ROME – It's one of the Roman Catholic Church's closely guarded secrets: the identity of the French nun whose testimony of an inexplicable cure from Parkinson's disease is likely to be accepted as the miracle the Vatican needs to beatify Pope John Paul II.
The nun is coming to Rome for ceremonies Monday marking the second anniversary of the pontiff's death and the closure of a church investigation into his life — a probe that was ordered after chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Now!" erupted during John Paul's 2005 funeral.
While a few details about the nun's whereabouts are expected to be released during that visit, it remains to be seen whether she will ever come forward publicly, leaving the faithful with only an anonymous written description of her cure from a disease John Paul himself lived with for years.
The Vatican's saint-making process requires that John Paul's life and writings be studied for its virtues — an investigation that will end with ceremonies Monday. In addition, the Vatican requires that a miracle attributed to his intercession be confirmed before he can be beatified, the last formal step before possible sainthood.
Pope Benedict XVI announced in May 2005 that he was waiving the traditional five-year waiting period and allowing the beatification process to begin. While many people had hoped John Paul would have been declared a saint by now, there is still no word on when any beatification or canonization might occur.
Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Polish prelate spearheading John Paul's beatification cause, announced last year that the case of the French nun was the most compelling he had found and would be forwarded onto the Vatican for confirmation.
But the woman's identity has remained a mystery.
At a news conference Tuesday, Oder joked that there would be "thousands of nuns" in the St. John Lateran basilica attending the ceremony — including the sister in question.
"I leave it to your investigations and diligence to figure out which one is the nun," he quipped.
When warned that the lives of many nuns would be disrupted by journalists eager to find her, Oder said he would speak to the woman's superiors. But, he joked, "The problem is this: that knowing the nun, it might ruin her life!"
Oder said the woman's diocese and community would be announced on Sunday by her bishop.
Only one document about the woman's experience has been made public: an article she wrote for "Totus Tuus," the official magazine of John Paul's beatification case.
In it, she wrote of being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in June 2001, that she had a strong spiritual affinity for John Paul because he too suffered from the disease and that her symptoms had worsened in the weeks after the pontiff's death on April 2, 2005.
"I was wasting away, day by day," she wrote, saying she could no longer write legibly or drive long distances because her muscles would go rigid — a typical symptom of Parkinson's disease.
The nuns of her community prayed for her, and exactly two months after John Paul's death, she awoke in the middle of the night cured, she wrote.
Oder said he was "amazed" by one piece of evidence to support her story: a paper on which the nun had written "John Paul II" the night before her recovery. "It was practically illegible," he said.
The day after she was cured, she wrote about what had happened and her handwriting was the same as it was before she was diagnosed, he said.
On Monday, the French bishop in whose diocese the alleged miracle occurred will forward the documentation he has gathered to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which will then convene a panel of medical and theological experts to study it. The congregation will also study Oder's investigation into John Paul's virtues to determine whether he can be beatified.