Religious mystic kept daughter’s body for 4 months

The body of a British woman was kept secretly for four months by her mother, who hoped that because their home was near to the Catholic sanctuary of Lourdes a miracle would lead to her resurrection.

Marian Kearney, 46, died from cancer last September, while staying at her mother’s home near Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

French police were alerted after school teachers in the village became concerned that Miss Kearney’s 11-year-old daughter had become withdrawn and would not speak about Christmas.

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Police discovered the dead woman lying in her bed at the remote house. Officers, who described her mother, Irene, as a religious mystic, have launched an investigation.

Gérard Aldigé, the local state prosecutor, said that no charges would be brought against the grandmother, adding: “She was a mystic who was convinced a miracle could happen at Lourdes.” He said that Mrs Kearney had not committed an offence under French law. “She did not voluntarily take her daughter’s life.”

Miss Kearney and her daughter left England five years ago to travel to the remote shrine in the hope that the reputed holy powers of the spring water would cure her cancer. She had refused all conventional medicine and the French Catholic sanctuary was thought to be a last resort in her battle with the disease.

Police believe Miss Kearney, who had separated from her husband, died in September.

While Mrs Kearney kept the death secret from villagers and the authorities, it was not known whether Miss Kearney’s own daughter was told that her mother had lost her fight with cancer.

Teachers at the young girl’s school became concerned increasingly about the wellbeing of the English pupil. They were worried that they had not seen her mother, who was known to be ill. It is believed that, in the run up to the festive season the schoolgirl became increasingly withdrawn, would not join in with the celebrations or talk about Christmas. She also refused to talk about her mother.

Last week, police called at the home and discovered Miss Kearney’s body. It is understood that she was found lying in her bed. A spokesman from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We can confirm that the body of a British national was discovered on the 18th of January in France.

“French police are investigating. It is believed she had died several months before. We are in contact with the family and are providing appropriate assistance.”

The young girl’s father, who was separated from Miss Kearney, is understood to have flown out to France to be reunited with her.

Each year, about 6 million pilgrims visit Lourdes in the hope of a miracle cure. Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared to a young miller’s daughter inside a cave below the town in 1858.

The apparitions of Lourdes were officially recognised by the Church in January 1862. Shortly afterwards a railway was built to bring Christians to the town.

By 1874 sick pilgrims were provided with special accommodation and the Hospitalite’ Notre-Dame de Lourdes was built. For the 50th Anniversary of the Apparitions in 1908, more than a million pilgrims visited the sanctuary.

In 2008, Lourdes will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the apparitions.

Original Title: Woman kept daughter’s body for 4 months


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Steve Bird and Adam Sage, The Times, Jan. 26, 2007,

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday January 26, 2007.
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