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He planned to take his life in Lourdes; instead, he began bringing the sick to Mary

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Paola Belletti - published on 06/06/22

Although initially his intention was to end his life, his goal became giving his life to others.

It seems almost too dramatic, or cinematic, to be true: a young man in a wheelchair, born into a noble family but humiliated by sickness, approaches the grotto of Lourdes with a hidden gun and a plan to publicly take his life if he is not miraculously healed. Then, at the last minute, he receives the grace of spiritual healing and conversion.

This is the true story of Giovanni (“Gian”) Battista Tomassi, who went on to found a volunteer organization—present throughout all of Italy—which brings the sick on pilgrimages to Lourdes and other shrines. More than 100 years after its founding, the organization—UNITALSI, short in Italian for “National Italian Union for Transporting the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines”—is going stronger than ever.

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