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Host of isle groups to mark Damien's fall canonization


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POSTED: Saturday, May 16, 2009

Several island churches and community organizations will join Hawaii Catholics in celebrations after Father Damien De Veuster is named a saint in October.

A Nov. 1 program at the Iolani Palace grounds is the highlight of statewide activities announced this week by Catholic Bishop Larry Silva. Government officials and Hawaiian civic organizations will participate in the afternoon event honoring the priest who served leprosy patients in Kalaupapa for 16 years until his death from the disease in 1889.

Silva will lead a group of more than 500 local residents to the canonization ceremony Oct. 11 in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI will present the bishop with a relic of Father Damien, a bone from the saint's foot, which will be returned to Hawaii and enshrined at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in downtown Honolulu.

“;A relic is normally a piece of bone of the saint or blessed (person). We venerate it just as the native Hawaiians honor the iwi of their ancestors or we visit the remains of our loved ones in the cemetery,”; said Silva in a release. “;The presence of the relic draws us closer to the person in the hope that we can be inspired to love God and give ourselves for our neighbor even as Father Damien did.”;

The relic, which is sealed in a metal box and will not be put on public view, will be taken around the state as the focus of services to be held on six islands in October.

Damien was originally buried beside the church he built on the Kalawao side of Kalaupapa peninsula. Belgium, his homeland, requested the return of his remains in 1936, and he is buried in Louvain. The bones of his right hand were returned in 1995 after the beatification, the second step in the sainthood process in which he was declared “;blessed.”; Those bones were returned to his grave.