgotten his followers.

Some believers, however, say they have received other signs from above – more personal ones.

Reading such signs can be a complicated task – especially, when they appear on your body in the form of stigmata, which are marks similar to those received by Jesus Christ on his Crucifixion.

Twenty-two-year-old Tournike Djegerenaya has no doubt that the stigmata on his body are a message from above.

“The first time stigmata appeared seven years ago. I prayed before going to bed. Then I felt something strange happening. It was like a dream, but not really. I saw someone being crucified right in front of me. Then they lifted the cross, and I was face to face with the person who was crucified. Then I looked down, and realized I, too, was on a cross,” Djegerenaya says.

Tournike says he woke to find bleeding wounds, as if from crucifixion, on his hands and feet. He went to doctors, “but they couldn’t tell me anything.”

His local diocese and the Georgian Orthodox Church in general treat such cases with caution and skepticism.

“When it comes to stigmata, holy fathers teach to be wary of such manifestations of supposed divine grace during the life of the person in question. We respect all such persons, but we believe grace manifests itself internally,” Metropolitan of Borjomi and Bakuriani Seraphim says.

Stigmata are more commonly associated with the Catholic faith. This case is the only reported instance where the so-called wounds of Christ have appeared in someone of the Orthodox faith.

RT turned to Catholic theologian Aleksandra Marveloshvili for the religions position on stigmata.

“The church is usually highly critical of people exhibiting stigmata. Usually, those who exhibit such signs on their bodies have to undergo rigorous scientific and religious examination,” Marveloshvili says.

Many, however, are unconvinced that miracles, such as the one claimed by Tournike, are at work.

“Nobody ever had evidence that it can happen. There is evidence that in many cases it is fraud. People just want attention or try to make money out of being popular. In other cases, people might not remember that they inflicted injury on themselves,” head of the Russian Society of Evidence-based Medicine Kirill Danishevsky says.

Such cases will continue to be the subject of speculation, but to believers, stigmata are a piercing reminder of their belief – something that even science struggles to explain.