AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France – Smiling broadly, the French nun whose claims could be accepted as the miracle that the Vatican needs to beatify Pope John Paul II said Friday that she was inexplicably and suddenly "cured" of Parkinson's disease — thanks to him.
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre stopped short of declaring her recovery a miracle, saying that was for the church to decide. But she said her life "totally changed" after her symptoms vanished in one night of prayer and mystery in 2005.
"For me, it is a bit like a second birth," the nun, whose identity was long kept secret, said at a news conference. After her sudden recovery, she said she told one of her fellow nuns, "'Look, my hand is no longer shaking. Jean Paul II has cured me."
The 46-year-old, speaking in a clear, poised voice, said she was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2001. Her symptoms worsened with time: Driving became practically impossible, she had difficulty walking, and her left arm hung limply at her side. She also could no longer bear to see John Paul on television, because he, too, was stricken — more seriously — with the disease.
When seeing him, "I saw myself in the years to come, to be honest, in a wheelchair," she said.
Her cure came on the night of June 2, 2005, exactly two months after the pontiff's death, she said. In her room after evening prayers, she said an inner voice urged her to take up her pen and write. She did, and was surpassed to see that her handwriting — which had grown illegible because of her illness — was clear. She said she then went to bed, and woke early the next morning feeling "completely transformed."
"I was no longer the same inside. It is difficult for me to explain to you in words ... It was too strong, too big. A mystery."
"I realized that my body was no longer the same," she added. "I was convinced that I was cured."
She said that she has not taken medicine since. Before her cure, her fellow nuns in the "Little Sisters of Catholic Maternities" had been praying to John Paul for her recovery, she added.
Described by her colleagues as a gentle, reserved woman who had hoped to keep her identity under wraps, the nun coped well with the media spotlight. She looked a little bemused as journalists huddled around her, putting their microphones in place. Only once, when describing how her symptoms worsened after the pope died on April 2, 2005, did she momentarily lose a little of her poise.
"Please excuse me, I'm a little emotional," she said.
Before John Paul can be beatified — the last formal step before possible sainthood — the Vatican requires that a miracle attributed to his intercession be confirmed.
The nun is expected to travel to Rome for ceremonies marking the second anniversary of the pontiff's death and the closure of a church investigation into his life. Pope Benedict XVI waived the customary five-year waiting period for the procedure to begin, clearly in response to popular demand that began with chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Now!" erupting during John Paul's 2005 funeral.
The nun, who comes from a family of practicing Catholics in Cambrai in northern France, said she had always been an admirer of John Paul. She was 17 when he was elected pontiff.
"He was, in a way, my pope, the pope of our generation," she said. When he died, "I felt as if I had lost a friend,"
There is still no word on when any beatification or canonization of John Paul might occur.
"All I can tell you is that I was sick and now I am cured," said the nun. "It is for the church to say and to recognize whether it is a miracle."