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'I am here to bear witness': French nun, 79, tells how she was 'cured by miracle at Lourdes' and can now walk without morphine and her leg brace after 40 years in agony

  • Sister Bernadette Moriau, 79, visited spring in Lourdes, France, on pilgrimage
  • Prior to visit in 2008, she had been crippled with chronic sciatica for 40 years
  • Afterwards, her back problem 'disappeared' and has been declared a miracle

A nun whose recovery from decades of spinal problems was declared a miracle insists that she is 'not a star' but just a 'little sister' glad to be able to walk freely again.

Sister Bernadette Moriau, 79,  visited the holy spring of Lourdes, southwest France, in 2008, seeking a cure to her chronic sciatica or pinched spinal nerve.

Sister Bernadette's problem disappeared after her pilgrimage, an event which has now been recognised as the 70th miracle at France's fabled shrine of Lourdes. 

Blessed: Sister Bernadette Moriau, 79, visited the holy spring of Lourdes in July 2008, after which her chronic sciatica was 'cured' - an event which has been declared a divine miracle

Blessed: Sister Bernadette Moriau, 79, visited the holy spring of Lourdes in July 2008, after which her chronic sciatica was 'cured' – an event which has been declared a divine miracle

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Sister Bernadette claimed she gave up morphine and her leg brace after visiting the shrine.

'I am here to bear witness, but I am not here to make you believe me.'  

Sister Bernadette, who was first diagnosed with her condition aged 27, had undergone four operations on her spinal column between 1968 and 1975 and was declared a full invalid in 1980. 

One foot was permanently twisted, requiring her to wear a brace and use a wheelchair. She took what she said were significant doses of morphine for pain. 

'She experienced an unusual feeling of relaxation and heat in the whole of her body (and) heard a voice telling her to take off her equipment, the corset and the leg brace,' said a statement from her Catholic parish in Beauvais in the north of France.

Sister Bernadette and bishop Jacques Benoit Gonnin leave after a press conference where she revealed how she had been able to give up morphine and her leg brace after visiting Lourdes

Sister Bernadette and bishop Jacques Benoit Gonnin leave after a press conference where she revealed how she had been able to give up morphine and her leg brace after visiting Lourdes

The Massabielle cave, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared, is pictured during a flooding in 2012

The Massabielle cave, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared, is pictured during a flooding in 2012

After further examinations by doctors and three meetings of church figures in Lourdes, the medical committee in the town confirmed that Moriau's recovery could not be explained scientifically, the statement said.

'Sister Bernadette Moriau now has a perfectly normal life,' the committee's president Alessandro de Franciscis told AFP. 

'She is in very good health and herself visits the sick on a regular basis.'

Lourdes is one of the most revered sites for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics because the town is said to be where the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl in a grotto.

The water from a spring in the Grotto of Massabielle is believed to have curative powers that attract pilgrims from around the world. 

A press conference will be held Tuesday in Beauvais featuring Sister Bernadette, De Franciscis and the bishop of the local diocese, Jacques Benoit-Gonnin. 

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Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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