October 08, 2009 12:31 ET

Father Damien De Veuster to Become a Saint October 11: Patron of World's 4 Million People Living With Leprosy Honoured by Vatican

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Makretwire - Oct. 8, 2009) -

Attn: News/Assignment Editors

The spiritual patron of those living with leprosy, HIV/AIDS and others who feel marginalized by their illnesses will be elevated to sainthood later this week.

On October 11, 2009, Father Damien de Veuster, a catholic missionary priest who devoted his life to working with people affected by leprosy, will become Saint Damien in a ceremony at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI presiding. The Belgian priest lived in a leprosy colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, between 1873 and 1889, eventually dying of the illness.

As part of the process to sainthood, two miracles were attributed to Father Damien's intercession, one which took place in 1895, the other, more than 100 years later in 1999. His elevation to sainthood (canonization) presents an example of heroic virtue for people of faith.

Toronto Archbishop, Thomas Collins, spoke of the impact of Fr. Damien's life: "For most people, leprosy is a biblical disease, where we see Jesus curing the people affected by leprosy or embracing those marginalized. In the same way, Fr. Damien gives us a modern day witness of one who followed the example of Christ, ultimately giving his life for the care of others."

The October 11 ceremony will also help raise awareness regarding the ongoing outreach to those suffering from leprosy worldwide, notably for an organization based in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

The Leprosy Mission Canada has been quietly working with victims of the disease since 1892 and has served thousands of people in more than 30 countries with life-changing treatment and rehabilitation. TLM works today to heal the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those impacted by the disease.

"Father Damien's canonization is a time to celebrate his life and to remember the powerful impact that one life can have on people who are living with leprosy," says Peter Derrick, Executive Director of The Leprosy Mission Canada (TLM). "Sadly, even today, leprosy-affected people still experience stigma and rejection."

Some quick facts about leprosy in 2009:

  • Every two minutes someone will be diagnosed with leprosy.
  • 4 million people globally live with the permanent effects of the disease.
  • The World Health Organization recently estimated that there were almost 300,000 new diagnosed cases worldwide annually. 
  • Modern medical advances have developed a cure for the disease. The cost to cure one case of leprosy? $350.

The October 11 Vatican ceremony will canonize 5 individuals of diverse backgrounds and life achievements. These saints serve as shining examples of lives inspired by charity, faith and love.

Contact Information

  • Archdiocese of Toronto
    Neil MacCarthy
    Director, Public Relations & Communications
    (416) 934-3400 x 552


    The Leprosy Mission Canada
    Gisele Gedeon
    Director of Community Relations
    (905) 886-2885 x 2020