Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama Sends Delegation to Rome to Honor Fr. Damien

President Obama says St. Damien gave voice to voiceless, dignity to the sick

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
By Megan Sweas
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Barack Obama expressed his "deep admiration" for St. Damien de Veuster and offered his prayers for all those celebrating the priest's "extraordinary life and witness."

He issued the statement Oct. 9, two days before the pope canonized the Belgian priest and four others at the Vatican.

St. Damien dedicated his life to those afflicted with leprosy, now called Hansen's disease, in Molokai, Hawaii.

Obama, who was largely raised in Hawaii, noted that St. Damien "has earned a special place in the hearts of Hawaiians. I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those suffering from leprosy who had been cast out."

The missionary priest, who was from Tremelo, Belgium, ministered to patients with Hansen's disease on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, where they were banished to the settlement of Kalaupapa. He was renowned for treating them with love and compassion. He ultimately contracted Hansen's disease and died in 1889.

"Following in the steps of Jesus' ministry to the lepers, Father Damien challenged the stigmatizing effects of the disease, giving voice to the voiceless and ultimately sacrificing his own life to bring dignity to so many," Obama said in his statement.

The president drew parallels between leprosy and diseases such as HIV/AIDS that afflict millions around the world today, saying "we should draw on the example of Father Damien's resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick."

Appointed by Obama to the delegation representing the United States at the canonization were: Bishop Larry Silva, who heads the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu; Sister Carol Ann Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association; U.S. Sen. Daniel Kahikina Akaka, D-Hawaii; U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-N.J.; and Stephen Prokop, superintendent of Kalaupapa National Historic Park.

Leading the delegation was the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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