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Hawaii-born Obama commemorates Damien's sainthood


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POSTED: Saturday, October 10, 2009

WASHINGTON » President Barack Obama has expressed his admiration for Father Damien, set to become a saint when he is canonized tonight in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI.

“;I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those suffering from leprosy who had been cast out,”; Obama, who was born and raised in Hawaii, said yesterday in a White House news release.

Damien “;challenged the stigmatizing effects of disease, giving voice to the voiceless and ultimately sacrificing his own life to bring dignity to so many,”; Obama said.

“;In our own time as millions around the world suffer from disease, especially the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we should draw on the example of Father Damien's resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick,”; the president said.

Damien was born Joseph de Veuster in Belgium.

The Roman Catholic priest was beloved by the patients he ministered to for 16 years on Molokai before dying of the disease himself in 1889.