CAIRO (Albawaba) - Thousands of Egyptians and some foreigners have been thronging to the southern city of Assiut in recent weeks where residents say they've seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary and a flock of exceptionally large, white pigeons in an inexplicable shining light.
Since the first reported apparition on August 17 in the sky over the dome of Saint Mark's Church, villagers and visitors have descended on the neighborhood, waiting in the streets, and on rooftops for a glimpse of Mary.
The city's local Coptic Christian synod released a statement that civilians had reported seeing "spiritual features" on several occasions and at different times since August 17. The statement did not say whether religious leaders had confirmed any sightings personally.
"I haven't seen any light," Father Baki Sedka, head of the First Biblical Church, a neighboring church to Saint Mark, told Egyptian reporters. "I stayed up all night and I didn't see anything except a few pigeons."
"The appearance of a few pigeons doesn't indicate a miracle," Sedka said.
"This case needs a lot of consideration before we can authoritatively assert these sightings."
Since word of the apparition spread, the synod said thousands of Egyptians and many foreigners have come to Assiut, 290 kilometers south of Cairo, the capital, where they've been singing hymns and reciting prayers while waiting for the vision to reappear.
Copts make up less than 10 percent of the population in Egypt, where Islam is the state religion. The majority of Assiut's population is Coptic Christian, but the city is also a hotbed for Islamic fundamentalism and there have been cases of violent attacks by Muslims on Christians and tourists.
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