Bull Assoc Med Int Lourdes, Printemps 2021; 94 (351): 90-941-3

Alessandro de Franciscis

Président du Bureau des Constatations Médicales
Président de l'Association Médicale Internationale de Notre-Dame de Lourdes (AMIL)

Dear Members of AMIL and Dear Readers,

Here in your hands is the Spring issue of our Bulletin, which was born in 1928 and is now entering its 94th year of publication.

Much has happened this winter but I have a moral duty to share with you first of all, the satisfaction that I have received from the many messages of congratulations and thanks for the last two issues of our publication: with the double issue published at the end of last summer, in which we tried to recount the Covid experience of our members in different parts of the world; and with the issue that you received in January in which we recalled the complexity and gravity of this pandemic but also how much the Sanctuary and pilgrimages are working to make it possible to return to Lourdes in complete safety.
I also note how satisfied so many of you have been with the new website www.amilourdes.com. A lot needs to be improved, but only a year ago – when the Covid pandemic hit the world – we still had nothing in place. Our members have started using the site to read the Bulletin in digital format and to renew their subscriptions by credit card. I look forward to further comments and suggestions for improving the website.
Our Association’s Annual General Meeting was held on 10th February. We were obviously few in number because of the health restrictions in force at that time. The financial table drawn up by our accountant unfortunately shows a drop in income in 2020 of around 80% compared to what we received in 2019. What can I say? Our finances are made up solely of our annual membership fees. And our only expenses are the production, translation, printing and mailing of the Bulletin. If we are to continue, I need all of you. By that I mean that I need subscribers paying their annual membership fees in full and I also need your generous donations. Our Association is alive and strong! I am sure we will be fine with your help! Those of you who attended our online meeting on Saturday 13th February 2021 know that we had over 700 participants from colleagues around the world and we worked for about two hours with a steady audience of over 400 people online. I would like to thank those who took the floor, those who were following online and those who wrote to us afterwards.


(1) Docteur Raoul Comte
Rapport sur les exhumations de la Bienheureuse Bernadette
Bulletin de l ‘Association Médicale
de Notre-Dame de Lourdes N° 2 – Mai 1928 (pages 33-46)

After two issues about Covid, I decided to dedicate this issue to Saint Bernadette Soubirous. I can do this thanks to the generous collaboration of my beloved predecessor, Doctor Roger Pilon, in charge from 1990 to 1996, direct successor of Doctor Théodore Mangiapan. I got to know Roger Pilon when he arrived in Lourdes, where I met him every year during my pilgrimage and during my ‘stage’ with the Hospitality of Our Lady of Lourdes. We immediately formed a close and beautiful friendship, and he gave me the honor of coming as a guest to Naples and Caserta for a series of conferences in March 1994.

In 1996, he published a most interesting little book entitled, Le corps de Bernadette Soubirous  – dans sa vie, dans sa mort, dans sa béatification (The body of Bernadette Soubirous – in her life, in her death, in her beatification), published by Éditions NDL. The interest of this work lies in the meticulous description of the state of health of the seer of Lourdes from the point of view of the doctor, and in the details of the canonical recognitions of the remains of Bernadette with the observation of the incorruptibility of her body. And, as in a true “thriller”, Doctor Pilon – a pathologist – even advances an intriguing hypothesis on the process of mummification of this body which is so revered. After the third revised and updated edition in 2014, this little book has been unavailable for several years. Roger Pilon accepted with great enthusiasm the idea of the full text being published in this Bulletin.

I see this publication as a tribute to Saint Bernadette and to a valiant colleague and predecessor who generously and honourably served the message of Lourdes! Editing this text is also a way of signalling our scientific and cultural interest in this type of study. As far back as 1928, the second issue of our Bulletin of the Medical Association of Our Lady of Lourdes(1) devoted many pages to the inspection of the remains of Bernadette Soubirous. It was thanks to Dr Pilon that I discovered the existence of a scientific discipline called Pathography. The latter is a branch of paleopathology which, like it, is interested in the medical study of ancient human remains, in the rare cases of subjects of which we have some biographical knowledge or a portrait. Indeed, during the 7th International Congress of Pathography (Martigues, September 2017), it was Roger Pilon who gave a much-appreciated lecture on the incorrupt body of Saint Bernadette entitled Le corps semi-momifié de Sainte Bernadette : miracle de Lourdes ou prémisse de son Bureau Médical ? (The partially-mummified body of Saint Bernadette: miracle of Lourdes or premise of its Medical Bureau?) This phenomenon is also of interest to the non-medico-scientific popularisation literature. I would like to point out, for example, the work of an American author, Joan Carrol Cruz, The Incorruptibles – A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati (© 1977 – Tan Books – North Carolina, United States). It is a fascinating work, however sometimes a little imprecise, of 310 pages which speak of 102 “incorrupt” bodies, including that of Saint Bernadette Soubirous!

The Relics of Saint Bernadette have always been the subject of great interest. You will then read the article “Relics and Reliquaries of Saint Bernadette” – published in St Joseph News Letter n ° 4, January 2020 – by our friend, Bernard Gladin, Vice President and person in charge of the St Joseph Service of the HNDL.

Father Régis-Marie de La Teyssonnière – praying in front of Bernadette’s mortal remains – helps us to meditate by asking us, “And you, what do you see?
The customary News section is preceded by a tribute to our dear Elisa Aloi, widow of Mr Varacalli and 61st Miraculous Cure of Lourdes, who died at the end of 2020. In the News section, you will also find my thanks to those who send donations in addition to the annual membership fee. I am profoundly grateful to each and every one of you!
And for once, allow me also to thank the members of our small Editorial Board for the great patience they have shown in supporting me.

See you soon in Lourdes!