THE MIRACLE WORKER; He Was Born in a Mud Hut. His Mother Was Murdered by a Voodoo Doctor. Today Father Tansi Is on the Brink of Sainthood and Is Still Carrying out Miracles 30 Years after His Death in a British Abbey

Daily Mail (London), March 23, 1998 | Go to article overview

THE MIRACLE WORKER; He Was Born in a Mud Hut. His Mother Was Murdered by a Voodoo Doctor. Today Father Tansi Is on the Brink of Sainthood and Is Still Carrying out Miracles 30 Years after His Death in a British Abbey


Byline: DONU KOGBARA

THE monks at Mount St Bernard, a small Trappist monastery in Leicestershire, are quietly bursting with pride. For yesterday, the Pope beatified one of their number, the first step to sainthood.

Pope John Paul II travelled to Onitsha in south-eastern Nigeria to carry out the colourful beatification ceremony for Father Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, who died in 1964 at Mount St Bernard Abbey in Coalville.

It was the first time the head of the Roman Catholic Church has conducted such a ceremony outside the Vatican. The mass was conducted at an airfield in front of 500,000 people, many wearing clothes plastered with images of the Pope and Father Tansi.

Among the hordes were fellow monks from the abbey, who say that Father Tansi is still working miracles in Britain today. His claimed miraculous works include a toddler cured of cerebral palsy and a Birmingham man saved from impending blindness.

The story of Father Tansi is remarkable. He spent his early life fighting the voodoo priests who killed his mother, his middle years spreading the word of God in Colonial Africa and his 'retirement' in the silent order at Mount St Bernard winning renown for his saintly aura.

After his death, there were several reports of miracles. Last year, Father Anselm, a monk at Mount St Bernard, was asked to pray to Father Tansi by the devout grandmother of an 18-month-old baby with cerebral palsy.

'The baby was deformed, very retarded and clenching his fists in agony,' says Father Anselm. 'Experts had been unable to help. So I prayed to Cyprian.

The child is now totally normal.' Then there is John Stark, a retired motor industry manager in Birmingham, who had a stroke in January. A blood clot formed on his optical nerve, his sight began to deteriorate and he was expected to go blind. Prayers were offered to Tansi, whom Stark had met and within a week he began to regain his sight.

ABELIEF in God and the healing power of intercessory prayer is not the same as believing in magic,' says Mr Stark, 67, who is nervous about making too much of this extraordinary event.

The Vatican is sceptical whenever it is notified of medical dramas with religious aspects and happy endings. Nothing is confirmed until stringent checks have been made. But while these latest events are investigated, the Church has already satisfied itself that Tansi is one of the chosen few, a miracle worker.

Following the Pope's beatification mass, Tansi has the title 'Blessed'. He is now deemed worthy of adulation because he's in Heaven and joins an elite band with their own special prayers and feast days.

Beatification, the penultimate stage before sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church, can only be carried out after proof of a miracle. Sainthood follows if there is proof of at least one more miracle and continued intercession to help those in need.

Cyprian Tansi has come a long way from his humble rural African roots. He was born in 1903 in Igboezunu, a settlement of mud huts in the then British colony of Nigeria. Like his three brothers and sisters, and most of the others in his village, he was brought up to believe in voodoo.

But even those who resented the British imperial invaders and stubbornly clung to the old animist traditions realised that missionaries could offer benefits.

Tansi was a bright boy and his uncle, a schoolmaster, paid for him to go to a missionary school and receive a modern education.

In spite of this, Tansi's childhood was traumatic. His father died when he was young. Then he was left blinded in his left eye after an accident while playing with a friend.

At the age of nine he was baptised. He went home and, with trembling hands, tore up his juju - the wooden fetish given to him to ward off evil spirits.

Ten years later, in 1922, came the pivotal event in his life. After the deaths of several children in the village, the village's voodoo doctor claimed that his mother, by then comparatively elderly, was sucking away their lives so that she could live.

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