Poles cast doubt on Pope's miracle cure of French nun
THE path to sainthood for the late Pope John Paul II has hit a snag. A Polish newspaper claimed that a woman he was said to have cured of Parkinson's disease did not suffer from that disease.
The Polish-born Pope was credited with the miraculous recovery of a French nun who had been suffering from Parkinson's, which medical science regards as incurable.
Doctors were unable to offer a scientific explanation for Sr Marie Simon-Pierre's apparent return to full health after she asked for holy intervention shortly after the Pope's death in 2005, by writing his name on a piece of paper.
By the next morning, the paralysis in the left side of her body had supposedly disappeared, her hands no longer shook and she was able to drive and walk normally, despite having been diagnosed with the disease in 2001.
To millions of Catholics, she became living proof that the late Pope had the power to heal the sick even from the grave. She was able to give up her medication and return to work.
The claim that John Paul had cured a case of Parkinson's held particular resonance because he suffered from the disease in his final years.
But a Polish newspaper has claimed that a doctor who scrutinised the 49-year-old nun's case concluded that she may have been suffering not from Parkinson's but from a nervous disorder from which temporary recovery is medically possible.
The 'Rzeczpospolita' daily also reported that Sr Marie, a member of the Petites Soeurs des Maternites Catholique order, has now lapsed back into ill health.
However, the Vatican moved quickly yesterday to dismiss speculation over the merits or demerits of the so-called miracle, saying that its Congregation for the Causes of the Saints had only just begun to investigate the case.
The purported miracle still has to be scrutinised by a panel of seven medical doctors, who are due to meet next month for the process, which is usually carried out in secret. The Vatican has not set a date for the announcement of John Paul II's beatification, but it had been widely expected to take place in the middle of October, on the anniversary of his election as Pope in 1978.
Any doubts over the miracle would be likely to postpone the announcement until 2011.
In the most extreme case, if Sr Marie was judged not to have been cured, then the Vatican would have to pick a different miracle from among a list of 240 that have been attributed to John Paul -- a process that could take years.
A validated miracle is required in order for John Paul to be beatified, with a second required for his full sainthood. (© Daily Telegraph, London)