Ever since Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette in Massabielle and declared “I am the Immaculate Conception,” the Marian shrine at Lourdes in France has become a site of pilgrimage and healing. The Church has officially recognized 70 healing miracles, what one Nobel Prize-winning scientist calls “inexplicable.”

Doctor Luc Montagnier is an agnostic French scientist, renowned for his career in studying virology. Among many important contributions, the former Pasteur Institute director is perhaps most famous for receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008 for his role in discovering HIV.

In his book, Le Nobel et le Moine, the Nobel laureate and the Monk, he addresses Lourdes in talking with Cistercian Father Michel Niassaut. When pairs’ dialogue turned to the miraculous healings, Niassaut asked Montagnier for his perspective as a nonbeliever. He responded:

“When a phenomenon is inexplicable, if it really exists, then there’s no reason to deny it.”

He said that nonbelievers should not promote their own “superior intelligentsia” in front of what they do not understand and make hasty conclusions. Montagnier goes on to say there are cures unforeseen by science, and that miraculous healings associated with Lourdes truly are inexplicable.

“Many scientists make the mistake of rejecting what they do not understand. I do not like that attitude. I often quote the phrase of the astrophysicist Carl Sagan: ‘The absence of proof is not proof of absence.’ As for the miracles of Lourdes that I studied, I think it really is something inexplicable. I can not understand those miracles, but I recognize that there are cures that are not foreseen in the current state of science.”

Last year, the 70th miraculous healing of Lourdes was officially recognized by the Church. Sister Bernardette Moriau had been disabled for nearly 40 years, unable to walk. As she returned home from a pilgrimage to Lourdes, she heard a voice telling to her to remove her leg braces. Immediately after she did, she was able to walk again.

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