HONOLULU (AP) — The remains of a saint known for caring for exiled leprosy patients in Hawaii are being relocated again.
This time they're returning to Hawaii, where St. Marianne spent 35 years, her order, Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, announced Thursday.
St. Marianne Cope died of natural causes in 1918 at Kalaupapa, an isolated peninsula of the island of Molokai where the Hawaiian kingdom began exiling leprosy patients in 1866 to control the disease. Her remains were exhumed in 2005 during her canonization process and taken to her hometown of Syracuse, N.Y.
She gained sainthood last year, joining Father Damien de Veuster as the second saint devoted to Kalaupapa's leprosy patients.
The relocation is necessary because the buildings of the campus where her remains are housed no longer are structurally sound, requiring the sisters to move to another part of Syracuse, the order said. A piece of her remains, known as a relic, will stay behind in Syracuse.
The sisters decided "through great deliberation and prayer" to return the remains to Hawaii, Sister Roberta Smith said.
"Hawaii is a major destination for the people the world over, and having St. Marianne's remains there would ensure a steady stream of pilgrims who could continue to be inspired by her, seek her intercession and imitate her dedication and faith," Smith said.
Bishop Larry Silva of the Honolulu diocese called Marianne's return a "wonderful blessing." The sisters approached him a couple of months ago about the possibility of returning her remains, Silva said, and he learned of the final decision Wednesday.
Even before it was known the remains would return, the diocese planned to build a small chapel for Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, to enshrine relics of St. Marianne and St. Damien, Silva said. In 2011, a nun from Syracuse traveled to Honolulu carrying Marianne's relic — a small box of bone fragments. The relic was taken on a tour of the Hawaiian islands.
St. Marianne's remains will join her relics in the chapel, which is part of plans to renovate the 170-year-old downtown Honolulu cathedral. The diocese still needs to raise $12 million for the renovation, Silva said, but the project is expected to be completed in a couple of years.
It's not yet clear when Marianne's remains will arrive in Hawaii.
Silva said it makes sense to keep her remains in Honolulu, as opposed to Kalaupapa, which can be accessed only via plane or mule.
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