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Hawaiian Catholics still waiting for Damien sainthood

There is disappointment that Rome has failed to act following the completion of an investigation a year ago into a purported miracle associated with Molokai "leper colony" missionary Father Damien.

With strong medical evidence supporting the case, there was even speculation that Damien would be canonised before now.

Vice postulator Sr Helene Wood said she fears a problem might be holding up the process.

"We're all a little disappointed it hasn't come out yet," she said.

The Belgian priest renowned for his service to the Hansen's disease patients of Kalaupapa in the 19th century is one verifiable miracle away from sainthood. The pope bestowed the title "blessed" on Damien in 1995, based on a miracle ascribed to him six years after his death in 1889.

Last year, the Honolulu Diocese assembled a tribunal to examine an O'ahu woman's story that her cancer was cured after she travelled to Molokai to pray at Damien's grave.

The patient and her family members were among those who testified before the tribunal. Also testifying was Dr. Walter Y.M. Chang, a Honolulu physician and non-Catholic who wrote about the spontaneous regression of the woman's cancer in the October 2000 issue of Hawaii Medical Journal.

When the tribunal adjourned on April 16, 2003, local Catholic leaders expressed optimism that Damien would achieve sainthood relatively quickly.

Sr Wood said she's wondering if the Congregation for the Causes of Saints might be wavering over some testimony or other evidence found in the tribunal's 190-page report on the miracle.

"We'll just have to wait on Rome and see if there's something we have to attend to, or something that needs to be done," she said.

According to the Web site of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Damien's order the process was delayed because of a personnel shortage in the Vatican office.

The pope, who has named 477 saints and beatified 1324 people during his 25 years as pontiff, is scheduled to beatify six more individuals in St Peter's Square on on Sunday and hold canonisation ceremonies for six others on 16 May.

Wait casts worry on Damien sainthood (Honolulu Advertiser 16/4/04)

Hawaii diocese receives word of Damien miracle (CathNews 28/2/03)
Fr Damien - No Plaster Saint (Australian Catholic Film Office)
All for Damien (
Hawaiian nun moves toward sainthood (CathNews 29/10/03)

20 Apr 2004