While Saint John Paul II was very open to the mystical, and Pope Benedict XVI less so, no one is sure where Pope Francis stands when it comes to apparitions, weeping statues, and the like -- alleged miracles. His perceptions in this realm may soon become apparent, when he rules on formal Church direction for Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina. It's widely believed that a commission formed by Pope Benedict and largely composed of psychologists and theologians has decided that there is no definitive evidence of the supernormal and through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will recommend restrictions on seers who, some traveling about, assert that they still see the Virgin Mary and, until recent restrictions were placed on them, experienced apparitions so publicly. Francis already has indicated disapproval of that, but he is expected to allow Medjugorje -- so famous for producing vocations, conversions, and healings -- to remain as a shrine (a major one, at that). Pope John Paul II called it "the fulfillment of Fatima."
But for now, this is all conjecture -- how Francis will rule. Do we gain insight into his thinking -- when it comes to the supernatural -- from an alleged Eucharistic miracle that occurred in his own archdiocese of Buenos Aires when he was an auxiliary bishop?
This was in 1996, and the future Pope, it seems, asked that it be photographed and later professionally examined. We have reported this before but there are amazing new details, at least new to us.
As recounted in a new book, Peace Will Have the Last Word, "At seven p.m. on August 26, Father Alejandro Pezet was celebrating Mass in a church [called Saint Mary's] located in the commercial center of the city. As he finished distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to him to say that she had found a Host that someone had thrown away at the back of the church. When Father Alejandro went to the place she had indicated, he saw the soiled Host. Since he couldn't consume it, he placed it in a small container of water, which he put in the tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament chapel." A week later, when he opened the tabernacle, he saw, to his astonishment, that the Host had turned into a "bloody" substance.
It was then that he told Bishop Jorge Bergoglio about it.
The photos, taken on September 6, "show clearly that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloody flesh, had greatly increased in size." The whole matter was kept quiet and it remained in the tabernacle for several years. The future Pope decided on a scientific examination of it when it showed no signs of decay.
In 1999 (by which time the Pope was archbishop) the Host was sent to New York for the analysis.
Here is where it gets very interesting.
For after a DNA analysis -- it's claimed -- a forensic scientist supposedly said "the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells require a living organism to sustain them, or they will die outside of a living organism. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest."
The blood cells, added the researcher (supposedly), should have ceased life after immersion in water. He was informed of this and other circumstances of the sample only after presenting his results. How could something taken from a dead person in 1996 still be alive?
It was only after he said this -- presented his findings -- that the source of the sample, a consecrated Host, was revealed to him -- or so goes the story.
How much is fact? How much fiction?
What's more, it is further asserted, when the analysis was compared to those of the famous Eucharistic miracle in Lanciano, Italy, the conclusion was that it came from the same person (perhaps we should say Person). Or so says the book. The blood types were "AB-positive." And the blood reportedly carried characteristics of a man from the Middle East -- or so it is written.
What happened to it then: the future Pope (by this time Cardinal Bergoglio) allowed it to be known but doesn't seem to have said much. As far as we can tell, it has not been formally declared or displayed (unlike a bleeding Host in Venezuela, which is venerated publicly). In the Venezuelan case, however, the Host bled in front of witnesses (on December 8, 1991), But in this case? Heart cells? Noted a writer: "In all the interviews since his ascension to the Papal chair, no one has asked Pope Francis what he makes of this alleged miracle. Perhaps, they've never heard of it. I certainly knew nothing about it and I'm a practicing Catholic. I certainly would find investigation of this 1996 discovery more interesting than whether the Pope is a radical liberal." The bottom line: stay tuned. The Pope's final conclusion on the Host (and other mystical matters) -- his personal opinion -- remains a mystery.
[Resources: Peace Will Have the Last Word]