TO MY COLLEAGUES
At the end of January, I was elected Grand Hospitaller of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John, of Rhodes and of Malta, known to all of you as the Order of Malta, for a mandate of 6 years. This is certainly a great honour, but also a very demanding commitment, both for the required presence in Rome and for numerous journeys around the world. For these reasons, in agreement with Monsignor Jean-Marc Micas, Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, I believe the time has come to begin the search for my potential successor at the head of the Bureau des Constatations Médicales. I therefore set myself the objective of launching this search in order to arrive at some serious proposals from which the Bishop will make his final choice.
I had had the honour of being well acquainted with my predecessors, Dr Théodore Mangiapan (1972-1990), Dr Roger Pilon (1990-1997) and Dr Patrick Theillier (1998-2009), when I received in 2008 from Monsignor Jacques Perrier, then Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, quite unexpectedly, the proposal to serve in Lourdes. He announced my appointment on 10th February 2009, when I had just turned 53, and now starting my 15th year of responsibility, I believe I can say that I have a precise knowledge of the potential and challenges experienced by the Bureau over the last half a century.
The permanent doctor of the Bureau des Constatations Médicales exercises several responsibilities:
The main one and the oldest (1883) is that of expertise over the alleged unexplained cures that are declared to us. Here he or she needs the capacity for diagnostic orientation, criterion in the construction of the Case File, the ability to study the scientific literature and the ability to listen to the opinions of his or her colleagues, both the experts and the participants in the meetings called the Bureau des Constatations that he or she chairs;
The second major responsibility is that of being ex officio the president of the Medical Association of Our Lady of Lourdes (1925) which had turned international in 1928, AMIL . This means the direction and editing of our quarterly Bulletin, the registration of new members and the keeping of the roll of members, the availability to give lectures, testimonies and interviews on “Medical Lourdes”;
He or she holds ex officio the responsibility of Secretary of the Medical Committee of Lourdes, created by Monsignor Theas in 1947, and which became International, CMIL, in 1954. The Committee, which is composed of some thirty distinguished members, academics and specialists from various branches of medicine and various nationalities, studies the dossiers of presumed healings followed by the Bureau in order to assess, in accordance with the strict criteria laid down by the Church, whether a person has indeed been healed in an unexplained manner according to current medical-scientific knowledge;
The permanent doctor also has the responsibility of permanent interlocutor in matters of hygiene and medicine for the Rector of the Sanctuary and the management of the Sanctuary and, for the major pastoral guidelines, for the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes.
I therefore venture to outline an ideal identikit of my successor:
The Bureau’s permanent doctor should be a professional who comes from clinical medicine and a practising Catholic to understand the ecclesial context in which he or she renders his or her service. He or she must be able to document a robust life experience as well as university research ;
The permanent doctor must reside in Lourdes ;
The permanent doctor must speak French. The most widely spoken foreign languages in Lourdes are Italian and English. Knowledge of them would be an indispensable advantage.
The permanent doctor should come from the world of pilgrimages to Lourdes and from the experience of several years of voluntary hospitaller work.
Monsignor Micas has expressly recommended that I help him in the search by proceeding to find the best candidates and who live an authentic spirit of Church.
Therefore, anyone interested in corresponding with me or meeting me to put themselves forward for the service of Permanent Doctor at the Bureau des Constatations Médicales should write to me with their motivations and send me their Curriculum Vitae, being able to count on my absolute confidentiality.
Dear Colleagues, Dear AMIL Members, Dear Readers
In your hands is the Spring Bulletin. You will have read in the opening about the beginning of the search for my successor. I commend myself to the prayers of the whole great family of the AMIL so that the Holy Spirit will indeed guide this procedure, which I do not believe will be quick, until we find the person who will be able to “take the baton” of a history, that of the Bureau des Constatations Médicales, which began way back in 1883 and which constitutes one of the unique features of this beloved Sanctuary of ours.
In this Bulletin 357, I decided to reproduce the beautiful text of the message addressed by Pope Francis to the whole Church for the World Day of the Sick of 11 February 2023. In it I was moved when I read: “Even on 11 February 2023, let us look at the Shrine of Lourdes as a prophecy, a lesson entrusted to the Church at the heart of modernity. It is not only what is effective that counts, and it is not only who produces that counts. Sick people are at the centre of God’s people, advancing together with them as a prophecy of a humanity in which everyone is precious and no one is to be discarded.”
You will then read the magnificent article by Charles-Henry Dubail, a great friend of AMIL. Mr Dubail with OnTau, his publishing house, has made known in France and Europe the beautiful story of the Venerable Dr Takashi Nagai, a Japanese radiology specialist, victim of the radiation of the atomic explosion at Nagasaki, a convert to Catholicism, who died in 1951 of leukaemia and whose cause for beatification is underway. (Haruhi Katayama, Champ de guerre chant de paix à Nagasaki : Vie du docteur Takashi Nagai - © OnTau, Paris 2022 ). The story of this extraordinary colleague reminds us of the horror of war and the atomic weapon. And to my surprise, once again, the presence of the Immaculate Conception and Lourdes.
The small community of the “Immaculatine” Sisters has been living in Lourdes for almost 20 years now, serving in the Sanctuary from welcoming pilgrims to serving the liturgy. Sister Martha, Superior of the Community, is in charge of the liturgical tailoring workshop known as “l’Ouvroir”. On the bicentenary of his birth, the Sisters remember their Founder, Father Francesco Gattola. He too was a lover of Our Lady.
In the Bulletin of the end of 2021 (Bull Assoc Med Int Lourdes, Autumn 2021 ; 94 (353) : 90-95), Prof Dobrzynski, of the University of Warsaw, and Dr Davide Rossi, of the University of Padua had published an interesting article on the specific characteristics of the water from the Massabielle spring - taken with the authorisation of Monsignor Nicolas Brouwet - in the context of the hydro-geographical basin of Lourdes. Here we publish a new contribution on new aspects detected thanks to surface tensiometry.
You will then read about the history of ASLAV (a very good video https://www.aslav.org), a health charity association founded in Bordeaux and chaired by our colleague Dr Michel Salefran and his wife Bénedicte. The aim of the Association is to help the poor people of Congo, in particular the poorest of the poor that we know by the name of ‘pygmies’. Dr Salefran, a very loyal doctor of the Rosary Pilgrimage, has been telling me for several years about his ASLAV, which I, in turn, wanted to share with you readers.
Since 2011, the Superior General of the Augustinian Assumptionist Fathers has been Father Benoît Grière, a doctor of medicine and a physician before starting his novitiate. In August 2022, during the French National Pilgrimage, it was he who animated the prayer meeting of the pilgrimage’s doctors and health professionals. He chose the reading and meditated on it freely. I took the liberty of taking a few notes and of sharing with you the teaching of Jesus that ‘being saved is worth more than being healed’.
We welcome the beginning of the ministry of the Rector of the Sanctuary of Lourdes, Father Michel Daubanes, at the beginning of his first season. He comes from the Diocese of Evreux and, in these first few months, we have greatly appreciated the sober but very attentive style of the new Rector, who has shown great consideration for the welcome and presence of the sick, also because of his personal experience as a volunteer stretcher-bearer. The whole of the Lourdes International Medical Association extends a warm welcome to Father Daubanes and the promise of an effective collaboration.
To each and every one of you, my warmest greetings!
Sandro de Franciscis