Priest close to sainthood

2008-07-03 17:24

Vatican City - The Vatican says a Belgian priest who ministered to leprosy patients in Hawaii is close to sainthood.

The Vatican says that Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday approved a miracle attributed to the Reverend Damien de Veuster. Father Damien was beatified in 1995 so the latest approval means he will be canonised at a date still to be set.

Damien ministered to leprosy patients who had been banished to remote islands after an epidemic in Hawaii in the 1850s. The Belgian-born priest contracted the disease and died in 1889 at 49.

The Vatican approved as a miracle the healing of a Honolulu woman diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She was cured in 1999 after she visited the island where Damien worked and prayed to the priest.