Cantú said the first part entailed trying to determine whether there was a natural cause behind the liquid found on the hollow bronze sculpture. In addition to sending a sample of the liquid for analysis, the diocese carried out a thorough examination of the sculpture, also referred to as the Virgin of Guadalupe or Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"We examined the interior of the hollow statue," Cantú said. "There's nothing on the interior that's not supposed to be there, except for cobwebs. So we took pictures; we examined it."
The diocese also contacted the manufacturer of sculpture in Mexico. Cantú said church officials were trying to determine if some sort of fluid could have remained inside the sculpture from the manufacturing process. While wax is used in the casting of the bronze, the process is "so hot that all of the wax melts away," he said.
"In that process, they assured us there would be no possibility of any moisture to remain in the bronze," he said. "So those are some of the facts that we have established."
The sculpture, which stands in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Hobbs, has been attracting worldwide attention. Visitors have been flocking to the church since the fluid on the sculpture was first reported in May.
Last week, Cantú was reassigned to a diocese in California. His last day in the southern New Mexico diocese is Sept. 28. But he said one of the items remaining on his agenda before he leaves is to take a trip to Hobbs and see the sculpture himself. Also, he'll be continuing the investigation.
Asked whether the church will be able to rule out a human cause for the sculpture's purported tears, including the possibility for a hoax, Cantú said he has to look into that.
"But even if it were (a hoax), we are not sure how it would be done, physically," he said. "Because it is hardened bronze. We've examined the interior, and there's nothing on the interior."
If the church concludes the origin of the tears is supernatural, it also must decide whether they're from God or an evil spirit, according to Cantú. That will be assessed based on the "fruits" of the phenomenon. Some people have reported "beautiful, positive fruits" so far after seeing the sculpture, he said.
"I've read most of those written testimonies, and they are stories of tremendous faith, people who have been dealing with terrible suffering in their lives and have felt a tremendous spiritual consolation that Mary walks with us in our tears," he said. "I can't help but think of my own shedding of tears for the poor people who come to our border, fleeing life-threatening situations.."
Who makes the final determination about whether the sculpture is a miracle? Cantú said jokingly that it's not the kind of experience that he has on his résumé. He said he'll most likely defer to advice from a higher authority.
"I'm checking best practices," he said. "Certainly, I have a final say, but I would defer to the wisdom of Pope Francis."