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Editorial N° 356

Alessandro de Franciscis

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


Dear AMIL Members and dear Readers,

This fast-paced 2022 is now over and here in your hands there is a new Bulletin! Of the year that is closing, I will only say that, compared to 2021, we have doubled the number of professionals who have dropped by the Bureau's Secretariat to report their attendance. And this is thanks to each of you. Thank you!

Let's come to this Bulletin 356. On 8th July, at the Grotto, Bishop Mons Jacques Benoit-Gonnin presided over a Eucharistic celebration of thanksgiving for the gift of 4 miraculous healings to his Diocese of Beauvais, before going in procession to the church of St. Bernadette to bless and unveil a commemorative plaque. Sister Bernadette Moriau was present. The homily was delivered by Father Martin Pinet, a priest of the Diocese and theologian. Listening to him, I experienced the emotion of a catechesis on the meaning of the miracle at Lourdes. With the author's permission I share with you his homily.

You will then find what I consider an unparalleled testimony: the account of Father Hugues-François Rovarino, op, the Directeur Général of the Pèlerinage du Rosaire. A Dominican religious, in love with Mary, and afflicted by Covid-19 who in his own words, describes his dramatic and very human story from coma to slow and finally, a complete recovery as in a diary. In October 2021, Father Rovarino, still recovering, told this story of his to the doctors and nurses of the Rosary Pilgrimage gathered in our conference room on the floor below the Bureau. I was present and - trained by long years of professional practice - was fascinated by this unusual anamnestic account. I thank the author who authorized its publication and wish him a fruitful time during his years of service as Director General of the Rosaire.

I am grateful to three AMIL Members for their collaboration to this issue: nurse Nicolas Bellot, pharmacist Tommaso Lupieri Sinibaldi, and medical colleague Franco Balzaretti.

Nicolas Bellot shares with us the story of his first encounter with Lourdes when he was a soldier in the Foreign Legion and how, starting with “Lourdes,” he has since lived a full life and finally became a nurse.

Tommaso Lupieri Sinibaldi wanted to live his camino to Santiago de Compostela starting from the Bureau des Constatations Médicales, headquarters of the AMIL, on 4th August of this year and, on his Compostela, the first stamp is that of the Sanctuary of Lourdes.

My colleague Dr Balzaretti is a member of CMIL and has therefore known our Colleague Dr Graziano Pretto for many years. Here he comments on the news of his death also on behalf of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors. Dr Pretto's ashes have been resting in the family tomb in Roveredo di Guà in the Veneto region of Italy since 25th September.

The traditional Carnet follows.

Inside the front cover, you will find the call to our AMIL General Assembly to be held in Lourdes as every year to coincide with February 2023's celebrations. I look forward to seeing many of you there. At the Assembly I wish to present to you not only the strictly administrative part but also the positive results of this year 2022 and some ideas that have matured in the meetings with many of you in Lourdes and since the CMIL annual meeting last October.

Here I would just like to list some questions that I think are now timely:

1. How best to explain to professionals the substantial importance of membership in a prestigious International Medical Association, the AMIL, now almost 100 years old (1925)?

2. How to increase the number of subscribers to our Bulletin, which is now well established?

3. Your comments on the idea of organizing - in collaboration with AMIL and CMIL - a second Congress on the very topical theme of “What does it mean to be ‘cured’ today?” during the second half of 2023.

I would love to talk about it in the Assembly. And listen to your opinions. For that reason I will also try to activate a Zoom link for those of you who will not be able to come to Lourdes.

I will end by talking about something very personal that has concerned and continues to concern me. As some of you know in May 2010, in Lourdes, the late Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta - the unforgettable Frà Matthew Festing - proposed that I become a member of the Order and eventually prepare to become a professed member. The Order is indeed one of the oldest religious Orders in the Church (1113). After long and thorough discernment, I petitioned to be received into the Order and after a few years I professed my simple vows three times in the conventual church of the French Association of Members of the Order in Paris, Sainte Élisabeth de Hongrie, and my solemn profession of perpetual vows in Rome, on the Aventine Hill, on 2nd December 2017, becoming, in religion, Frà Alessandro.

It seemed to me - and it still seems to me - that the Immaculate Conception of Lourdes had given me, a sinner and despite my not so young age, the opportunity to consecrate what was left of my celibate life to follow Jesus chaste, obedient and poor by remaining a doctor in Lourdes through the Order's charism “Tuitio Fidei et obsequium Pauperum” (Defense of our Faith and service to the Poor, particularly the sick). On 3rd September of this year, during an audience with the Government and some members of the Order, the Holy Father Pope Francis promulgated the Order's new Constitution and appointed a new and provisional Government with the mission of accompanying the Order to the upcoming General Chapter at the end of January. Well, that morning, I learned that I had been appointed by the Pope as Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta. This was an honour that I certainly did not deserve but also a very great responsibility. The Grand Hospitaller combines the offices of Minister of Health, Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and International Cooperation. He coordinates and supervises the works of the Priories and Associations around the world and other structures of the Order involved in charitable and welfare works, monitoring the application of Christian principles. The first phone call was to my Superior here in Lourdes, Monsignor Jean-Marc Micas. I thank Monsignor Micas for encouraging me to obey the Pope for the good of the Church. But we did not hide from each other that this onerous assignment would take me away for several days from the “daily life” of the Bureau des Constatations and of Lourdes. With the help of Our Lady and my extraordinary team - Christine, Maryline and Matthew - and with the invaluable collaboration with Dr Monique Bouges Gladin and for over a month of Dr François Launey, we have already accomplished more than half of the task. I ask all of you for the support of prayer and that I will be able to return at the end of January 2023 to Lourdes to live again together with you “the daily life of Lourdes” until the time of my retirement.

In the joy of the encounter with Mary who leads us to her Son Jesus Christ, I greet you all.

Sandro de Franciscis


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