By Fr John Flader
I read with great interest your column on the Eucharistic miracle that Pope Francis approved when he was a bishop in Buenos Aires in 1996. Now a friend tells me there has been another miracle in Poland with similar scientific findings. Do you know anything about it?
The miracle took place in 2008 in the town of Sokołka, near Bialystok on the border with Belarus. Australian lawyer Ron Tesoriero, who spoke with the people involved, relates the facts in his new book Unseen, published in 2013.
On 12 October 2008 in the church of St Anthony of Padua, a young assistant priest, Fr Jacek Ingielewicz, accidentally dropped a consecrated host during Mass. He picked it up and, since it was soiled, placed it in a vessel of water and put it in the tabernacle. After Mass the parish priest, Fr Stanislaw Gniedziejko, asked the sacristan, Sr Julia, to place the host and water in a glass bowl and put it in the safe in the sacristy.
A week later, on 19 October, Fr Stanislaw asked the sacristan if the host had dissolved and when Sr Julia opened the safe she discovered that there was a red stain on the host which looked like blood. She called Fr Stanislaw, who was very moved when he saw it, and informed his superior, Archbishop Edward Ozorowski. A few days later the Archbishop went with his Chancellor to see the host and on 29 October he asked Fr Stanislaw to take the host out of the water and lay it on a linen corporal, which he then placed in the tabernacle of the chapel in the priests’ house.
The Archbishop appointed a special commission to investigate the matter, with the aim of determining whether anyone had interfered with the host. On 5 January 2009 he asked two pathomorphologists from the Medical University of Bialystok to conduct a scientific examination of the host. The two, Professor Sobaniec-Lotowska and Professor Sulkowski, hold chairs in different departments of the university and have published widely in their fields, having worked as specialists for over thirty years.
In the presence of the Chancellor, Fr Andrew Kakareka, and others Professor Sobaniec-Lotowska removed a small piece of the host, about a square centimetre in size. She reported that it was brittle, brownish in colour and with remains of the communion host attached.
After analysing the material under an electron microscope the two professors reported that it consisted entirely of cardiac tissue. Various aspects of the material made them certain that it was indeed heart muscle tissue. Professor Sobaniec-Lotowska described the sample as heart muscle, “just before death. It is in agony, a moribund condition, caused by great stress. This is proved by the presentation of a very strong phenomenon of ‘segmentation’ or damage to myocardial fibres at the site of the intercalated discs, which does not occur after death. Such changes can be observed only in living fibres and they show evidence of rapid spasms of the heart muscle in the period just before death.”
In a later interview on 13 August 2010, Professor Sobaniec-Lotowska elaborated on this finding: “The cardiac impact had been recent. The heart was alive, just before death. The sample analysed was not from a dead person. The person was alive. There was one square centimetre of heart. A fragment of muscle. If one had to remove it from a person, he would die.” Pointing to a photograph of the tissue she repeated her amazement that even though it had been in water for weeks the cardiac tissue was still visible. She said that if it had been in water even for one week it would not be visible.
The professors were also amazed that there had been no autolysis, the process whereby a cell is destroyed by its own enzymes when the organism is injured or dying. In their opinion there was no scientific explanation for this phenomenon. “What is even more difficult to comprehend”, Professor Sulkowski said, “is that the tissue, which appeared in the host, was closely bound to it, to the host that is, penetrating the base on which it appeared. Please believe me that even if someone intended to tamper with the sample, it would be impossible to bind the two pieces of matter in such an indissoluble way.”
So once again a communion host has been miraculously transformed into living heart tissue, readily identifiable under an electron microscope, and the tissue shows signs of great stress. God is obviously going to great lengths to confirm the truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.