French saint’s ‘miraculous’ 19th-century heart relic and no trace of disease, scientists say

Heart of P. Jaricot at the opening of the silver heartbeat;  right, cellulosic element (cardboard) and cardinal tassels

Heart of P. Jaricot at the opening of the silver heartbeat; right, cellulosic element (cardboard) and cardinal tassels.International Journal of Molecular Sciences/MDPI

  • Scientists have found no trace of disease in the preserved heart of a French woman beatified by a pope.

  • Pauline Jaricot, whose health was failing, was reportedly “healed” after a visit with the Pope in 1837.

  • Some members of the Catholic Church see the recent finds as a sign of a miracle.

The preserved heart of a 19th-century French female saint intrigued scientists after they discovered the relic showed no signs of the heart disease that allegedly afflicted it. Some church members see this as a sign of a miracle.

The Catholic Church has asked a team of scientists and the Quai Branly museum in Paris to examine the heart of Pauline Jaricot – a 19th-century missionary from Lyon, France who died in 1862 – to better understand the conditions of her death as the process of making her a saint is underway.

A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences last week notes that “because religion and miracles have always been shrouded in mystery, many have examined and still question the authenticity of relics presented as holy.”

Despite living with poor heart health for most of her life, Catholics have said a visit to Pope Gregory XVI in 1837 miraculously “cured” her of heart disease.

The researchers aimed to address the mystery of Jaricot’s heart through gross and spectrometric testing, which ultimately found “no evidence for a cardiac origin for the death,” nor were there any indications that the heart was ever embalmed. , according to the study .

“No evidence that was inconsistent with the natural and spontaneous preservation not mediated by man, which can be considered a miracle by the Roman Catholic Church, could be recovered,” the scientists said.

Pope Francis beatified Jaricot — the first step in making someone a saint — last year after a 2012 incident in which the Catholic Church said it miraculously intervened when a child nearly suffocated to death.

The faithful have interpreted the recent finds as a powerful sign on its path to potential sainthood.

Robert Poinard, chancellor of the diocese of Lyon, told the French newspaper Le Figaro on Wednesday: “It is an important discovery for the Catholic faith because the cult of saints is closely linked to the exceptional conservation of some relics. For the faithful, it is a sign of holiness”.

A popular figure in the Catholic faith, Jaricot gave up her affluent lifestyle as a teenager and “burned romance books and passionate songs, ditched her jewelry, got rid of her finest clothes” and eventually became a devoted missionary for the church.

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