WASHINGTON – 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 canonised 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.”
“Following in the steps of Jesus’ ministry to the lepers, Father Damien challenged the stigmatising 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. - CNS