'Miracle' woman says Pope spoke to her

By Kelly Velasquez in Rome

Costa Rican Floribeth Mora Diaz's inoperable brain aneurysm purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul II. Photo / AP
Costa Rican Floribeth Mora Diaz's inoperable brain aneurysm purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul II. Photo / AP

The Costa Rican woman whose healing is the reason late pope John Paul II will be declared a saint tomorrow says she would gladly travel the world with a message of hope.

The Vatican has declared 50-year-old Floribeth Mora Diaz's apparently unexplained recovery from a brain aneurysm a miracle attributed to the Polish pontiff - one of two required for the status of saint of the Catholic Church.

"I would travel, go anywhere, no matter how tired I am, to bring this message of hope and faith to the entire world," Mora Diaz said after arriving in Italy for the ceremony in St Peter's Square.

The event - the first canonisation of two popes at the same time - will honour two influential 20th-century religious leaders whose pontificates spanned the Cuban missile crisis and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But Mora Diaz's image of John Paul II is not of the globe-trotting leader who helped bring down communism but of a personal saviour who helped in a time of need.

She said the Polish pope spoke to her and healed her when she prayed to his picture on the front of a magazine from her hospital bed in 2011.

In Rome, Mora Diaz has received a hero's welcome.

"I can't wait to meet the pope and I'm proud that Francis is one of us," she said, referring to the Argentine pope - the first from Latin America.

She said she had a huge number of letters from across Latin America that she had been asked to give Francis.

She has also been assailed with interview requests since arriving in Italy and said she feels she is on a "mission" from God to bear witness to the miracle.

"I feel really well. I could jump right now!" she said.

The process of "verifying" a miracle is complex and can take many years but has been accelerated in the case of John Paul II, who was a hugely popular but also controversial figure who alienated reformists.

Mora Diaz said she had been subjected to multiple medical exams to check that there could be no scientific explanation for her healing and was hospitalised briefly at the Vatican-run Policlinico Gemelli in Rome.

"The process was very long and difficult," she said.

"I was examined by many doctors and neurologists who confirmed that my brain had no damage and that my cerebral arteries were free of the clot and that no consequences could be found in my body," Mora Diaz said.

The "miracle" woman held an emotional meeting yesterday with some of the thousands of Polish pilgrims who have begun arriving for the canonisation of John Paul II and John XXIII.

Father Piotr Studnicki, who attended the special Mass, said it was "a moment of great emotion for the community".

"It's very important for us to meet her because there is something of John Paul II in her," he said.

The small church in Rome's historic centre was yesterday overflowing with pilgrims hoping for a glimpse of Mora Diaz, who sat quietly in prayer, dressed entirely in black, with a lace veil covering her head.

She asked that people "look at the miracle, not the woman".

"I am here because God decided to write a story with my life."

- AFP

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