Beirut (AsiaNews) – Fr René Laurentin, theologian and exegete, great historian of the apparitions of Lourdes, expert at Vatican II, died on Sunday (10 September) in Évry, on the outskirts of Paris, a few weeks short of his 100th birthday (19 October).
He remained lucid until the end, with a lively curiosity for everything concerning the life of the Church, and he never forgot Eastern Christians. In one of our meetings at the Convent of Our Lady of Sion (Couvent de Notre-Dame de Sion) in Évry, he refused to be interviewed - which he often did - but asked question after question about the Lebanon war, which he was closely following.
He had kindly agreed to write the preface to my work Dévastation et rédemption (Devastation and Redemption), published by the Faculté des sciences religieuses – Université de Saint-Joseph, on the apparitions of the Virgin in Lebanon before and after the war (in reprint).
The spectacular apparitions at Mousseitbeh (1970), now forgotten, are featured in Le Grand Dictionnaire des apparitions (The Great Dictionary of the Apparitions) complied with Patrick Sbalchiero (Fayard), which includes Soufanieh (Damascus).
Later, his eyesight declined considerably without altering his insatiable scientific curiosity. In particular, he continued to make an annual trip to Lourdes on 11 February, the feast day of the apparitions, whose credibility was firmly established through his works.
Over the years, the multiplication of the Virgin's apparitions in the world naturally intrigued him, prompting him to write Multiplication des apparitions de la Vierge aujourd'hui, que veut-elle dire ? (Multiplication of Virgin's Apparitions today. What does it mean?), one of his most famous works (He is the author of 150 books).
Whenever possible, he went to the places of some of the apparitions to vet them using his criteria of discernment and to meet with the alleged seers.
It goes without saying that he thoroughly familiar with the apparitions in Medjugorje. Every year, he released an update on the new things the shrine offered, until Church authorities hostile to the apparitions got him to stop talking about it. Still, he never stopped thinking about them.
His experience, in fact, enabled him to put everything in perspective, to carry out the necessary cross-checks, to highlight the consistencies (and inconsistencies) of alleged apparitions, and to find the essential.
"I doubt systematically,” he used to say, “not as an investigating magistrate, but with sympathy, which alters my doubts."
Paying tribute to Fr Laurentin, the rector of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, André Cabes, wrote yesterday: "What we see and admire in René Laurentin is the solidity of the theologian, the seriousness of the historian, the agility of the journalist, who can convey what he had worked on so deeply. I would like to emphasise the fervour of the believer, witness of the happiness of the beyond promised by Mary to Bernadette. Many have enjoyed the infinite courtesy of the host.
Fr Laurentin’s funeral will be celebrated on Friday, 15 September, at 10.30 am in Évry Cathedral.