FATIMA, Portugal – The parents of a Brazilian boy whose recovery from a severe brain injury is being cited by the Vatican as the “miracle” needed to canonize two Portuguese children broke their silence Thursday to share the story.
João Baptista and his wife, Lucila Yurie, appeared before reporters at the Catholic shrine in Fatima, Portugal on the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival. Francis will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the so-called Fatima visions of the Virgin Mary by canonizing the Portuguese children who experienced them.
The “miracle” required for the canonization concerns the case of little Lucas Baptista, whose story has to date been shrouded in secrecy.
His father said Thursday that his son, then five years old, fell 21 feet from a window at their home in Brazil in 2013 while playing with his infant sister, Eduarda.
The ambulance to the hospital took an hour, and when Lucas arrived he was in a coma and had suffered two heart attacks before undergoing emergency surgery, Baptista said. Doctors diagnosed a severe traumatic brain injury and a “loss of brain material” from the frontal lobe.
Doctors said he had little chance of survival, and if he did live, would be severely mentally disabled or even in a vegetative state, he said.
Baptista said he and his wife, as well as Brazilian Carmelite nuns, prayed to the late shepherd children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in “visions” in 1917. Two of those children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, will be made saints on Saturday. They will become the Catholic Church’s youngest-ever non-martyred saints.
Baptista, wearing a blue shirt and tie as he read out a statement at the Fatima shrine, with occasional pauses to compose himself, said doctors removed tubes from his son six days after the accident.
“He was fine when he woke up, lucid, and started talking, asking for his little sister,” Baptista said. Another six days after that, Lucas was released from hospital.
“He’s completely fine … with no after-effects. Lucas is just like he was before the accident,” his father said. “The doctors … said they couldn’t explain his recovery.”
Journalists were not allowed to ask questions.
Sister Angela Coelho, the Portuguese postulator who led the project to canonize the shepherd children, said her office was informed of the Brazil story about three months after it happened. She said officials had to wait see whether the recovery was complete before presenting the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The recovery must be medically inexplicable.
The Fatima basilica and the vast square in front of it, where some 1 million people are expected to attend the canonization Mass, were filling up with pilgrims Thursday as rain fell. Huge images of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, 36 feet long, were hung from the sides of the basilica.
The pontiff is due to arrive in Fatima on Friday afternoon.