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Rumors of a miraculous "bleeding host" in a Kearns church has led to an investigation by the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, but church officials say there may be a scientific explanation for the red hue that developed on the sacramental wafer after it was placed in water.

The host — a small wheat disc that is consecrated and eaten during Holy Communion — went unconsumed during Mass on Nov. 8. at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kearns and was returned to the church, said diocese spokeswoman Susan Dennin.

In accordance with church practices, the host was placed in an ablution bowl to dissolve.

However, the host did not dissolve. About a week later, it had developed a dark red color, Dennin said. The diocese received reports of the "bleeding host," Dennin said, and church officials collected the host for examination.

"There have been numerous documented ... similar instances where [a host] was dropped on the floor or put in an ablution bowl to dissolve," Dennin said, "and it was discovered after a few days to have a red wheat mold or fungus."

A diocese committee is conducting a scientific investigation into the host "to determine if this has a natural explanation or not," Dennin said. "We're not going to presume supernatural causes for rings that can have a natural explanation."

In a public statement, Monsignor M. Francis Mannion wrote: "Contrary to rumor, the diocese has no plans for public exposition or adoration" of the host.

"Whatever the outcome of the investigation," Mannion wrote, "we can use this time to renew our faith and devotion in the greatest miracle — the real presence of Jesus Christ that takes place at every Mass."