Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pope canonizes 5 new saints, including priest who helped leprosy patients in Hawaii

"VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI canonized five new saints Sunday, including a 19th century priest whose work with leprosy patients on a Hawaiian island has been hailed by U.S. President Barack Obama as inspiring those helping AIDS sufferers in today's world.

Among the pilgrims packing St. Peter's Basilica was Hawaii resident Audrey Toguchi, an 80-year-old retired teacher whose recovery from lung cancer a decade ago was called miraculous by the Vatican.

She had prayed to Belgium-born Jozef De Veuster, more commonly known as Father Damien, who himself died from leprosy in 1889 after contracting the disease while working with leprosy patients who were living in isolation on Molokai island.

Toguchi and her doctor, Walter Chang, joined a procession of faithful bringing relics of the new saints to Benedict at the central altar of the basilica."

As usual The Deacon's Bench points out an article with more interesting details:

"Sitting in the front row at St. Peter's Basilica facing the pope were 11 of the last remaining Hawai'i residents sent to Kalaupapa after being diagnosed with Hansen's disease when the state still imposed quarantine restrictions on those with the sickness.

Today, those patients are mostly in their 70s and 80s.

At the ceremony, many of them wept.

Kalaupapa resident Elroy Makia Malo said Father Damien is his hero."He caught the disease and he died," Malo said. "To have given his life for what he believed in. Oh, it makes me feel small."

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