Mother's burnt offering seen as Holy Toast

Christian theology says bread represents the body of Christ, but a church in south India is being more specific.

A partially burnt chapati, cooked by a member of the congregation at Bangalore's Renewal Retreat Centre, has been put on public display because it is thought to resemble Jesus' face. Hundreds of people flocked to the church over the weekend to pray and genuflect before the chapati, which is preserved in a glass case.

The divine visage, complete with long hair and a flowing beard, was spotted by Sheela Anthony after staring hard at a chapati which she baked last week as lunch for her children, who rejected it because they said it was singed.

"For a moment the burnt part of chapati looked like Christ," she said. "I couldn't believe my eyes and kept looking at it. With a lot of hesitation, I showed it to my daughters and neighbours, who confirmed that it was indeed Jesus."

It was enough to convince Father Jacob George, one of the clerics at the church, who said he was sure a miracle had occurred. Bibin Joy, a 19-year-old local student was also convinced. "It is all very much true," he said. "When I first saw it two days ago, I saw the image of Christ, but now I think it may be Mother Mary."

India usually takes a keen interest in such stories, not least because Hindu "Godmen" are prolific miracle-workers. But so far the press has paid scant attention to the divine chapati, forgoing the chance to indulge its passion for puns – "Father, Son and Holy Toast", "Bread of Heaven" and so on. The only newspaper to display any excitement was The Times of India. Its headline was plain-spoken: "Jesus, it's a chapati!"