March 27, 2007 / 2:46 PM / 11 years ago

Mysterious nun at heart of John Paul sainthood bid

ROME (Reuters) - A mysterious French nun who was cured of Parkinson’s disease after praying to the late Pope John Paul will be the main guest next week at ceremonies marking the end of the first phase of the process to make him a saint.

But her identity may never be known unless she decides to reveal it.

Next Monday, the second anniversary of his death, the Rome diocese will officially give the Vatican tens of thousands of pages of documentation and transcripts which propose that John Paul should be beatified, the last step before sainthood.

The documentation includes the case of a French nun who was suffering from Parkinson’s -- the same disease that the late Pope had -- until it inexplicably disappeared on June 2, 2005.

“The nun will be at the ceremonies in Rome and the Vatican on April 2, but so will thousands of others,” Monsignor Slawomir Oder, who is in charge of promoting the sainthood case for the late Pope, told reporters on Tuesday.

On Monday, Pope Benedict will lead a solemn mass at the Vatican to remember his predecessor.

Before the papal events, a bishop somewhere in France will disclose that it was in his diocese where the “miracle” took place, but he is not expected to reveal the nun’s name.

The nun, whose identity is known to only a handful of clerics and doctors, wrote anonymously of her experiences in a magazine published by the Italian Catholic Church.

“I was losing weight day by day. I could no longer write and if I did try to, it was difficult to decipher. I could no longer drive ... because my left leg became rigid,” she wrote.

She describes how she and her fellow nuns in her religious community prayed to the late Pope for her healing.

READ THE WRITING

On June 2, 2005, exactly two months after the Pope’s death, she said she felt the sudden urge to pick up a pen.

“My handwriting was completely legible ... my body was no longer pained, no longer rigid ... I felt a profound sense of peace,” she wrote.

Her neurologist and other doctors and psychologists who later examined her were at a loss for a medical explanation. She had earlier been diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson‘s.

If Vatican experts and doctors concur that the healing of the nun was a miracle -- which experts said is likely -- Pope Benedict can then beatify John Paul.

According to Church rules, another miracle would be necessary after the beatification in order for him to be declared a saint.

But as supreme leader of the Catholic Church, Benedict could decide to waive beatification and move directly to sainthood.

In May, 2005, Pope Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to sainthood by dispensing with Church rules that normally impose a five-year waiting period after a candidate’s death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can even start.

Many Catholics are convinced of John Paul’s holiness. Crowds at his funeral chanted “Santo Subito” (“Make him a saint now”).

However, Oder, who is Polish like the late Pope, said he expected the procedure to run its normal course.

Oder said that his office has received numerous reports from people who say they have been healed -- most of them from cancer -- after praying to John Paul.

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