Pope sets date
for Mother Cope

Her beatification ceremony
will be on May 15 in Rome

Pope John Paul II has put Mother Marianne Cope on his appointment calendar for a May 15 beatification ceremony in Rome.

The Vatican notified the Sisters of St. Francis Monday the pope will bestow the title of "blessed" on the nun who cared for Hawaii leprosy victims for 35 years until her death in 1918.

The short notice set Franciscan nuns in Hawaii and at the Syracuse, N.Y., headquarters of the religious order scrambling to plan their travel and participation in the ceremony.

It confirmed the Franciscans' perception that the Cope sainthood cause is being moved quickly through the Catholic church's process of declaring saints. "We're on the fast track," said Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, who has worked for 30 years to move the cause through the complex bureaucratic process required. "We think it's incredible."

The cause cleared the two key hurdles in less than a year, a process that sometimes takes years. The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously last April that scrutiny of her life revealed a person of heroic virtue, and the pope declared her "venerable," the first step of sainthood. On Dec. 20, the church announced that theologians and doctors accepted a 14-year-old New York girl's 1993 recovery from multiple organ failure as a "miracle" attributed to Cope's intercession.

Monday's announcement comes less than a month after Cope's remains were exhumed from her Kalaupapa grave and taken to the Franciscan headquarters.

"It's exciting that it's happening so fast," said Sister Marion Kikukawa, principal of St. Joseph High School in Hilo and vice postulator for the sainthood cause. "The timing couldn't be better in terms of completing what we needed to do in January and getting her home to Syracuse.

"The sisters are especially happy with the May 15 date," she said. "It's Pentecost, when we celebrate the first day of the church."

The reliquary containing Cope's bones is in the mother house chapel, which is opened to the public twice a week. Kikukawa said 100 or more people come to "pay their respects" each time.

The May event is not likely to have the Hawaiian touch that characterized the June 1995 beatification of Father Damien DeVeuster, who died in 1889 of leprosy after 16 years of helping victims of the disease in Kalaupapa. More than a dozen Hawaii residents, including Hansen's disease patients, interacted with Pope John Paul II at the event in Brussels, Belgium, Damien's homeland. More than 300 islanders attended, including a hula troupe that entertained after the Mass. Planners had a year's advance notice of the event, which was extended to two years when it was postponed because the pope was injured in a fall.

Cope will be one of 10 people to be declared "blessed" at the May 15 ceremony. Sharing the honors will be two 19th century women who founded religious orders in Europe, seven priests who were murdered during religious persecution in Spain in 1936 and a French missionary who was killed in the Sahara when desert tribes revolted against France in 1916.

The Vatican

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