12 Oct 2009

Belgian priest gets sainthood for Hawaii leprosy work

2:07 pm on 12 October 2009

600 pilgrims from Hawaii have attended the beatification ceremony of a Belgian priest who took care of leprosy patients in Hawaii in the 19th century.

Father Damien De Veuster eventually contracted the disease and died, is now a saint in the Catholic Church.

The canonisation ceremony of Father Damien in Rome has ended a decades-long effort by supporters who considered him worthy of the church's highest honour.

Among the pilgrims who travelled from Hawaii to Rome for the ceremony was 81-year-old Audrey Toguchi, whose cure from a deadly form of cancer was attributed to her prayers to Father Damien.

The church considers her cure as one of the two Damien miracles - a key requirement for sainthood.

Ms Toguchi's terminal lung cancer apparently disappeared after she prayed for Father Damien's intercession to heal her.

Father Damien arrived in Hawaii in the place of his ailing brother and served on Hawaii island for nine years as pastor and builder of churches.

He volunteered to serve as pastor at Kalawao, the place of banishment for leprosy victims on the Kalaupapa peninsula.