Friday, July 4, 2008

Pope Clears Way for Belgian Priest to become Saint

VATICAN CITY: July 3rd. (Chichago Tribune) - Pope Benedict on Thursday approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of a 19th century Belgian priest who ministered to leprosy patients in Hawaii -- opening the way for him to be declared a saint. Benedict declared that a Honolulu woman's recovery in 1999 from terminal lung cancer was the miracle needed for canonization of the Rev. Damien de Veuster. The miracle was attributed to the intercession of the late priest, to whom the woman, Audrey Toguchi, had prayed. The approval means that Father Damien, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995, will be canonized at a date still to be set. "It's such an exciting time in our lives that one of our men, one of us here in Hawaii, has attained the highest rank of sanctity and will soon be declared a saint in the church," said the Rev. Christopher Keahi, head of the Sacred Hearts order of Hawaii.

Born Joseph de Veuster in 1840, Damien went to Hawaii in 1864 and joined other missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Nine years later he began ministering to leprosy patients on the remote Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai island, where some 8,000 people had been banished amid an epidemic in Hawaii in the 1850s. The priest eventually contracted the disease, also known as Hansen's disease, and died in 1889 at 49. Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva said canonization is important, "not simply as a recognition of the saintly heroism of Father Damien, but so that, following his example, we may all be renewed in holiness and in our dedication to those brothers and sisters who are most in need."

The Vatican's saint-making procedures require that a miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession be confirmed in order to be beatified. Damien was beatified after the Vatican declared that the 1987 recovery of a Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary nun was a miracle. The nun recovered from an illness after praying to Damien. After beatification, a second miracle is needed for sainthood. A date for canonization was not expected to be set until February. Damien's body was exhumed from his Molokai grave in 1936 and his remains sent back to Belgium for reburial. In 1995, a relic of his right hand was given back to the Hawaii diocese and returned to the Molokai grave. The decree for Father Damien was one of 13 approved by the pope for people in various stages of the sainthood process.
|Associated Press Writer
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