Mother Marianne Cope
deserves Catholic recognition


The Vatican has announced the beatification of Mother Marianne Cope, who cared for leprosy patients on Molokai.

MOTHER Marianne Cope, who succeeded Father Damien De Veuster as the guiding force in the spiritual and physical care of leprosy patients at Molokai's Kalaupapa settlement, has joined him on the road toward sainthood. The Vatican's recognition of their accomplishments, and what are deemed to have been the miracles that followed, bring overdue worldwide acclaim to these historic figures.

Recognition is not easily achieved in the ponderous bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic Church, which began consideration of Father Damien's sanctity in 1955. Damien, who began work at Kalaupapa in 1873, contracted leprosy in 1884 and died in 1989.

Pope Paul VI declared him "venerable," the first of three steps toward sainthood, in 1977. He was "beatified" in 1995, changing his title to Blessed Damien, after Pope John Paul II approved the 1895 cure of a French nun's intestinal issue as a miracle, following devotions asking for Damien's intercession.

The Vatican is considering as a miracle an Oahu woman's cancer cure after her prayers at Damien's grave at Kalaupapa in 1998 to decide whether he should gain sainthood. According to the rules, a miracle is a recovery that defies medical explanation. Sainthood is achieved by a second documented miracle occurring after a candidate's beatification.

By comparison, Mother Marianne, who arrived at Kalaupapa just months before Damien's death and cared for leprosy patients for 30 years before her death in 1918 at the age of 80, is on the fast track toward sainthood. The Vatican declared her venerable, a person of "heroic virtue," in April, 21 years after her cause was launched by her Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y.

The Vatican vaulted her past Step 2 by accepting as a miracle the complete recovery of a 14-year-old mainland girl from multiple organ failure in 1992, after friends and relatives invoked Mother Marianne's help. The girl had been expected to die.

Born in Germany as Barbara Koob, Mother Marianne came to the United States at the age of 2 and later joined the order of St. Francis sisters. In response to a call from the kingdom of Hawaii, she came to Hawaii in 1883, bringing with her six other nuns. They operated a leprosy hospital in Kakaako and opened a Maui hospital and an Oahu home for children of patients before Cope took them to Kalaupapa.

She will become Blessed Marianne in ceremonies next year. Plans call for exhumation of her body from her grave on Molokai and reburial at the home of her order in Syracuse.

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