There is a long tradition of faith healing in the Catholic Church. The inspiration for this is found in the Bible accounts of healings performed by Jesus and the Apostles. The tradition includes the official recognition of healings performed by saints throughout the history of the Church, and includes an emphasis on healing in the contemporary Charismatic Renewal movement. However, the Church is wary of sensationalism and possible abuses, and therefore it insists upon an appropriate approach to this phenomenon.
Church Tradition of Healing
Christian faith healing begins with the accounts in the New Testament of physical healings performed by Jesus and the Apostles. The tradition of healing within Catholic history stems from this biblical origin. Healings are often documented as part of the canonization process (official procedure for declaring a deceased person a "saint"). The Catholic understanding of faith healing is presented in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," which explains that the "Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord."
Certain locations, especially those associated with apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus, have generated reports of healings. The best-known of these is Lourdes, a Catholic pilgrimage site in France and the location of a reported apparition of Mary in 1858. Many healings have been reported among the pilgrims who have traveled to Lourdes. A medical bureau was set up by the Catholic Church to study and authenticate these apparent healings.
Charismatic Renewal Movement
A contemporary Catholic movement that has given rise to reports about faith healing is the Charismatic Renewal movement. This movement, which started in the U.S. in the late 1960s, focuses on gifts associated with the Holy Spirit -- including the gift of bringing about physical healing. Charismatic Renewal meetings sometimes include such healings, which normally involve one person touching another person while saying a prayer. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made a statement supporting the Charismatic Renewal movement. (
There is currently a resurgence of interest in faith healing in the Catholic context. The Charismatic Renewal movement has contributed to this. An official document of the Catholic Church that was issued in 2000, "Instruction on Prayers for Healing," presents a defense of faith healing from the Catholic perspective as well as a series of criteria intended to regulate the practice. While the document warns against "anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism," it affirms that the Church's history includes "holy miracle-workers who have performed wondrous healings."
- CatholicCulture.org: Dictionary -- FAITH HEALER
- Vatican, the Holy See: Instruction on Prayers for Healing
- InfoPlease.com: FAITH HEALING
- Catholic Online: The Finger of God for Healing
- Vatican, the Holy See: Catechism of the Catholic Church
- CatholicCulture.org: Dictionary -- LOURDES
- Catholic Courier: Healing of U.S. man key to Italian priest's canonization
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