The Roman Catholic Church treats with caution public calls for the beatification of west Cork girl Mary Therese Collins.

Born in in Caheragh near Drimoleague in County Cork on 21 June 1913, Mary Therese Collins died at the age of 16 on 29 September 29 1929. The inscription on her gravestone, written by Mary Therese's sister Kitty Kingston under guidance from a priest, notes the deceased’s body remains incorrupt. This wording suggests Mary Therese Collins is a saint.

On 22 April 1979 two men digging another grave in the Collins family plot say they came across the preserved coffin of Mary Therese Collins. After 50 years in the ground, they were astonished to discover her remains intact.

Mary Teresa was inside in it and her hands joined, and her cheeks were a bit brown, and her eye was open, and her shroud was as sound as it was like yesterday, and the lining of the coffin was white as snow.

The matter remained low key until a newspaper report in August 1981 stoked public interest and the grave became a site of pilgrimage. At this stage Father Collins, the priest who helped with the wording of the headstone, removed himself from the matter, preferring to leave it to the higher church authorities.

Championing the cause for beatification is Mary Therese Collins’ closest school friend Sister Alberic Murphy, a Cistercian nun living in Saint Mary's Abbey in County Waterford.

Sister Alberic did not consider her friend a saint when they were young, but once she heard Mary Therese’s body was intact,

To me a body in the grave is something extraordinary, or something in the saint line.

A priest from Dublin thinks whether Mary Therese Collins is a saint needs further investigation. In his view it is worth interviewing people who knew Mary Therese and saw how she lived.

Such is the level of rumour speculation and public interest that the Most Reverend Michael Murphy, Bishop of Cork and Ross has found it necessary to issue a statement setting out the Roman Catholic Church’s position, one of extreme caution bordering on the sceptical. He does not consider an investigation into the life of Mary Therese Collins is warranted.

This episode of 'Ireland’s Eye’ was broadcast on 29 September 1981. The reporter is Pat Butler.