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Blessed day for Hawaii


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POSTED: Monday, October 12, 2009

ROME » Pope Benedict XVI said St. Damien “;teaches us to choose the good fight — not those that lead to division, but those that gather us together in unity.”;

The pope's remarks at the canonization Mass yesterday were spoken in Dutch and Spanish, recognizing the large numbers of people from Father Damien De Veuster's home country of Belgium and his many admirers from Spain and Latin America.

Hawaii residents in the crowd for the traditional High Mass in St. Peter's Basilica wondered what the pope said. Some of the 600 islanders expressed frustration and disappointment that they did not understand the proclamation and that not a word of the two-hour service was spoken in English, although several other languages were used.

Prayer books did include English excerpts of some prayers and a biography of Damien and four others who were named saints.

The grandeur of a traditional Latin High Mass in the place that is the center of the Catholic Church was described as a thrilling and meaningful experience by Hawaii residents who were amid the crowd of more than 10,000 inside St. Peter's Basilica.

But the last-minute crush was a withering ordeal.

The canonization Mass was planned for St. Peter's Square but was moved indoors because of the weather. The pushing, rushing crowd made a dash across the square and crushed through lines ahead to get into the basilica after being held outside behind barricades for two hours.

Inside, much of the seating was barricaded off, and the crush to find a viewing spot of the central altar became most un-Christian.

After being together with a feeling of solidarity as pilgrims traveling together, the islanders were scattered about the crowd in the church.

Another 20,000 people remained outside in the square, where they had a better view of the altar via jumbo screens.

An evening Mass today at the church where St. Paul is buried would be an opportunity for the Hawaii residents to reclaim their sense of special connection with Damien. Bishop Larry Silva and the Rev. Chris Keahi, provincial of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, were to preside at the Mass at St. Paul Outside the Wall Church.

Both men were on the high altar yesterday, along with about 30 other cardinals, bishops and priests who concelebrated the Mass with the pope. The only other Hawaii participants were Audrey Toguchi and Dr. Walter Chang, who were among people from several countries to bring gifts to the altar.

The Damien Choir of 68 Oahu residents and the Keali'ika'apunihonua Ka'ena A'o hula halau were to perform at tonight's Mass. They have sung and danced at other services during the Damien pilgrimage in Belgium and Italy, most recently Friday at the medieval St. Francis Basilica in Assisi, Italy.

After the canonization, a relic of the new saint was presented to the Hawaii bishop. Encased in a closed metal container, it will be brought back to Hawaii Saturday after stops for services at cathedrals in Detroit and San Francisco.

The relic will be taken to the Big Island on Sunday and then to the other islands, where it will be the center of services to venerate Hawaii's new saint.

Our Lady of Peace Cathedral will be the scene of services for Oahu residents in the last week of October. A shrine inside the cathedral will be its final destination.

The finale of festivities for the new Hawaii saint will be a celebration Nov. 1 on the grounds of Iolani Palace. Gov. Linda Lingle and interfaith religious leaders will speak at the 2 p.m. celebration.