Church updates rulebook on Lourdes 'miracles'

17th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 16, 2006 (AFP) - Church authorities at the Lourdes sanctuary in southwestern France, Christianity's most visited place of pilgrimage after Rome, are to overhaul the rules they use to authenticate "miraculous" cures.

PARIS, March 16, 2006 (AFP) - Church authorities at the Lourdes sanctuary in southwestern France, Christianity's most visited place of pilgrimage after Rome, are to overhaul the rules they use to authenticate "miraculous" cures.

"This is about a shift from a binary position — 'was there or was there not a miracle' — to a more more nuanced one, that will better reflect the reality of Lourdes," the Bishop of Lourdes Jacques Perrier told reporters on Thursday.

Some six million pilgrims flock every year to the small town in the foothills of the Pyrenées, where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared to a young miller's daughter, Bernadette Soubirous, inside a cave in 1858.

Among the pilgrims are hundreds of thousands of sick and handicapped, fervently praying for a cure from the allegedly holy power of the site's spring water.

Under the new rules, Perrier said, the Church would add to the notion of "miracle", which stays unchanged, that of "credible witness accounts from people whose cure is linked to Lourdes."

"Each year, there are a number of people who feel they have benefited from an act of grace, and who are told to 'be quiet'. That's not right," he said.

Currently, there are seven criteria for recognising a 'miracle', drawn up in the 18th century, including the need for the patient to have received no medical treatment and for his or her condition to be incurable.

Out of more than 6,700 reported to be linked to Lourdes since 1858, only one percent have been officially recognised as "miracles".

The number recognised each year as "exceptional" by the Lourdes international medical committee (CMIL) has been falling steadily, although the committee said Thursday it had approved one new case for 2005.

The file, that of a Frenchwoman who made a full recovery from several ailments including leukaemia, has been forwarded to Catholic authorities in her diocese, who will determine whether it qualifies as a "miracle", according to Francois-Bernard Michel, co-president of the CMIL.

"This is not about offering miracles on the cheap, or about being any less serious in the scientific examination of cases," Michel said.

"It is about upholding scientific rigour, but also respecting the faith and beliefs of people who experienced a radical change in their state of health."

Michel said that the committee, set up in 1947 to study extraordinary cures attributed to the Lourdes sanctuary alongside work the Catholic authorities, had "received no pressure of any kind from the Christian insitutions".

The Roman Catholic Church in November recognised as "miraculous" the case of an Italian woman who recovered from a serious illness following a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1952, the 67th "miracle cure" attributed to the shrine.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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