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Editorial N° 359

Dear AMIL Members and dear readers,

With Autumn here, so is the new issue of the Bulletin you have in your hands. I am happy and grateful to the Immaculate Conception for this 2023 season.

We have recorded a strong and clear upturn in pilgrimages to the Sanctuary with numbers “trending” towards those before COVID. And even at the Bureau des Constatations Médicales the passage of Medical Colleagues, other professionals and our students has seen a significant increase. In 2019 we received 4129 Professionals at the Bureau and in 2020 only 196. In 2021 we saw a slow but definite increase with 1132 doctors, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, other professionals and students who stopped by at the Bureau, which became 2592 in 2022 and 3182 today as we go to press. I also record the loyalty of AMIL members who cannot come to Lourdes in person. In fact, the number of subscriptions in the 5 languages of the Bulletin (French, Italian, English, Spanish and German) in good standing has risen from almost 9,000 last year to almost 10,000.

I was also happy to see an increase in attendance at the traditional afternoon Prayer and Fellowship meeting held every Tuesday and Saturday. This year it was presided over by Fr Giuseppe Serighelli, cp, Chaplain of the Sanctuary. In 2022, we welcomed just over 1100 healthcare professionals to the chapel of Sts Cosmas and Damien. This year, we welcomed almost 1400 healthcare professionals between May and October, for whom Fr Giuseppe led a catechesis on the text of the Gospel from the Mass of the following Sunday.

And, in similar fashion, the number of those who come by to the office wishing to report their alleged cure to a Doctor has resumed : in the last year itself, we have received 40 new declarations and we have updates of 7 declarations from previous years.

If all of this has been possible, it is due to the faithful efforts of our secretary Christine Gago, who was generously backed by her predecessor Maryline Plagnet and the professional skills of Matthew Kang. We owe the latter for the graphic design of the Bulletin, the re-edition of the files on some of the miraculous healings of Lourdes, the progressive reorganisation of the Museum of Miracles on the first floor of the building, and the management of our website, Twitter and Instagram. I thank them with all my heart!

And, in view of my difficulties during these first months of service as Grand Hospitaller of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, I wholeheartedly thank the Colleagues who have replaced me during the days I was away from Lourdes: Dr François Launey, Dr Monique Bouges, Dr Annamaria Camoletto, Dr Philippe Preyssas, Dr Teresa Magurno, Dr Mario Botta, Dr Alain Baty, Dr Yves Mesplede.

The tone of this Bulletin is rather ‘historical’.

In fact, at the beginning you will find the beautiful letter that Pope Francis sent to the Augustinian Assumptionist Fathers on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the 1st French National Pilgrimage they organised to Lourdes from 21 to 25 July 1873. This pilgrimage was given the name ‘National’ because it was intended to represent the whole of France at the feet of Our Lady of Lourdes and because the participants came to pray for their country. The pilgrimage led by the Assumptionist Fathers to Lourdes every 15 August is still called ‘National’. This means that pilgrims from all French provinces are invited to pray for their country. This pilgrimage is therefore truly ‘national’ in its composition and prayer. In 1874, the Association Notre-Dame de Salut decided to bring poor sick people to Lourdes and to appeal to charity to cover the costs of transport and hospitalisation. In 1875, the third National brought 54 sick people to Lourdes and a subscription was opened to cover expenses. The number of sick increased and gradually reached an average of 1,000 per National. Soon a problem arose: who was to take care of these sick people? In 1876, three Sisters of the Assumption took on this task. By 1879, there were 25 of them and by then, they were no longer up to the task. Thus the Hospitalité Notre-Dame de Salut was born. The Hospitaliers began to serve in Lourdes in 1881. And again this year!

AMIL wishes the Hospitalité N-D de Salut and the French National Pilgrimage longevity, grateful for the all the good they have done and are doing.

Fr Jacques Nieuviarts, who was Director of the National Pilgrimage until 2011, gave the reflection for doctors and health personnel on Saturday 12 August 2023. We publish the very beautiful text. I would like to thank Fr Nieuviarts and my colleague and friend Dr Claude Barbillon, Medical Director of the National Pilgrimage.

I kept the article that my colleague and friend Dr Carlo Grossi, who was the medical director of UNITALSI in Varese for many years, had offered me a few years ago, entitled Why in 1858? Why in France? An article that I found very interesting and very relevant in this issue.

At the beginning of the summer I received a communication from Mrs Astrid Desjobert, who asked me if I had any trace in the archives of a supposed cure in 1885 of her ancestor, Countess Hedwige de Chatillon. At my request, I was also sent a text detailing the illness and recovery of this noblewoman. Unfortunately, we have found no trace of it in the archives, but the account seemed so beautiful to me, that I publish this text with great gratitude to the family who shared it with us, as a testimony to the time of the Bureau’s foundation (1883) and of our founder, Dr Baron Georges-Fernand Dunot de Saint-Maclou.

Fellow colleague and psychiatrist Raymond Messanvi Johnson is one of the most senior members of our AMIL and has had very important experiences in the clinical and educational field for many years both in Paris and in his native country Togo. From the height of his experience he reminds us that the hypertrophy of having, atrophies being.

During these 15 years at the editorship of the Bulletin, I have shared with you indications of books and articles that I thought might be of interest to you. My friend Paul Bernadou, Doctor of Information and Communication Sciences, has recently published a beautiful volume entitled Lourdes 1858 – 2008 in French. It is the 1st volume of a trilogy that brings together his research of many years. Ad maiora Paul !

At the end you will find our traditional Carnet.

In mid-October, the annual meeting of the International Medical Committee of Lourdes (CMIL) was held in Lourdes under the chairmanship of Mgr Jean-Marc Micas, Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, and Professor Olivier Jonquet. On the sidelines of the proceedings, we evoked the foundation of the Medical Association of Our Lady of Lourdes by the decision of the Bishop of Tarbes, Mgr Shoeppfer, in September 1925. I am therefore pleased to inform you that in 2025 we will celebrate our first centenary with an International Conference-Pilgrimage to Lourdes.

While continuing to count on your prayers, I assure you of mine.

Sandro de Franciscis


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