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Pope Benedict XVI holds his pastoral cross as he leads the Christmas mass …
The Roman Catholic Church has validated an alleged visit of the ghost of the Virgin Mary in the United States for the first time, adding a small chapel set among dairy farms to one of just a dozen church-sanctioned visitations. The purported encounter took place in Champion, Wisconsin, in 1859 by a Belgian immigrant named Adele Brise.
Brise claimed to have three visits by the mother of Jesus, and followed her instructions to commit her life to teaching Catholicism to children.
Brise said that the Virgin Mary, clothed in a white gown cinched by a yellow sash, and with a crown of stars on her blond hair, hovered between two trees while bathed in a holy light.
A two-year investigation by the Papacy concluded several weeks ago and stated it found no evidence of fraud or heresy.
The chapel, called Our Lady of Good Help, is likely to become a major tourist spot for worshipping Catholics. Some 45,000 pilgrims visit Lourdes, France, a day, while in Guadalupe, Mexico, a validated sighting there draws millions to its shrine each year.
The tiny chapel in an unincorporated village near the city of Green Bay has reputedly had a long history of divine intervention, such as miraculous cures and conversions.
Hundreds of Mary sightings have been reported to the Catholic Church, with only around 12 receiving validation. The church now employs psychiatric exams and modern brain scans to test the claimants.