12 Oct 2009

Leper priest made a saint

11:16 am on 12 October 2009

Pope Benedict XVI has created five new saints, including a Belgian priest who dedicated his life to lepers.

Known as Father Damien, Jozef Damian de Veuster (1840-1889) worked in the leper colony of Molokai for 16 years until he himself died of the disease.

The ABC reports he was known as "the lepers' apostle."

The pope also canonised Jeanne Jugan (1792-1879) of France, who founded the order of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

By the time she died, her institute had 2500 workers looking after elderly women in 177 homes around the world.

Also canonised were Polish archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (1822-1895) and two Spanish monks - a Dominican, Francisco Coll y Guitart (1812-1875) and a Trappist, Rafael Arnaiz Baron (1911-1938).

Baron was considered one of the greatest mystics of the 20th century. The ABC reports he died aged 27 while he was a member of the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance.

The papal Mass at St Peter's basilica was attended by King Albert II of Belgium, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland and Prime Minister Francois Fillon of France.