ROME >> Marianne Cope is now the patron saint of outcasts, being elevated to the Roman Catholic church’s highest honor for her work on Oahu, Maui and Molokai’s remote Kalaupapa peninsula, where she eased the suffering of island people once shunned as “lepers.”
Cope was canonized Sunday (late Saturday in Hawaii) along with six other venerated Catholics — including a Native American — at a lavish ceremony before Pope Benedict XVI in a sunny St. Peter’s Square.
In his homily at the mass after the canonization, Pope Benedict talked of Cope’s work on Kalaupapa and said, “At a time when little could be done for this suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm. She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and the spirit of her beloved St. Francis.”
Cope’s ascension to sainthood “means that she will continue to inspire us to do what she did — to follow the teachings of Jesus and express that love to those in need, wherever they may be, in any particular situation,” said Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva before the ceremony. Silva led the Hawaii pilgrimage to Rome for today’s culmination of a decades-long effort to bestow the Sisters of St. Francis nun with sainthood.
The canonization included the presentation of “relics” from each saint to Benedict.
Sharon Smith carried one of the bone fragments exhumed from Cope’s original grave site in 2005 at Kalaupapa’s Bishop Home. Cope died in 1918 of kidney and heart disease at age 80.
Smith had been wasting away with pancreatitis in 2005 in a Syracuse, N.Y., hospital founded by Cope. A stranger named Sister Michaeleen Cabral pinned a packet of soil from Cope’s Kalaupapa grave to Smith’s hospital gown and began praying for a miracle.
Smith eventually recovered, and last year the Vatican declared it the second miracle needed to elevate Cope to sainthood.
A 1992 miracle attributed to prayers to Cope on behalf of a 14-year-old New York girl named Kate Mahoney, who was suffering from ovarian cancer, led to Cope’s beatification — one step below sainthood — in 2005.
Nine Hansen’s disease patients who have made the nearly 10,000-mile pilgrimage from Kalaupapa to Syracuse to Rome joined more than 200 other island residents — and tens of thousands of others crammed into St. Peter’s Square — to witness the canonization.
Unlike previous ceremonies, this canonization was expected to last only two hours — with the last 90 minutes or so spent on a large Mass, said Patrick Downes, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu. Rather than follow the custom of including the canonization midway through the service, the first half-hour or so focused just on the seven people being elevated to sainthood.
Cope joins Hawaii’s first saint, St. Damien de Veuster, who was canonized in 2009 for his work in Kalaupapa, where he built homes, engineered a water system and turned the remote peninsula into a community based on religious compassion.
Although Damien preceded Cope in Kalaupapa, she already was a 45-year-old accomplished nurse, mother superior and hospital administrator who left Syracuse and Utica, N.Y., to travel across a continent and an ocean with six other nuns. Cope had answered a call from Queen Kapiolani and King Kalakaua in 1883 for nuns to take over Hawaii hospitals and schools.
They arrived in Honolulu aboard the SS Mariposa on Nov. 8, 1883, according to the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, who have been documenting and pushing Cope’s cause for canonization for more than 40 years.