Priest who ministered to lepers one step closer to sainthood
Priest worked on island of Molokai in 19th century
HONOLULU — A Roman Catholic priest who ministered to lepers banished to the island of Molokai in the 19th century has cleared another hurdle on the path to sainthood.
A Vatican medical commission has determined that a Honolulu woman’s cure of lung cancer a decade ago can be attributed to the intercession of Belgian priest Damien DeVeuster.
The five-doctor commission reported the woman’s healing was dramatic and defied medical explanation, said Patrick Downes, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.
The Honolulu woman said she was cured after she made a pilgrimage to Kalaupapa, where Damien took care of banished and quaran- tined leprosy patients and prayed to the priest. The case was written in the Hawaii Medical Journal in 2000 in an article titled “Complete spontaneous regression of cancer.”
Church authorities already credited Damien for another miracle, leading to his beatification, the step before sainthood. In that case, officials determined a French nun dying of a gastrointestinal illness miraculously recovered after praying to Damien.
An individual has to be found responsible for two miracles to become a saint. Downes said a commission of theologians must now review the case.
More than 8,000 people were banished to the remote Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai after leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, became epidemic in Hawaii in the 1850s. Damien came to Hawaii from Belgium in 1864 and went to Kalaupapa nine years later, ministering to patients until he contracted Hansen’s disease himself and died in 1889 at the age of 49.