With a portrait of John Paul II on the wall behind her and a rosary around her neck, Floribeth Mora faced a roomful of reporters to explain how her brain aneurism was cured by praying to the late pope.
“Rise, don’t be afraid!” Mora said John Paul told her.
The cure — deemed a miracle by the Catholic Church — was the key second event required for John Paul’s eventual sainthood.
Sitting next to her husband Edwin Arce and local Catholic Church clerics, Mora, 50, could not hold back the tears as she recounted how she was cured on the night that John Paul II was beatified in 2011.
John Paul II (1978-2005) was hugely popular among Catholics through his 27-year papacy. His successor, Benedict XVI, put him on the fast track to sainthood — but that long road normally requires two “confirmed” miracles, the first of which is necessary for beatification, the first step in the process.
Six months after his death a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, was cured from Parkinson’s disease after praying for John Paul’s intercession.
Mora kissed her rosary, crossed herself, and spoke about what the Church considers the second miracle.
“The Lord had compassion on me, and through the intercession of John Paul II, he gazed upon this unworthy woman and healed me,” she said.
Mora had been suffering from an unknown illness, and following a battery of tests and consultations with colleagues abroad, on April 13, 2011 neurosurgeon Alejandro Vargas delivered the chilling diagnosis: she had a brain aneurism, a crippling, often fatal abnormal bulge in the artery of the brain.
Vargas advised against high-risk surgery.
“I was scared,” said Mora, “but that was my human side, because I’ve always had faith. I was terribly afraid of dying and leaving my children and my husband. But I’ve always been a firm believer, and I have a deep love for God.”
At home, her simple treatment included rest and sleeping pills.
Mora fervently prayed to John Paul II for his intercession to help cure here malady. But her health deteriorated.
A few weeks later, when Pope Benedict beatified John Paul in early May, Mora was too weak to go to the National Stadium, where she planned to join a crowd of faithful to watch the ceremony broadcast on a giant screen. Instead she watched it on television from her bed.
“The next morning I woke up, and heard a voice that told me: ‘Rise! Don’t be afraid!’ And I said, ‘Yes my Lord,'” Mora said. “Since that day, I got up from that bed, and I’m here and well.”
Her doctor was skeptical. Vargas, who was at the press conference, said he ran another battery of tests in November — and was astounded by the outcome.
“I was surprised: the aneurism did not exist,” said Vargas, who said her brain arteries appeared “totally normal.”
To confirm the miracle, Vatican experts extensively interviewed Vargas, then flew Mora to Rome for another battery of tests to confirm that she was fully cured.
“God exists, there are many miracles, and I’m one of them,” Mora said.
Mora was not allowed to speak about the event until Benedict’s successor as pontiff, Pope Francis, on Friday signed a decree recognizing her cure as a miracle.
The move clears the way to John Paul’s canonization, the step preceding sainthood.
“God directed his compassion towards such a tiny country and blessed us with a miracle! This is also a message that he wants Costa Rica to continue being Catholic,” said San Jose Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, also at the press conference.
The reference was to the inroads that evangelical Protestant churches have been making in central America in the past years.
Mora was born in a working-class neighborhood of San Jose, and lives today in Dulce Nombre de La Union, a hillside town 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of the capital. She will travel to the Vatican when Pope Francis formally announces the late pope’s canonization, which could happen late this year.
Back home, the neighbors are waiting for her to pray together at an altar that Mora built at the entrance of her house. The altar features a portrait of John Paul II surrounded by flowers and candles.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]