AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (Reuters) - The French Catholic nun who credits the late Pope John Paul with curing her of Parkinson's disease said on Monday her sudden recovery came just as she was about to quit working because of her ailment.
Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, 49, said she woke up in June 2005, two months after the Polish-born pope had died, suddenly cured of the disease she had suffered from for four years.
John Paul's successor, Pope Benedict, approved a decree last Friday declaring her healing a miracle and attributing it to the late pontiff, clearing the way for him to be beatified on May 1.
"When I woke up, I felt I was not the same," Sister Marie told a news conference at the bishop's office in this southern French city. "There was no more heaviness in my muscles, I could move normally. For me it was a new birth, a second birth."
Her superior said the nun had told her the previous evening that she could no longer work in their order's maternity clinic because of her worsening health.
"I asked her to take a pencil and write John Paul's name," Mother Marie Thomas told journalists. "I saw the writing was very messy and illegible. I said to myself there was nothing left to do but hope."
Church-appointed doctors concluded that there was no medical explanation for the healing, although last year there were some doubts about the validity of the miracle.
A further miracle occurring after the beatification ceremony -- which confers the title "Blessed" on John Paul -- must be approved before he can be made a saint.
The beatification ceremony in St Peter's Square is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people, harkening back to the funeral of the charismatic pope in 2005. Sister Marie said she hoped she could attend the event.
"Since my healing, many requests for prayers have come in from many countries," the nun said. "To all these ill people, I'd like to say they must not give up. At the end of the tunnel, there is always a little light."
Crowds at John Paul's funeral on April 8, 2005 chanted "Santo subito!" ("Make him a saint right now!"). A month after his death, Benedict put him on the fast track by dispensing with a Church rule for a five-year wait after a candidate's death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can start.
The period between John Paul's death and beatification is believed to be the shortest in modern Church history.
Reporting by Jean-Francois Rosnoblet, writing by Tom Heneghan