For unity to become a reality among Christians, there is a great need for healing in each individual Christian so that all might truly be capable of living as one. From June 29 to July 3, over 10,000 people who are active in Catholic Charismatic Renewal made a pilgrimage to Lourdes in quest of such healing. The majority of people came from France and the neighboring countries of Belgium, Spain, and Italy, but groups and individuals were present from such faraway places as South America and Indonesia.
The pilgrimage combined various elements of a traditional pilgrimage to Lourdes with the joyful spirit and expectant faith characteristic of the Charismatic Renewal. Together with the new pastoral wisdom the renewal has helped to develop regarding the healing ministry. Cardinal L.J. Suenens of Brussels, Belgium presided over the main conference liturgy, which was concelebrated by 17 other bishops, including Archbishop Robert Coffy of Albi, France, Archbishop Leo Soekoto of Jakarta, Indonesia, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Lusaka, Zambia, and Bishop Henri Donze of Tarbes and Lourdes, as well as by 400 priests. Several talks were given during the conference by such renowned speakers as Cardinal Suenens, Fr. Tom Forrest of the International Communication Office in Brussels, Belgium, Jean Vanier, founder of the l’Arche communities around the world, Fr. Emiliano Tardif, a French-Canadian priest active in the healing ministry in the Dominican republic, and Fr. René Laurentin, a French theologian who is especially noted for his numerous works on the life of Bernadette and the miracle of Lourdes.
During one general session, Fr. Emiliano Tardif led the conference participants in a prayer for healing. He made use of the gift of the word and knowledge and announced many healings that were taking place. The whole healing service was Christ-centered. Jesus wants to heal, Fr. Tardif said. He loves us and has compassion for us. We have to accept his will to heal us. Fr. Tardif pointed out that Mary’s role is to show and remind us that her son is the Son of God and that he is the one who heals.
Following the healing service , fifty people who had experienced a healing presented themselves to a team of 20 doctors participating in the charismatic pilgrimage. Five of these people were later asked to give their testimonies. They included:
- Maria Berthild de Souca Fernandes, a teacher from Portugal, who had been paralyzed in one are and one leg since birth and who regained movements in those limbs;
- Fr. Viry Dacheux of france, who had been handicapped by a spinal deformity and arthrosis and who was able to get around without canes for the first time in many years;
- Sr. Marie Therese Marial, a missionary in Morocco who had been sent back to France because of an ulcer on her cornea and whose ailment was healed thereby enabling her to resume her service in Morocco.
The official medical commission at Lourdes was not involved in the pilgrimage. But Dr. Mangiapan, chairman of the commission, did visit with the doctors on the pilgrimage and agreed with them that the idea of beginning the long procedure for official medical recognition of a cure was undoubtedly not their particular grace and would probably quench their spontaneity.
Following the conference, Fr. René Laurentin gave him the impression in the newspaper Le Figaro: “Any evaluation would be premature since it is a question, to a large degree of healings that are in process, several of which have progresses from day to day. The important thing is that these people feel healed, that the lame do walk, that chronic sufferings are relieved. It is especially important that this healing be felt as an added blessing. Physical healing for them is connected to inner conversion, and their great joy is to be able to better serve God and their brothers”.
Taken from the ICCRS Newsletter, July-August 1979