July 2011

El Cristo de las Lagrimas: betw een science and spirituality

Since the Cristo de las Lágrimas, or Christ of the Tears, first shed blood tears in 1995 it has drawn a lot of attention from all over Bolivia and abroad. The small bust now has its own chapel and holds a prominent position among Cochabamba’s cultural tourist attractions. Some believe the phenomenon to be a miracle while many others are more skeptical.

By Gerben de Rooij
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Werkendam - Netherlands

The Cristo de las Lagrimas.

Every day dozens of people visit the Capilla Cristo de las L√°grimas, not far from its famous landmark twin. Some kneel down in prayer; others just drop in on their way and cross themselves in front of the sculpture. The walls around the altar are covered with small plaques, donated to the chapel by grateful believers to thank Christ. Most of the plaques come from Cochabamba and surroundings, but some have come from as far as Santiago de Chile.

The plaster bust that goes by the name of Jes√ļs de las Limpias or Cristo de las L√°grimas is owned by the Ar√©valo family. It was standing in their home in Cochabamba when the first in a series of miraculous events was witnessed. On March 9, 1995 the Cristo shed some crystal clear tears with a strong smell of roses. As the tears were rolling down its face, they reportedly turned into blood. Hundreds of devout believers and curious cochabambinos showed up at the Ar√©valo residence in the days following that Thursday in March 1995. Since then, it has cried on numerous occasions. The last time it shed blood tears was in 2004.

Photo: Gerben de Rooij.
The Chapel of the Cristo de las Lagrimas.

The events gave rise to skepticism among both believers and non believers. The Catholic Church is very reserved when it comes to declaring events to be miraculous. There are four stages to be followed before declaring a phenomenon to be a miracle. The first two stages consist of scientific research, first by independent scientists who later may be joined in a special commission by members of the local clergy. If science proves the phenomenon to be ‚Äúinexplicable‚ÄĚ yet ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ, the results are sent to the Vatican where research continues. It is then up to Rome to declare the events exceptional: that is, a miracle.

Ricardo Casta√Ī√≥n, an atheist neuropsychologist, conducted scientific research on Cochabamba‚Äôs weeping Christ for five years. Following the first step of the Vatican protocol, he concluded the blood to be human. Casta√Ī√≥n testified to have seen and videotaped the statue crying during a session in which he isolated himself in a room with the Cristo. Also, he rejected the possibility of any internal mechanism by making a tomography, a sectional image of the inside of the bust.

The tomography scans of the Cristo
de las Lagrimas.

For those interested in seeing the Cristo: the Capilla Cristo de las L√°grimas is on the Avenida Belz√ļ near Avenida Hero√≠nas. It opens Monday through Saturday, 14.45 till 18.00.

Representatives of various Protestant dominations declared in the La Razón newspaper that they do not consider the events in Cochabamba to be miraculous. They consider the adoration of idols unbiblical.

Standouts: For those interested in seeing the Cristo: the Capilla Cristo de las L√°grimas is on the Avenida Belz√ļ near Avenida Hero√≠nas. It opens Monday through Saturday, 14.45 till 18.00.



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