Sunday, July 3, 2011

Woman claims miracle by Pope Pius XII; backed by connected nun amid doubts

By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, July 3, 5:41

CASTELLAMMARE DI STABIA, Italy — Maria Esposito was ready to give up. Wasted away at 42 kilos (92 pounds), she couldn’t bear another dose of chemotherapy to fight the Stage IV Burkitt’s lymphoma that had invaded her body while she was pregnant with her second child.

But as she and her family had done since she was diagnosed with the rare and aggressive form of cancer in July 2005, Esposito prayed to the man who had appeared to her husband in a dream as the only person who could save her: Pope Pius XII.

Esposito survived, cured after a single, six-week cycle of chemotherapy — a recovery that, she says, stunned her doctors and convinced her that the World War II-era pope had intervened with God to save her.

Esposito’s case, which the 42-year-old teacher recounted to The Associated Press in her first media interview, has been proposed to the Vatican as the possible miracle needed to beatify Pius, one of the most controversial sainthood causes under way, given that many Jews say he failed to speak out enough to stop the Holocaust.

Pius’ main biographer, American Sister Margherita Marchione, has championed Esposito’s miracle case and personally presented it to the Vatican’s No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Pope Benedict XVI moved Pius one step closer to possible sainthood in December 2009 when he confirmed that Pius lived a life of “heroic” Christian virtue. All that is needed now is for the Vatican to determine a “miracle” occurred.

“I’m certain that inside of me there was the hand of God operating, thanks to the intercession of Pope Pius XII,” Esposito said during a recent interview in her cheery dining room in the seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia on the Amalfi coast. “I’m convinced of it.”

Doctors and church officials aren’t so sure.

Esposito’s local bishop, Monsignor Felice Cece, summoned Esposito earlier this year to testify about her recovery to determine if indeed it was medically inexplicable, one of the key thresholds required by the Vatican to determine if a miracle occurred.

After consulting two outside doctors, Cece determined that Esposito could have been cured by even a single cycle of chemo and essentially closed the case.

But Esposito’s supporters, led by Marchione, have gone over the bishop’s head and are sending her full medical file directly to the Vatican’s saint-making office for review.

“I was saved. I thank the Lord,” said Esposito. “If he did something for me, then I now want to do something for him.”

The Rev. Peter Gumpel, the Jesuit historian who has spearheaded Pius’ saint-making cause for some two decades, said the case was under consideration but was noncommittal.

“We are at the very first preliminary stages of pre-investigation, and we are not even sure whether it will go ahead,” he said, stressing that regardless the process is still years away from fruition...

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