AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP/The Blaze) — A French nun says she felt new inner strength and vitality as her Parkinson's disease suddenly disappeared in 2005 — a recovery the Vatican attributes to the miraculous intercession of Pope John Paul II.
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who works at a Paris maternity clinic, told reporters in a rare appearance Monday that she felt "reborn" on waking June 3, 2005 after she had prayed for healing to John Paul.
"There was a new strength inside me, and my body was rediscovering its vitality and fluidity," Simon-Pierre, appearing in good health, told reporters in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence.
The 49-year-old nun — who has largely been shielded from the media — said she still sometimes talks to John Paul.
"For this news conference, I told him to stay right beside me!" said Simon-Pierre, who appeared smiling and wearing a white habit at the news conference.
Pope Benedict XVI has set May 1 as the date for his predecessor's beatification, a step toward possible sainthood.
Church authorities have studied Simon-Pierre's cure and determined it was inexplicable and due to the intercession of John Paul, who also suffered from Parkinson's. Benedict approved the miracle last week, paving the way for the beatification.
Last year, there were some questions about whether the nun's original diagnosis was correct. But in a statement Friday, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said Vatican-appointed doctors had "scrupulously" studied the case and determined that her cure had no scientific explanation.
Parkinson's, a disorder of the central nervous system, includes symptoms such as trembling, rigidity and problems of balance.
Simon-Pierre's healing came about two months after John Paul's death on April 2, 2005, at age 84. Soon before her mysterious recovery, she had asked to stop working, saying she was "ready to finish out her days in a wheelchair," her former mother superior recalled.
"When she came to ask me to replace her, I noticed that she was very worn out. I told her to wait. I told her that John Paul II hadn't had his last word on the subject," Sister Marie-Thomas recalled.
Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood just weeks after he died, waiving the typical five-year waiting period before the process could begin. But he insisted that the investigation into John Paul's life be thorough to avoid any doubts about his virtues.
The beatification will nonetheless be the fastest on record, coming a little more than six years after his death and beating out Mother Teresa's then-record beatification in 2003 by a few days.
Millions of visitors are expected to visit the Vatican on May 1 for the beatification ceremony.