Friday, November 02, 2007

The Cause for Blessed Fr. Damien of Molokai

~from Honolulu Advertiser

One hurdle has been cleared in the road to sainthood for Blessed Father Damien de Veuster, the "leper priest of Moloka'i" who eventually died from Hansen's disease.

The cause for sainthood has been stalled since 2005, when a local tribunal reconvened to clear up whether a miracle could be attributed solely to prayers to Damien.

A communique from Rome issued last week by the order to which Father Damien belonged said the miracle in question passed a very important authority: a medical committee that decides if such events are indeed miraculous.

Two miracles are needed for sainthood. One miracle associated with Father Damien has been accepted by the Vatican: a cure of a nun in France a century ago in Damien's name. In 1895, Simplicia Hue was cured of a debilitating intestinal disease after praying for Damien's intercession.

With that miracle, Father Damien was declared "blessed" during a beatification in 1995 by John Paul II.

Now, the second miracle must pass several more hurdles before Damien can become St. Damien.

The second miracle involves a Honolulu woman whose lung cancer was cured; the case was written up in the Hawai'i Medical Journal in 2000, titled: "Complete spontaneous regression of cancer."

"Now it goes to theological commission," said the Rev. Lane Akiona, who belongs to the same Sacred Hearts order as de Veuster. "It puts Father Damien back on track. The fact that the medical commission approved it, that's a very good sign for us.

"It's moving, instead of being stalemated."

The medical commission is part of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, the main clearinghouse in Rome where canonizations are examined.

"The medical commission cited that it was truly a dramatic healing," said Patrick Downes, spokesman for the diocese. "Whether it's attributed to Damien is the decision of the theological commission."

After a Hawai'i tribunal passed the case as "an unexplainable cure," the lung cancer case was sent to Rome, which had sent it back for clarification, Downes said.

"There's no telling when the next step will be," he said. "The theological commission has to review the medical commission's conclusions, then the bishops and cardinals have to take both reports and make recommendation to the pope for canonizations.

"From what I've been told, this is a significant step. A lot of causes don't make it beyond the 'authentic miracle' part."

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