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The miracle of Calanda

I thank Karl Consiglio (April 20) for handing me the opportunity to present more details concerning the miracle of Calanda.

... he certainly had the greatest faith in the Madonna del Pilar, whom he loved dearly and prayed to constantly
- Alfred E. Zammit, Żebbuġ

The famous Zaragoza hospital surgeon, Juan de Estanga, amputated Miguel Juan Pellicer’s gangrenous leg. At the inquest, he and his assistants testified about the amputation.

Besides, churchgoers testified that Pellicer had actually shown them the stump with the scarred wound, naturally to evoke their charity. The testimony of those interrogated leaves no doubt that for 29 months Pellicer had only one leg. The testimony of those who saw him after March 29, 1640, leaves no doubt that he had two legs.

The “other dignitaries” who accompanied Pellicer to the church on March 30 included two doctors.

The Zaragoza proceedings showed in detail that the restored leg was initially cold, hard and blue-black in colour and, moreover, it was at first a few centimetres shorter than the other leg owing to bone tissue lost by the fracture. In about three months, the leg gained in colour, strength and length.

Evidence of this was given in the course of the inquest. The growth fits perfectly with what normally happens nowadays after leg re-attachment.

Pellicer assuredly did not believe in tooth fairies but he certainly had the greatest faith in the Madonna del Pilar, whom he loved intensely and prayed to constantly.

Logically, he attributed the miraculous restoration of his amputated leg to her intercession.

The royal notary, Miguel Andréu, certified the facts of the Pellicer case. His deed was drawn according to law and it is unassailable. The notary was not a churchman and his business was the state’s business. That the event was verified in that period in Aragon, home of the Spanish Inquisition, is the best guarantee of its truth.

The Inquisition repressed heresy, as well as superstition and false miracles. It would intervene implacably at the slightest suspicion of visionaries or proclaimers of bogus prodigies.

The historian cannot possibly hope for a more absolute guarantee of authenticity than the fact that the Inquisition allowed the Pellicer case to go on and the miracle to be proclaimed on April 27, 1641.

Vittorio Messori worked assiduously on the case for some years and his book Il Miracolo combines excellent investigative journalism with the academic precision of a historian.

Asked whether he had any doubts concerning the miracle, Messori was adamant he had none: “Every historian would jump for joy if the events under his scrutiny were to be attested in this way, with such richness and documentary security.”

Some non-believers understandably cannot accept the miracle, simply because their mindset prevents them, as the correspondent confirmed when he wrote that he did not “of course” believe the story.

On the other hand, some other sceptics will accept the miracle because the evidence is compelling.

Such was the case with Luis Bunuel, the Spanish film-maker who was decidedly anti-Catholic. Bunuel famously declared: “Compared to Calanda, Lourdes is a mediocre place.”.

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