Beliefs Culture

Meet the women behind the miracles credited to John Paul II and John XXIII

Floribeth Mora Diaz, who says she survived a brain aneurism due to Pope John Paul II’s intervention, speaks at a press conference on Thursday, April 24. RNS photo by Josephine McKenna

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Floribeth Mora Diaz fought back tears on Thursday (April 24) as she claimed that the late Pope John Paul II had saved her from an inoperable brain aneurysm three years ago.

Floribeth Mora Diaz, who claims she survived a brain aneurism due to Pope John XXIII's intervention, speaks a press conference on Thursday, April 24. RNS photo by Josephine McKenna

Floribeth Mora Diaz, who says she survived a brain aneurism due to Pope John Paul II’s intervention, speaks at a press conference on Thursday, April 24. RNS photo by Josephine McKenna

Mora will be on hand at Sunday’s historic ceremony in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Francis canonizes both John Paul and Pope John XXIII, the Italian pontiff known as “Good Pope John.”

The Costa Rican mother of four faced the world’s media to explain how her inexplicable recovery was a miracle that had led to the popular Polish pope being declared a saint. Two miracles have been attributed to John Paul’s intercession with God, paving the way for his sainthood.

In 2011, Mora was suffering from persistent headaches and was told by doctors that her days were numbered. They said her aneurism was in a “delicate” area and her only option was treatment in Mexico or Cuba, but her family could not afford it.

“The doctors told me there was no sense to continue treatment because they had done everything and there was not much more we could do,” Mora told a packed media conference.

“They said I only had one month to live and there was no hope.”

Confined to bed, she lay holding a magazine with a cover photograph of the Polish pope in her home in Tres Rios de Cartago, 12 miles from the capital of San Jose. Her husband, Edwin, urged her to pray.

“My greatest concern was not dying but concern about what would happen to my children,” she said as her voice faltered.

She claimed her prayers were answered when John Paul II appeared to her in a vision on the day he was beatified — the first step on the road to sainthood — after he was credited with his first miracle.

“When I woke up in the morning, I looked at the magazine cover which showed Pope Wojtyla with his arms outstretched.

“I felt a deep sense of healing. I heard his voice say to me, ‘Get up and don’t be afraid,'” she said, recalling one of John Paul’s signature lines.

“I went to my husband in the kitchen and told him I was cured. I realized little by little the illness had been taken away.”

In a pre-recorded interview to be aired on Italian television on Thursday night, Mora gave more details about the rigorous medical tests conducted by the Vatican to verify the purported miracle.

Mora was flown to Policlinico Gemelli, a church-run hospital in Rome, where she was registered under a false name while doctors conducted tests for two weeks in October 2013.

“I was meant to be just a tourist from Costa Rica who had fallen ill while on holiday in Italy,” she said. “They demanded the greatest secrecy. No one was to know who I really was.”

Her own neurosurgeon was also convinced. “If I cannot explain it from a medical standpoint, something nonmedical happened,” said Dr. Alejandro Vargas Roman. “I can believe it was a miracle.”

The first miracle attributed to John Paul was the apparent healing of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who recovered from Parkinson’s disease with no medical explanation after praying to the late pontiff soon after his death in 2005.

Pope Francis has provoked fierce debate within the church by approving John XXIII’s sainthood with only one miracle — not the two that are normally required.

John was beatified in August 2000, based on what was considered a miraculous healing of an Italian nun, Sister Caterina Capitani, after a medical commission found no scientific explanation for the event.

Left to right, Sister Adele Labianca, Father Federico Lombardi and Floribeth Mora Diaz - who claims she survived a brain aneurism due to Pope John XXIII's intervention - attend a press conference on Thursday, April 24. RNS photo by Josephine McKenna

Left to right, Sister Adele Labianca, the Rev. Federico Lombardi and Floribeth Mora Diaz — who says she survived a brain aneurism due to Pope John Paul II’s intervention — attend a press conference on Thursday, April 24. RNS photo by Josephine McKenna

Sister Adele Labianca, who took care of Capitani, on Thursday revealed details of what she called the miracle that saved the nun’s life in May 1966 after she had prayed to the pope, who had died three years earlier.

Capitani had undergone an operation to remove a cancerous tumor in her stomach but her condition was deteriorating when she suddenly recovered. Labianca said doctors had no medical explanation for what took place.

“It was a miracle,” said Sister Labianca. “Not only was it a physical healing but an internal healing when you could feel the presence of God.”

Meanwhile, Ali Agca, the gunman who tried to assassinate John Paul in 1981, said that John Paul is not a saint and that attempts to “deify a human being” are sinful.

In an interview with the Italian news agency ANSA, Agca confirmed he “definitely wanted to kill” John Paul in St. Peter’s Square and said it was a “miracle” he survived.

After serving almost 20 years of a life sentence in prison in Italy, the Turkish national was pardoned in 2000 and deported to Turkey, where he was imprisoned for other crimes.



About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • It’s a shame that it’s taken over 50 years to canonize John XXIII. I wonder why they couldn’t have waited a couple of years for John Paul II and given Nohn XXIII his own moment.

  • Yes, we heard you the first time.
    We’ll all pray for you.

    There, now you really have something to complain about.

  • There has never been a miracle. Not one. We live in a natural world, not a world of the supernatural. Pity so many are deluded into believing the unbelievable.

  • How does that work? How do the two dead popes perform miracles? I thought that only God could perform a miracle. Do the popes ask God for miracles? If so, isn’t it God that performs the miracles? Wasn’t it God who allowed these people to get deathly sick? This all smacks of self delusion and superstition.

  • John Paul did not perform the miracle. We pray to the dead, angels and saints to intercede for us to our Lord Jesus Christ to his father. Our pure and faithful belief in our God. Prayers should come from the heart, the Holy Father instructs, looking at and hearing God and asking for his guidance.

  • Nowadays most people have precious little education in theology and Christianity. Miracles are attributed to the one who intercedes, while the ultimate origin is from God, as Jesus said “my Father doeth the the works”. That there is sickness, or trouble of any sort is not an argument against God. Any study of Christianity will show you that the answer to your complaint has been dealt with the the greatest minds of the last 2000 years. You might spend a little time learning about it.

  • A real miracle would have not given Cardinal Law a job in Rome to escape prosecution in the U.S. for covering up abuse. Another miralcle would be healing the wounds of all the abuse victims. I believe John Paul was a sentimentally pious man an sincere, but that does not translate into action or sainthood.

  • The pity is – you do not! Take a walk in a garden – open your eyes, look at the beauty of nature around you… where do you think it all came from.

  • Read your Bible! Jesus said, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, move over here, and it will move”
    Miracles are God working through the intercession of the saints.
    Just as sports heroes and military heroes inspire, so do the saints inspire.

  • Why do these non believers even read this site? If they think there is no god then why do they need to fight against him so hard?

  • And THAT has always been the issue with people who believes that they know better. And they are actually ignorant of the faith. Sad.

  • Talk about intolerance, huh? That is the problem with the non-believers, they need to constantly disprove His existence. I wonder why they bother at all.

  • One needs to forgive or else you will not be forgiven, Just as St. John Paul II did, It is hard to forgive but we could only do it with Jesus help. The TRUTH will set you free. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
    You need to pray for faith, God loves us, we just need to respond to his love, and follow him, so you can go to heaven where we know that these two popes are.

  • Yes he was and is a saint. He is my saint. He was a man who knew God and walked with God all the days of his life. He traveled over 127 countries spreading the word of God. Talking and all these people to love each other and to live in peace with each other. On April 2 2005 he went to the house of His Father. Blessed is Pope Saint John Paul 2nd. AMEN

  • Great are the works of the lord in thier lives such that even after mortal death God still announces in other ways that these are my heroes of faith, my beloved in whom I am pleased. Pls pray for us that we get there someday. Amen

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