By Jonathan Luxmoore


WARSAW, Poland – A French church spokesman expressed caution about a forensic scientist’s announcement that he would analyze what might be the remains of St. Joan of Arc.

"The precise origin of these objects isn’t known – all we have are some fragments of cloth and human rib," said Bertrand Vincent, spokesman for France’s Tours Archdiocese. "Even if these are confirmed as belonging to a young woman of the period, who was burned to death, this won’t prove it’s Joan of Arc. For now, the church is showing maximum prudence and reserve."

Philippe Charlier, professor at Raymond Poincare Hospital, west of Paris, announced that he would analyze the fragments allegedly retrieved from below the stake in Rouen, France, where St. Joan was executed in 1431 at age 19.

In a telephone interview with Catholic News Service Feb. 17, Vincent praised Charlier’s "professional expertise and good intentions" and said that Tours would "take note" if the project were "conducted seriously, with proper results."

"However, unless something extraordinary is achieved, and it’s proved beyond all reasonable doubt that these are Joan of Arc’s remains, the church will not consider them the relics of a saint," the spokesman added.

Vincent said that Father Jean-Louis Gaudier of Chinon had consented to Charlier’s examination of the bone and cloth, which have been housed in a Chinon church museum since 1938.

However, he added that the remains, which were located at a Paris pharmacy in the 19th century, were not regarded as "church objects."

St. Joan, a peasant girl from Domremy in eastern France, was burned as a witch and heretic in May 1431 after leading a French army against English invaders and lifting the siege of Orleans.

The national heroine, who was canonized in 1920, reputedly heard the voices of saints as a young girl and was widely credited with altering the course of the 1337-1453 Hundred Years’ War and strengthening French nationhood.

Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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