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Canonization Saint Damien of Molokai ss.cc.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Before leaving for once more to visit different parts of the Congregation, I want to send you a short word now that we have just finished the various celebrations of the canonization of our brother, Saint Damien.
More than 400 brothers (258) and sisters (160) came together in Rome from all 29 countries where the Congregation is present. There were also thousands of pilgrims, many part of pilgrimages organized by the Congregation. They were three powerful days of celebration, thanksgiving, prayer and just being together as brothers and sisters.
On Saturday the 10th, at 7:00 in the evening, we had a prayer vigil in the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. We had prepared booklets for 3,000 but there were many more present. The Church was filled, with people in both side naves and even in the sanctuary. In spite of such a large crowd, there was a great atmosphere of prayer. We recalled Damien with readings from his letters and some symbols related to his life. Then the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and there was a time of Eucharistic Adoration, what Damien tells us was the source of his strength. The Archbishop of Seville, Cardinal Carolos Amigo, was with us for part of the vigil and spoke to us before leaving.
On Sunday, the 11th, there was the canonization. At the last minute Vatican organizers changed the program, seemingly for fear of rain, and moved the celebration inside Saint Peter’s basilica. Outside on the square there were 40,000 pilgrims, who had to follow the ceremony on large screens. Most were not even able to receive communion. The change was very unfortunate, because as a result the celebration was left lacking. However, in the end, the Pope officially inscribed the five candidates in the book of the Saints and declared that they should be honored as such by the universal Church. It was a moment of great joy and of communion with all the Church and the Saints.
After the celebration in Saint Peter’s, we had dinner at the Hotel Ergife for some 750 guests. It brought together, brothers and sisters, members of the Secular Branch, friends of the Congregation, bishops and cardinals, religious of other congregation close to us, persons associated with Damien from various groups etc.
We ended the celebrations on Monday, the 12th, with a Mass of Thanksgiving in the basilica of Saint John Lateran. Presiding was Cardinal Daneels of Malines-Brussels, Belgium. At the end of the Mass Frans Gorissen ss.cc., Provincial of Flanders, presented a relic of Damien to Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu. It will be enshrined in Our Lady of Peace Cathedral there.
There were also other events and celebrations in Rome organized by various groups. Given the numbers participating, ones that stand out were the celebration and prayer vigil for more than a thousand young people from the Congregation’s schools in Spain and the Eucharist that the pilgrims from Hawaii (more than 500 including some Hansen’s disease patients from Molokai) celebrated with their bishop on Monday evening in the basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls.
Most of the brothers who came for the canonization were with pilgrimage groups and stayed in hotels and guest houses around town. However our Generalate also welcomed more than thirty brothers from four continents. It was a beautiful experience of brotherhood and ss.cc. family.
I will not go into more details about the three days. We know that throughout the Congregation brothers and sisters prepared for and celebrated the canonization in many ways. In the coming days there will be various kinds of thanksgiving celebrations in various places. Congratulations and thanks to everyone. We really have reason to celebrate, while remembering that Damien also challenges us to be converted and to grow in holiness.
I would like to finish with a short and incomplete word of thanks. Thanks to all the brothers and sisters that contributed in any way to preparing the celebration, here or in the various provinces and communities in different parts of the world. Thanks to all our friends who in one way or another have made Damien known and loved: members of the Secular Branch, media professionals, choirs and musicians, artists, travel and event coordinators, pilgrims etc. Thanks to the Generalate community in Rome, who with great talent and generosity welcomed visitors, took care of the many practical details and prepared the liturgies.
And very special thanks, in the name of the whole Congregation, to those who have given so much to advance the cause of Damien. I am thinking especially of the former postulators, Angel Lucas and Emilio Vega, who were with us in Rome during these days. I want to remember also Bruno Benati, who died last year just at the very time that the miracle for Damien’s canonization was approved. I think of the former Superiors General, Pat Bradley and Enrique Losada who were also able to be with us. And Alfred Bell, our present Postulator General, who did so much to bring to conclusion the canonization process and who saw to the infinite number of details involved in the celebrations we have just had. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.
After my letter you will find the section of the Pope’s homily in which he refers to Damien and then the text of my meditation during adoration of the vigil on Saturday evening.
May Saint Damien intercede for his Congregation and may the example of his faith and his profound love for the excluded inspire us and help us be converted so as to better serve as God would want.
Fraternally in the Sacred Hearts,
Javier Álvarez-Ossorio ss.cc.
                                                                                      Superior General

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