Sunday 24 September 2017

Miracles put John Paul II on fast-track to sainthood

Josephine McKenna Rome and Harriet Alexander London

THE Vatican has announced that Pope John Paul II is to be made a saint, in the fastest such process in modern history.

The announcement came as the Vatican concluded that there was sufficient evidence of "miracles" to elevate the Polish-born pontiff, who died in 2005, and as Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict attended their first Vatican ceremony together – both men sitting side by side to observe the unveiling of a new statue in the gardens.

The Vatican yesterday also published Francis's first encyclical, a meditation on faith that was largely written by Benedict before he retired.

The long road to sainthood normally requires two "confirmed" miracles, the first of which is necessary for beatification – a hurdle John Paul II cleared just six months after his death.The Polish pope, a popular figure who headed the church for 27 years from 1978, was said to have cured a French nun of Parkinson's disease.

The church then began a search for evidence of a second miracle and found it in Costa Rica. Floribeth Mora Diaz,(inset) a mother of four in her 50s, was taken to hospital in San Jose, the capital, and told that her persistent headaches were the result of a brain aneurysm.

The doctors said it was inoperable.Mrs Mora returned to her small whitewashed home in the town of Tres Rios. There, in May, 2011, in front of a candlelit shrine to John Paul II, surrounded by brightly-coloured plastic flowers, rosaries and home-made crucifixes, her husband told her she should pray.

Mrs Mora said that she knew her prayers had been answered after waking one morning and finding a magazine next to the bed, with a photograph of John Paul II on the cover.

"I heard a voice saying to me, 'Get up, do not be afraid'," she told Mexico's Televisa network. "I was surprised and kept looking at the magazine and I said, 'Yes, Lord' and I got up."At a press conference in the capital yesterday, Mrs Mora said: "I was terribly frightened of leaving my children. I was very scared of my illness but I always kept my faith. I have always been a firm believer, and I have a deep love of God."Today, amid a blaze of publicity in the strongly Catholic country of 4.6 million, she plans to attend a ceremony at the church in the town of Paraiso where a vial of John Paul II's blood is kept.

DIVINE

Her recovery shocked those in her hometown. "How can it be that in this small country, such as Costa Rica; in this poor small neighbourhood, this miracle took place?" asked one of Mrs Mora's neighbours, standing outside her home. "It is amazing. I don't have words to describe it." Alejandro Vargas Roman, the neurosurgeon who treated Mrs Mora, is convinced that her recovery is the result of divine intervention.

"Of course it's true," he told the newspaper 'La Nacion'. "I am a Catholic, and as a doctor with many years of experience I do believe in miracles. No one has been able to provide a medical explanation for what happened." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

SEE Michael Kelly

Irish Independent

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