PARIS — A French bishop declared Sunday that the recovery a long-debilitated nun made after she visited the shrine in Lourdes was a miracle, the 70th event to be recognized as an act of divine intervention at the world-famous Catholic pilgrimage site.
Beauvais Bishop Jacques Benoit-Gonin proclaimed the miracle nearly a decade after Bernadette Moriau attended a blessing of the sick ceremony at the Lourdes sanctuary in southern France. The bishop of Lourdes, Nicolas Brouwet announced the declaration during Mass at the shrine’s basilica.
The shrine in southern France where apparitions of Mary, Jesus’ mother, reportedly appeared 160 years ago to a 14-year-old girl is considered a site of miraculous cures. Water running from a spring in the sanctuary’s Grotto of the Apparitions is purported to have curative powers and millions of pilgrims visit the sanctuary every year.
Moriau’s experience underwent extensive studies and tests by the International Medical Committee of Lourdes. The bishop has the last word on whether to approve a reported cure as a miracle.
Moriau had four operations on her spinal column between 1968 and 1975 and was declared fully disabled in 1980. One foot was permanently twisted, requiring her to wear a brace and use a wheelchair. She took what she said were significant doses of morphine for pain.
“I never asked for a miracle,” the nun, now 79, recounted of her July 2008 pilgrimage to Lourdes.
After returning to her home convent near Beauvais and praying in the chapel, “I felt a (surge of) well-being throughout my body, a relaxation, warmth….I returned to my room and, there, a voice told me to ‘take off your braces,’” she said in a video posted on the Beauvais diocese web site. “Surprise. I could move.”
Moriau said she immediately did away with all her aids, from braces to morphine — and took a 5 kilometer hike a few days later.
The bishop said the nun’s “sudden, instantaneous, complete and durable change” alerted him to a possible miracle. The Lourdes medical committee said the changes were unexplainable “in the current state of our scientific knowledge,” he added.
A miracle at Lourdes last was declared in 2013. It involved an Italian woman who visited Lourdes in 1989, suffering severe high blood pressure and other problems.
Not all declared miracles pass through Lourdes. A French nun, Marie Simon-Pierre, was declared cured of her Parkinson’s disease after praying to the late Pope John Paul II, who suffered from the same neuro-degenerative disorder. That helped fast-track the pope’s canonization as one of the two miracles needed for him to become St. John Paul II in 2014.