BY CINDY WOODEN
POPE BENEDICT XVI has approved a decree which recognises a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Damien de Veuster of Molokai, clearing the way for his canonisation.
The decree was the first of 13 published by the Vatican last week after Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, met the Pope at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.
Blessed Damien was a 19thcentury Belgian missionary, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Born in 1840, he spent the .last 16 years of his life caring for patients with Hansen's disease, or leprosy, on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.
Blessed Damien died in 1889 and was beatified in 1995.
With the recognition of the miracle, the date for Pope Benedict's celebration of his canonisation will be set later. The mira ck attributed to Blessed Damien involves the healing in 1999 of Audrey Homer Toguchi, a Hawaiian who had been diagnosed with cancer. She had a tumour and other tissue removed and underwent radiation; when new tumours were found on her lungs, she decided to pray to Blessed Damien instead of undergoing the chemotherapy her doctors recommended. The lung tumours gradually shrank and disappeared altogether.
Another of the decrees approved by the Pope on July 3 involved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St Therese of Lisieux. Louis lived from 1823 to 1894 and his wife from 1831 to 1877.
In 1994, the Martins were declared venerable, one of the first steps in the sainthood process. But despite the active encouragement of Pope John Paul II to move the cause forward, the miracle needed for their beatification was missing.
Pope John Paul, in his letter on preparing for the third millennium, had written of the need to identify holy married couples and beatify or canonise them as examples to all Catholics.
"Precisely because we are convinced of the abundant fruits of holiness in the married state, we need to find the most appropriate means for discerning them and proposing them to the whole Church as a model and encouragement for other Christian spouses," Pope John Paul wrote.
The last of the decrees published in early July recognised the heroic virtues of Chiara Badano. who died of bone cancer in 1990 just three weeks before her 19th birthday. The young Italian, who was born in Savona. was a member of the Focolare movement and was known particularly for the way she encouraged and consoled the groups of young people who would come to her bedside to offer her encouragement.
A miracle is still needed for her beatification.