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Belgian television crew investigate a miracle


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POSTED: Monday, June 22, 2009

A Belgian television crew will be in Kalaupapa tomorrow filming a documentary report about Father Damien De Veuster, who is as well known in his homeland as in Hawaii.

Their focus is on recent events that cleared the way for the 19th century priest to be declared a saint later this year. They are scrutinizing the Catholic Church investigation of an Aiea woman's spontaneous cure from lung cancer, which was recognized by the Vatican as a miracle.

“;I think people will be skeptical about the idea of a miracle,”; said journalist Ilse Van Lysebeth of the Flemish public television station VRT. “;What I want to do is tell the story. I will leave it up to the audience to make up their minds, think for themselves what to believe or not. We are not promoting anything. We just will give an objective view of the facts.”;

A lineup of people took turns talking story yesterday with Van Lysebeth and camera crewmen Chris Laureys and Steven Vanvolsem at the Honolulu diocese offices downtown. Retired teacher Audrey Toguchi told about being healed in 1999 after praying to Damien to intercede with God on her behalf.

Dr. Walter Chang discussed the medical phenomenon he documented in the October 2000 Hawaii Medical Journal in a report that does not use the word miracle.

They debriefed Rev. Robert Maher, a Capuchin priest, who sat with a doctor and lawyer on a Hawaii tribunal that investigated the medical incident.

“;I believe in miracles and I believe that God can do whatever he wants,”; said Maher. “;But I wanted to see the evidence. When the doctors were saying, 'This never happened in our experience,' that was proof to me of something extraordinary.”;

Van Lysebeth said, “;The story will be about the procedure to name a saint. Most people have no idea that there is a department in the Vatican that investigates saints. What makes this special is that the people are still around who were involved.

“;For me it was surprising that everybody here in Hawaii seems to know Father Damien or has heard about him, or has some relative who was on Molokai,”; she said. “;People feel strong about him in Belgium. For us it is a thing of the past, while people here feel his spirit more strongly.”;

Van Lysebeth said while in Kalaupapa, the television crew will cover visiting Belgian tourists who include two De Veuster family members, descendants of one of Father Damien's brothers.