Dr. Edoardo Linoli said he hold real cardiac tissue in his hands, when he analysed the relics of the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, Italy.

The phenomenon of Lanciono dates back to the eighth century. A monk, who had doubts about the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine, was offering Mass in a church dedicated to Saint Legontian. When he pronounced the words of the consecration, the host was miraculously changed into physical flesh and the wine into physical blood.

The relics were kept in the cathedral. And they underwent a scientific investigation, conducted by professors from the University of Siena, in the decade of the 1970. Scientists concluded that both, the flesh and blood, were from human origins.

In fact, God’s institution on Earth has its own miracle commission made up by scientists. Their job is to determine –using scientific methods– whether unexplainable healings or changes over nature are truly miracles.

Saint Peter’s Cathedral, the spiritual centre of the Vatican.
Photo: Rosana Bautista Benito

Sceptics often pit miracles and science against each other, claiming people have to choose one or the other. But, according to Father Marco Salvioli, professor at the Catholic University of Milan, this is a false dichotomy. “There is no need to abandon science in order to believe in the miraculous. Scientists prove a miracle’s veracity,” claims Prof. Salvioli. 

Nature and Super nature

There are two modalities in order to check the veracity of miracles. As Prof. Salvioli explains, there is an approach referred as minimal. “Through this procedure, a commission carries out a research that aims to determine the scientific causes that would explain the supposedly miraculous event.” 

However, the minimal approach is not the only one. On the other hand, we can find the specific method. “The target of this approach is studying the event in order to determine if it took place by chance or if its causes exceed the knowledge about nature,”  Prof. Salvioli points out. 

“Miracles exceed nature’s normal capacity”

All in all, and according to Prof. Salvioli’s explanations, “A miracle is a divine operation that transcends what is normally perceived as natural law. It cannot be explained upon any natural basis. The minimal approach claims that the reasons that lead the event to take place are unknown. While the specific approach asserts that the causes of the event go beyond scientific explanations.”

Highway to Heaven

In the Catholic religion, saints are people who are in heaven with God. Though many more people may be in heaven and technically saints, those deemed official saints of the church are ones that the Catholic church knows are in Heaven. As such, people can pray to these saints, who sometimes intercede on their behalf with God.

Saints need miracles to become saints and, therefore, go to Heaven.
Photo: Rosana Bautista Benito

Heaven’s toll

Miracles are the toll system saints have to pay to go to Heaven. To become saints, indeed, they need to have performed two miracles after death. Moreover, these people’s life is thoroughly investigated. If deemed virtuous enough, they are said to be servants of God. 

Nevertheless, Prof. Salvioli specifies that “Heaven is open to everyone as a possibility, but canonized saints are there for sure.”

Miracle Commission

The miracle commission canonises saints in the Catholic Church. It’s sent out to investigate whether or not a person qualifies as a saint. Since saints are a central element of Catholicism, they need to be examined using scientific methods.

Towards this end, the Vatican appointed a Miracle Commission. “The Commission is made up of a diversity of scientists that come from specific fields depending on the genre of miracle. They are not necessarily religious, but need to be competent in their field of expertise.” Prof. Salvioli points out. 

There are also members from the ecclesiastical Magisterium in the Commission. As Prof. Salvioli explains, “they are in charge of assessing the meaning of the miracle and the authenticity of it from the ecclesiastic power.”

Faith is the glasses to see miracles

Prof. Salvioli briefly states the importance of faith to believe in miracles. “The miracles are important because it’s Gospel. They are gestures that Jesus has accomplished. But faith is not based on miracles. Faith is required so that miracles can develop, according to Jesus.”

Catholics by definition are people who have to believein at least two miracles, that of Christ’s incarnation and his resurrection, two pillars on which the faith rests. 

Miracle or coincidence: that is the question

In a nutshell, a miracle is defined as a transcendent event having God as the author, so it implies the existence of God for those who call it as a miracle. “I can say that an event is a miracle only if I assume the existence of God. Otherwise, as science does, I will only say that an event goes further what we know and cannot be explained by any natural process,” Prof. Salvioli declares. 

Going back to Lanciano, the scientific community agreed that the flesh and blood kept as a relic was real, but who proved that its existence as bread and wine beforehand was accurate too?