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Kalaupapa residents head to Rome


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POSTED: Friday, October 02, 2009

More than 500 Hawaii residents left for Europe yesterday to join thousands of people in festivities to celebrate the life of Father Damien De Veuster, who will become a saint for his service to leprosy patients banished to Kalaupapa in the 19th century.

The Hawaii contingent will be in Belgium, Damien's homeland, this weekend for a celebration in the priest's hometown, Tremelo. A Hawaii choir of 70 people from several island parishes will sing compositions dedicated to Damien.

Thirty members of Keali'ika'apunihonua Ka'ena A'o hula halau, led by kumu Leimomi Ho, will perform hula kahiko. The Belgian hosts will present stage performances, music and fireworks.

Hawaii Catholic Bishop Larry Silva will join Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels in celebrating Mass at the tomb of Damien in Louvain. Among the Hawaii travelers are 16 priests and nuns of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a religious order to which Damien belonged.

Other high points for the Hawaii group include:

» Wednesday. They will attend Pope Benedict XVI's weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square in Rome, Italy.

» Thursday. They will tour Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of St. Francis, founder of the Franciscan religious order, in honor of Mother Marianne Cope, who also served at Kalaupapa.

» Next Friday. Silva will say a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica attended by Hawaii pilgrims.

» Oct. 10. Local residents will join members of the Sacred Hearts order from around the world at a Vigil Mass on the eve of the canonization.

Benedict will declare Damien a saint at a 10 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11 in St. Peter's Square (10 p.m. Saturday Hawaii time). The pope will elevate four other people from Spain, Poland and France to sainthood.

An Oct. 12 Hawaiian Mass at St. Paul Outside the Wall Church will include performances by the Hawaii choir and the halau.