Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vatican Votes To Elevate Father Damien To Sainthood

July 2nd: - The Congregation of the Causes of Saints at the Vatican has voted to canonize Father Damien of Molokai to sainthood. After the verification of two medical miracles, after decades of investigation into the life and works of Damien De Veuster, the Consisterie at the Vatican has at long last voted to elevate the Martyr of Molokai to its Pantheon of Saints. The measure now awaits the signature of Pope Benedict XVI. "People are very excited because they know he was a great person and role model, and that is the most important thing of the sanctification, he finally can be the role model we need," Damien historian Hilde Eynikel told KITV from Belgium.

The search is now on for a relic of Father Damien, which will be presented to the pope at the sanctification. A relic can be something touched by the saint, worn by the saint, or an actual body part of the saint. The diocese in Brussels is now looking into the retrieval of such a relic from Damien's tomb in Leuven, Belgium.

Damien's grave in Kalaupapa contains only his right hand, which was re-interred following his beatification in 1995. The canonization will take place in Rome, possibly at the end of next year, with celebrations in Belgium and Hawaii. The pope will probably not travel to Hawaii. Cardinal Daneels of Belgium may be in attendance. Supporters of the sainthood effort are overjoyed that now the world will know what Hawaii has known for 100 years -- that Father Damien of Molokai is a saint.

He was born Joseph De Veuster in Tremeloo, Belgium, in 1840. De Veuster's older brother, Pamphile, was set to travel to the "Sandwich Islands," but was too sick to go. Instead, De Veuster traveled to Hawaii in his brother's place. The Roman Catholic priest arrived in Hawaii in 1864 and took the name Damien. He served the leprosy patients at the Molokai colony at Kalaupapa for 12 years before he succumbed to Hansen's disease at age 49. His body was exhumed from his Molokai grave in 1936 when his remains were sent to Belgium, for reburial. In 1995, a relic of his right hand was given back to the Hawaii Diocese and returned to his Molokai grave.
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