03/17/2006, 00.00
FRANCE
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Revolution in how Lourdes miracles are recognised

Medical progress has made some of the rules for miracle recognition inapplicable. Importance is given to "spiritual benefits" as much as getting a medical check-up.

Lourdes (AsiaNews) – It is almost a revolution in how Lourdes miracles are recognised. On the one hand, the International Medical Committee of Lourdes (CMIL) is officially overhauling its rules to authenticate "healings"; on the other, once the medical exam over, the patient' spiritual benefits from healing will be taken into account.

The Committee will now recognise three classes of miraculous healings—"declared", "unexpected" and "confirmed"—since modern medicine has made the rules established by Cardinal Lambertini in1734 (the future Pope Benedict XIV) for miracle recognition no longer applicable. In principle, when a person with an incurable disease was healed without receiving any treatment, that was deemed a miracle and used in the canonisation process.  The Committee adopted these rules when it was created in 1883, but today they can no longer be applied.

As François-Bernard Michel, CMIL co-chairman, told French Catholic daily La Croix, "fortunately no patient arrives in Lourdes without having receiving some chemotherapy". The issue then becomes "if the person is healed, what can be attributed to the chemo and what to Lourdes".

This said, the health evaluation is not as fundamental as how people view the healing in their relationship to others and God. In 1993 an international congress was held in Lourdes on "Healing and Miracles". It concluded that healing is miraculous when two conditions exist, namely that its explanation "is beyond the usual rules of medicine or the normal course of the disease and that it brings the patient and witnesses to believe that it was due to God's special intervention."

In concrete terms, healings will be examined according to a three-stage process. It will start when people who believe that they were healed through the Virgin's intercession make voluntary and spontaneous statements to the permanent Medical Bureau in Lourdes.

These claims will be then evaluated by a council (which meets annually and includes non Catholics), which will examine the "progression of the disease" and the "patient's character" in order to "judge if the healing escapes usual medical assessments and to consider the circumstances of the healing". Its findings can be "Not for follow up", "Wait" or "Unexpected Healing". Last year, about 40 cases fell into the third category.

Once a third category case is recognised, the bishop from the claimant's diocese of residence is informed and the healing is examined. In this second phase, when only "unexpected healings" are considered, numerous experts and specialists look at the case in question pouring over the relevant scientific literature to see what happens before and after healing in order to determine whether the healing is "truly unusual".

Last year, there were five such cases: post-traumatic myelopathy, a very serious case of Crohn's disease, a case of multiple sclerosis, myopathy and a cancer of the kidney.

Once this third stage is crossed, "given the current state of scientific knowledge the exceptional nature of a healing case" is recognised.

At this point the case file goes to the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, currently Mg Jacques Perrier, and to the bishop of the healed person's diocese of residence.

Currently, only one case is under examination after reaching the third and final stage. It involves a French woman who was completely cured of a malignant lymphoma diagnosed in 1992 made worse by a myelogenous leukemia and various other complications.

In addition, the Committee plans to reflect upon the pertinence of healing in cases involving psychological and mental diseases because, as Dr Michel put it, "many people suffering from depression or carrying heavy personal burdens find meaning and a taste for life after a pilgrimage to Lourdes". 

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