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For the Catholic Church to affirm the divine nature of an apparition site, a lengthy examination must be concluded. The only modern apparitions that have been affirmed are Fatima and a 1973 event in Akita, Japan. Since Lopez opened her home in May 1994, Ruffolo says, hundreds of people have been healed. The foundation keeps a book of their testimonies and asks people to write to the Archbishop telling of their experiences in the hope he will investigate the site and realize the claims are real.
It doesn't matter to Lopez's pilgrims how Randi characterizes their beliefs or whether the Catholic Church has recognized the miracle of Hollywood.
During the car ride from Coral Springs to Hollywood with her mother Ramona in 1994, JoAnn Garcia says she was filled with doubt. "I prayed fervently that if it was a fake for our lord to expose it to me so that our lord and our lady would not be used for [Rosa Lopez's] profit." Her husband, who was a Miami-Dade police officer, was even more skeptical, she says.
But now Garcia says that her experiences that day transformed her from a skeptic to a believer. She was saying the rosary during a downpour. "The clouds parted, and all of a sudden, I was looking at the sun, and I will swear on anything, except my lord, the sun was [swinging in the sky]. It started arching [back and forth] six times, and then it burst out into colors, into the rainbow colors. People were saying, 'Oh my God, look at all the colors. '"
Garcia burst into tears. "It was an emotion I can't even explain. It was not in my ears or in my head, but in my heart, I felt as though my lord was saying to me, 'This is your answer, JoAnn.' It was as though he touched his finger to my heart.
"And I never doubted it ever since."
Jim Coffin, who has been attending the apparitions since Lopez first opened her home in 1994, says he has witnessed many miracles there. He says he has seen images of Mary weeping. And he has been overcome by the rosy scent of holy water drawn from the Lopez fountain. For him, it is all an answer to a prayer. "I used to fuss at Mary, asking her why she always appeared in Europe or some other faraway place," he says. "And now we have her here."
Doctors had given Rita Sanchez three months to live when she first visited Rosa Lopez's home four years ago, she says. The 62-year-old says she had multiple tumors throughout her body. Doctors now say the malignant tumors have disappeared. Once a week, Sanchez and her daughter, Beatrice Gonzalez, visit the Lopez home. Rosa squirts holy water in their mouths, makes the sign of the cross, and touches her palm to their foreheads. "We come here because we believe it is a miracle," Gonzalez says.
Gloria Martinez hoped for a cure too as she sat in the apparition room that July 13. Around 11 a.m., Lopez noticed her tears and came over to her to ask what was wrong. Martinez told Lopez about the horrible pain she suffered. "She told me not to worry," Martinez says.
Lopez helped Martinez hobble to the fountain in the front yard. She scooped up water and poured it onto Martinez's leg. She made the sign of the cross and told Martinez that she should sit down. Then Lopez placed her hand on Martinez's forehead. "I felt like I was going to faint," Martinez says. "I just sat." When she came out of the trance, Martinez says, the pain in her leg had disappeared.
After Martinez returned to her seat in the apparition room, she repeatedly bent and unbent her leg. "Oh my God, I don't believe this," she said over and over again. "This is a miracle. I swear to God."
Asked if she thought the pain would return, Martinez wouldn't consider such an outcome. "I don't think it will come back," she said. "I have the feeling that it will not. I had a lot of faith when I came here today."
Martinez left the Lopez house before the main event of the day took place. "I didn't know there was anything more than that," she says. "And I had already been there so long."
At 11:45 a.m., Ruffolo's husband, Frank, asked the crowd of more than 300 people massed inside and outside the Lopez home to pray and to say the rosary together. The group began with the visit of the holy spirit to Mary, the birth and life and death of Jesus, continued on through to the death of Mary and her coronation as the queen of heaven, in both Spanish and English. It lasted for about 90 minutes.
Lopez sat in a white plastic lawn chair beside the fountain with a lace scarf covering her head, holding a pink rosary. When the saying of prayers was completed, she slipped off the chair and knelt on a cushion on the ground with her hands folded in prayer. She remained silent for several minutes, her face contorted. Then she uttered a guttural whisper. A volunteer held a microphone to her mouth so that the audience could hear her words. Christine Ruffolo held a tape player so that the message could be transcribed, printed, and distributed to the public. Lopez talked in a hard-to-follow mixture of Spanish and English, in a voice that sometimes dropped almost to a whisper, for about 30 minutes.