Page Text





No. 6364

Church probes ‘miracles’ of British nun


THE UNEXPLAINED healings of two people from terminal illnesses are to be investigated as possible miracles that could give Britain its first woman saint in more than four decades. A man suffering from cancer and a woman with a brain injury from a fractured skull recovered from their conditions after their families prayed to Sister Elizabeth Prout, a 19th-century nun who worked with the poor in the slums of Manchester. Catholic officials in England are now preparing to travel to Chile, where both healings took place, to begin preliminary investigations that could result in the Pope declaring Sister Elizabeth a saint in as little as five years time. Sister Elizabeth has been compared to a Victorian Mother Teresa because of her work among poor mill workers and refugees from the Irish potato famine, although she was derided in her own lifetime as a “revolutionary”. A convert from the Church of England to Catholicism, she opened nine schools in industrialised parts of the north west of England and set up an order of nuns – the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, or Passionist Sisters – who helped women to escape poverty by training them in the skills they needed to make a living on their own. Her order now has more

Sister Elizabeth Prout

than 300 Sisters working in Britain, the Irish Republic, America, Botswana, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Peru and Chile. A 14-year diocesan investigation into Sister Elizabeth’s life of “heroic virtue” drew to a conclusion with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool at her graveside in the Church of St Anne and Blessed Dominic, St Helens, Merseyside, on Tuesday and the file on her life was sealed and sent to the Vatican. The Holy See will carry out its own investigation before declaring her “Venerable” and two approved miracles will be required for her beatification and canonisation. Glasgow-based Passionist Fr Paul Francis Spencer, the postulator of her Cause, said the first of two possible miracles occurred in 2000 and involved a married father with “a very serious cancer”.

Fr Spencer said: “He was to be operated on and there was very little hope of him surviving the operation, the doctors said. “A friend of his was in contact with the sisters and knew about Elizabeth Prout and he recommended that the family should pray to her. “The whole family, together with their friends, prayed through the intercession of Elizabeth Prout for his cure. “When the doctors came to operate, they did a preliminary X-ray or scan and they found no sign of the cancer being there.” The second healing happened in 1999 and involved a woman who inexplicably recovered from a brain injury, incurred in an accident, after her family prayed to Sister Elizabeth. Sister Anne Cunningham, the Manchester-based superior general of the Passionist Sisters, will this month fly to Chile to interview the people involved and their doctors. If she and her delegation decide there are grounds to pursue the healings as possible miracles they will ask Catholic leaders in Chile to set up tribunals to formally gather evidence. If Sister Elizabeth’s Cause progresses as planned she will become the first British woman saint since Paul VI canonised the Reformationera martyrs St Margaret Clitherowe, St Anne Line and St Margaret Ward –and possibly the first British Continued on Page 2

August 1, 2008 £1 (Republic of Ireland €1.50)

Pontiff relaxes on Alpine holiday

Pope Benedict meets local children in the Italian town of Bressanone where he is on holiday



POPEBENEDICTXVI began his summer holiday on Monday, flying to northern Italy for a two-week stay in the Italian Alpine town of Bressanone. The Holy Father appeared relaxed and happy as he arrived, returning greetings from local residents in both Italian and German; both languages are in regular use in the region. The Pontiff has stayed in Bressanone on several previous occasions, beginning in 1970 when he visited the town with his brother Georg and his late sister Maria. Mgr Georg Ratzinger is accompanying the Pope on his holiday. The two brothers, both music lovers, are expected to make use of a piano in the diocesan seminary where they are lodging. Otherwise Pope Benedict is expected to enjoy a quiet holiday, combining daytime walking excursions with reading and prayer. Fr Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that Pope Benedict might devote his free time to writing projects. The Pontiff is reportedly working on a second volume of his work on Christ, following on fromJesus of Nazareth . He may also be finishing work on a new encyclical devoted to Catholic social teaching. Before beginning his holiday Pope Benedict XVI offered special prayers for the elderly, prisoners and the poor who do not have an opportunity for a summer period of rest and relaxation. Reciting the Angelus with visitors gathered in the courtyard of his summer villa, the Pope told tourists that he hoped they would enjoy “peaceful days of beneficial physical and spiritual relaxation”. “Let us not forget, however, those who are not able to benefit from a period of rest and vacation; I am thinking of the sick in hospitals and convalescent homes, prisoners, the aged, those who are alone and others who pass the summer in the heat of the city,” he said. The papal Angelus took place the day before he flew by plane to Bolzano in north-eastern Italy and traveled by car to the seminary in nearby Bressanone.

Pope Benedict discusses plight of Christians with Iraqi leader


IRAQI PRIME MINISTER Nouri al-Maliki has visited Pope Benedict XVI to discuss peacemaking efforts and the state of the embattled Iraqi Christian minority. After a 20 minute interview with the Pope and a meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, Mr al-Maliki played down the persecution Christians are experiencing. He said: “Bad people exist

in all religions, whether Christian or Muslim. This sound, realistic, objective understanding by His Holiness is the best answer to those who claim that Christians are persecuted in Iraq by Muslims.” Many Iraqi Christians say that discrimination and persecution are commonplace. Most of the 300,000 Iraqi Christians who fled the violence have not yet returned. It has also been reported that Iraqi Christians have had

to set up their own selfdefence militias as the only way of insuring their safety. A Vatican statement following the meeting appealed for an end to the violence “which continues to strike different parts of the country almost every day without sparing the Christian communities who strongly feel the need to have greater security”. It also expressed the hope that “Iraq may definitely find the path of peace and devel

opment through dialogue and the collaboration of all ethnic and religious groups, including minorities”. Mr al-Maliki extended an invitation for the Pope to visit Iraq. He said that Pope Benedict “welcomed the invitation. And we hope that he will be making the visit as soon as he can.” The Vatican, as yet, has made no official response to this invitation.

Editorial Comment: Page 11

Alzheimer’s charity criticises cardinal

Hollywood director builds replica Vatican


ALZHEIMER’Sand Parkinson’s campaigners have criticised a Vatican cardinal after he implied that parts of the Anglican Church were suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and “ecclesial Parkinson’s”. Cardinal Ivan Dias, the head of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, was speaking last week at a plenary session of

the Anglican Lambeth Conference when he made the remarks. The cardinal was commenting on how some Anglicans had forgotten their spiritual roots and were apparently out of control. But in a joint statement the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases societies said his comments were “demoralising”. They said: “People with dementia and Parkinson’s face the challenge of coping with a physical condition, which slowly robs them of their lives. These comments serve to reinforce negative stereotypes surrounding these devastating conditions.”


ASCALEreplica of the Vatican is being built in Hollywood for the upcoming prequel to The Da Vinci Code. Film director Ron Howard ordered the set to be created after the Vicariate of Rome banned filming in the Vatican. The movie, based on Dan Brown’s novel

Angels and Demons, features a plot by a secret society called the Illuminati to murder the pope and put a bomb in St Peter’s Basilica. Much of the action takes place in the Vatican and inside churches in Rome, including Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria della Vittoria. It stars Tom Hanks and Ewan McGregor and is released in May.