Bishop of Honolulu flies to Rome for Father Damien announcement

Patrick Downes
Patrick Downes
Randy King
Randy King

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The Bishop of Honolulu flew out to Rome Tuesday night for the Pope's announcement on Father Damien's canonization date.

A pilgrimage tour is also in the works, and hundreds of people have already signed up.

Father Damien left the world nearly 120 years ago, but his work on Molokai, serving leprosy patients at Kalaupapa, is more alive than ever as his canonization to sainthood draws near.

Bishop Larry Silva is a special guest invited to Rome, to hear the Pope announce the date Blessed Damien officially becomes a saint. For Silva, the Diocese says the event is a personal one.

"Bishop Silva is a descendant of Portuguese immigrants from the late 1800's so he has family throughout the islands and two of his relatives were sent to Kalaupapa and they died there," said Patrick Downes, a spokesperson for the Diocese.

For those who want to witness Father Damien make Hawaii history, the Diocese will offer an official pilgrimage tour through Seawind Tours and Travel. More than 300 people have already registered asking for information, and the office has been flooded with calls.

"We had a call this morning of a gentleman who called in and asked does he need to be Catholic to go and the answer is no," said Randy King, the owner of Seawind Tours and Travel.

No details of the pilgrimage are on Seawind's website yet, pending the Pope's announcement, but one of the highlights is the Scavi tour.

"It's extremely moving. It's amazing to be able to go underneath the Basilica and see the tombs of Roman families still intact over all these years later and that tour actually ends up in the tomb of John Paul II," said King.

The european pilgrimage will also include a special Hawaiian mass, featuring a relic of Father Damien.

The pope will reveal Father Damien's canonization date on Saturday, February 21st.