FaithWorld

Lourdes calls a healing “remarkable,” avoiding the term “miracle”

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(Pilgrims pray at the Lourdes grotto, where the Roman Catholic tradition says St. Bernadette saw visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858, photographed on November 5, 2006/Regis Duvignau)

The Roman Catholic shrine at Lourdes has announced the “remarkable healing” of a French invalid, avoiding the traditional term “miracle” because its doctors increasingly shy away from calling an illness or condition incurable. The case of Serge François, 56, whose left leg was mostly paralysed for years, was the first healing announced since the Church eased some rules in 2006 for declaring that a person was healed thanks to visiting the site.

The Catholic Church teaches that God sometimes performs miracles, including cures that doctors can’t explain. Sceptics reject this as unscientific and explain sudden recoveries as psychological phenomena or the delayed result of treatment.

Here’s the announcement on the official site in French, with information about Serge François.  Click on “English” at the upper right for the translation (not available at the time of this posting).

“In the name of the Church, I publicly recognise the ‘remarkable’ character of the healing from which Serge François benefited at Lourdes on April 12, 2002,” said Bishop Emmanuel Delmas of Angers in western France, where François lives.

French nun says Pope John Paul gave her ‘second birth’

nun (Photo: Sister Marie Simon-Pierre poses in front of a picture of former pope John Paul II after a news conference in Aix en Provence, January 17, 2011/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

The French Catholic nun who credits the late Pope John Paul with curing her of Parkinson’s disease said on Monday her sudden recovery came just as she was about to quit working because of her ailment.

Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, 49, said she woke up in June 2005, two months after the Polish-born pope had died, suddenly cured of the disease she had suffered from for four years.

“When I woke up, I felt I was not the same,” Sister Marie told a news conference at the bishop’s office in this southern French city. “There was no more heaviness in my muscles, I could move normally. For me it was a new birth, a second birth.”

Filipinos back contraception bill despite Catholic Church-poll

philippines 1 (Photo: A reproductive health advocate dressed as a condom distributes condoms to jeepney passengers in Manila March 1, 2010/Romeo Ranoco)

Seven in 10 Filipinos support a reproductive health bill permitting education on contraception which would also help check population growth, despite opposition from the powerful Roman Catholic Church, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The Church, a major social and political force in the poor Southeast Asian nation of about 95 million, has blocked similar bills since the 1990s and earlier this year denounced President Benigno Aquino’s support for contraception.

The bill is in the early stages of consideration by Congress, and proponents are confident it can be enacted into law given it has the backing of Aquino, who says slowing population growth will help fight poverty.

Vatican broadens case for condoms to fight AIDS

licht 1Pope Benedict’s landmark acknowledgement that the use of condoms is sometimes morally justifiable to stop AIDS is valid not only for gay male prostitutes but for heterosexuals and transsexuals too, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The clarification, which some moral theologians called “groundbreaking,” was the latest step in what is already seen as a significant shift in Catholic Church policy. (Photo: The pope’s book in German (r) and Italian (l) displayed at a Vatican news conference, November 23, 2010/Alessandro Bianchi)

It came at a news conference to launch the pope’s new book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times.”

Pope words on condoms bolster AIDS fight in Africa

pope lichtPope Benedict’s qualified backing of condom use to help prevent AIDS marks a small breakthrough for efforts to fight the scourge in Africa, giving health workers and clergy more scope to broach a still-taboo subject.

News of the pontiff’s comments in a book came days before a U.N. report on Tuesday showed that even Africa was making inroads into the epidemic, with a fall in infection rates over the past decade coinciding with greater availability of condoms. (Photo: Pope Benedict with book, 23 Nov 2010/Osservatore Romano)

“It does open the opportunity for discussion,” Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said of the pope’s statement, citing past confusion among many African Catholics over the Church’s approach to AIDS.

Pope says in new book he would resign if incapacitated

pope nods (Photo: Pope Benedict nods off during Mass in Malta April 18, 2010/Darrin Zammit Lupi)

Pope Benedict says in a new book that he would not hesitate to become the first pontiff to resign willingly in more than 700 years if he felt himself no longer able, “physically, psychologically and spiritually,” to lead the Church.

With startling candor, the 83-year-old Benedict floats the possibility of something Catholic Church officials do not like to talk about because it could open a doctrinal can of worms.

The book, called “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times,” has so far made headlines for the pope’s cautious opening to the use of condoms to stop AIDS.

U.S. church-run hospitals provide higher quality care — Thomson Reuters study

research briefCatholic and other church-owned systems are significantly more likely to provide higher quality performance and efficiency to the communities served than investor-owned systems, according to a Thomson Reuters analysis of the quality performance of 255 health systems in the United States.

Catholic health systems are also significantly more likely to provide higher quality performance to the communities served than secular not-for-profit health systems, it said. By contrast, investor-owned systems have significantly lower performance than all other groups.

“The findings of the study suggest a changing role for health system governance and leadership,” said Jean Chenoweth, senior vice president for performance improvement and 100 Top Hospitals programs at Thomson Reuters. “Our data suggest that the leadership of health systems owned by churches may be the most active in aligning quality goals and monitoring achievement of mission across the system.”

Feeble, choked River Jordan struggles for salvation

baptism (Photo: Orthodox Christian nuns stand in the muddy Jordan River with two pilgrims at the Qasir al-Yahud baptismal site near the West Bank city of Jericho, March 31, 2010/Darren Whiteside)

Christian pilgrims alarmed by claims that baptism in the River Jordan could make them sick are being urgently reassured by Israeli officials that the water poses no health risk.

Water quality tests published this week counter allegations by environmentalist group Friends of the Earth that the level of coliform bacteria from sewage in the river is too high for safe bathing, Eli Dror of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority said.

“There’s absolutely no problem with the quality of the water. People can come and baptise here as much as they want,” Dror told Reuters. “I can guarantee it.”

Being religious may not make you healthier after all

A number of studies over the past two decades have shown that religious people tend to be healthier. But a new study suggests that when it comes to heart disease and clogged arteries, attending religious services or having spiritual experiences may not protect against heart attacks and strokes.

This study suggests “there’s not a lot of extra burden or extra protection afforded by this particular aspect of people’s lives,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, who led the study, published in the journal Circulation.

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In their review of data from nearly 5,500 people who were part of another study, Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues — one of whom, Matthew Feinstein, is a Northwestern medical student who suggested the research — expected to see less risk for heart disease among those with more “religiosity.”

Mauritanian Muslim imams initiate rare ban on female circumcision

FGM

Women meeting in western Senegal to discuss eradicating female genital mutilation, 10 Sept 2007/Finbarr O'Reilly

Human rights campaigners who have been struggling for years to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) in West Africa got a boost this week as news emerged that a group of Muslim clerics and scholars in Mauritania had declared a fatwa, or religious decree, against the practice.

“Are there texts in the Koran that clearly require that thing? They do not exist,” asked the secretary general of the Forum of Islamic Thought in Mauritania, Cheikh Ould Zein. “On the contrary, Islam is clearly against any action that has negative effects on health. Now that doctors in Mauritania unanimously say that this practice threatens health, it is therefore clear that Islam is against it.”