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Incorruptibles

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Excerpt from Exploring the Miraculous (OSV 2015) by Michael O'Neill

Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, there have been reports of supposed miraclous preservations of the corpses of the holy deceased. Many of these bodies were discovered by accident and others have been unearthed during the Catholic rite of Recognition in the canonization process.

Some of the bodies have been preserved through extraordinary means of embalming and perfect environmental conditions. Other bodies have been waxed over to preserve the features of a formerly incorrupt corpse. The majority of corpses in question have survived many years, in some cases several centuries, in a perfect state only to inexplicably later decay at a normal rate. Other formerly perfect corpses have browned and dried but still exist in an atypical state.

Despite all the doubts which arise concerning the veracity of incorruptibility claims, the phenomenon still does not have a satisfactory scientific explanation. Even if some portion of the preservations are attributable to specialized mummification techniques, other corpses which have received no special burial and have endured translation between several different locations have survived for many years in an unusual and surprising state of perfection. Other corpses have been exposed to environments which would have facilitated their decomposition have inexplicably survived the test of time.

The number of incorruptible saints is estimated to be approximately 1% of all canonized persons. There have been surprisingly few reports of incorruptible copses of non-Catholic persons.

The Catholic Church has been cautious in making definitive statements about incorruptible discoveries but has used incorruptibilty as one of the three requisite miracles for canonization.

 
   
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