Claim of miracle cure links Costa Rica with John Paul II

Costa Ricans and the Catholic Church here are basking in the glow of a certified miracle that will propel former pope John Paul II into sainthood.

The Vatican has declared that a Cartago women was cured miraculously due to the intervention of John Paul, who died in 2005. That was the second of two miracles that usually are required to elevate an individual to sainthood. John Paul is the former Karl Wojtyła, the first Polish pope.

Even among usually cynical expats there has been limited criticism of the Vatican decision. The local Catholic officials are hoping the situation will advance its political agenda against gay marriage and in-vitro fertilization and perhaps bring more people to church.

The woman is Floribeth Mora Diaz, who sought medical help in April 2011 for a severe headache. A neurosurgeon said she had an aneurysm, a swollen blood vessel, too close to the brain for an operation. After she returned to her home and began praying to John Paul, the aneurysm vanished. 

Ms. Mora’s physician at Hospital Calderón Guardia,  Alejandro Vargas, said he later ran a magnetic resonance procedure and was unable to locate the aneurysm. 

The woman reported that she prayed to the former pope. She also said she heard a voice. Coincidentally much of this happened at the time that the beatification of John Paul was taking place. That is the initial step to sainthood.

John Paul was put on a fast track to sainthood when the Vatican quickly removed the five-year waiting period shortly after his death. One miracle is required for beatification according to Vatican rules.

Ms. Mora has become somewhat of a celebrity. She will travel to Rome whenever the Catholic Church determines the time for the official elevation of the former pope. She was at a press conference Friday and later attended a service at the church of the Virgen de Ujarrás in Paraiso, Cartago, Friday night. Her home now resembles a shrine to the former pope.

Although there is such a condition as a false aneurysm in the medical literature, the Vatican says it obtains reports from experts when there is a situation that defies logical explanation, the definition of a miracle.

President Laura Chinchilla in a statement, noted that John Paul is the only pope to have visited Costa Rica. That was in 1983. She also praised the endurance of Ms. Mora for sticking with the arduous process of validating the miracle.

“The eyes of the world are at this moment on Costa Rica, a grateful people of faith who demonstrate their great affection for Blessed John Paul II,” she said in the statement.

Meanwhile, in Puntarenas Sunday Catholics celebrated a 100-year-old miracle. The event was the seagoing procession in honor of the Virgen del Carmen. This manifestation of the Virgin Mary was credited with saving the crew of a fishing boat. 

The festival dates back to 1913 when a boat, the Galileo, was believed lost at sea. The populace prayed for the crew, and the fishermen showed up having been rescued by another vessel.

The Virgen de Ujarrás is herself a miracle.

The story is a long and complex one. The best source is former journalist and writer, Rosa Maria Fonseca Morales, who gives this account:

The statue of the Virgin was one of three aboard a boat 
menaced by pirates 1535. The Franciscans in charge of the 
statues decided to cast them into the sea to avoid letting pirates get their hands on such precious objects.  It was the will of God, according to devotees, that brought one of the statues to Ujarrás on the Río Reventazón where it was found by Indians. Another statue ended up in Nicaragua and the third became the Virgen de Lujan in Argentina.

In the same way that the Virgen de Los Ángeles in Cartago made known her desire to stay there by returning mysteriously to the same spot, the Virgen de Ujarrás mysteriously became so heavy that the Indians could not carry her away to Cartago.

Miracles have been attributed to the Virgen de Ujarrás. During a flood on the Río Paz, villagers threw the statue of Baby Jesus that was carried by the Virgin into the angry river. And this quieted the river but with the loss of the baby’s statue.

There has been a movement in Costa Rica to make the government a lay state. Now Roman Catholicism is recognized as the state religion. Church officials already are saying that the Miracle involving Ms. Mora is a sign that the Constitution should not be changed.

The Catholic religion runs strong, witnessed by the more than one million persons who engage in a pilgrimage to Cartago and the Basilica for Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles every July and August. Many carry their personal petitions for divine intercession.

According to Catholic theology, neither the saints nor the Virgin Mary grant miracles, but they are a conduit to God, who may answer their requests.

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