VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2008 ( The Vatican has recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Belgian Blessed Damien de Veuster, known as the apostle of lepers in Molokai, Hawaii.

Father Bruno Benati, general postulator of Father Damien's cause, announced earlier this month that the Congregation for Saints' Causes ruled that a Hawaiian woman’s cure from cancer was a miracle linked to her prayers to Father Damien (1840-1889).

This moves the blessed one step closer to being declared a saint.

The priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary revealed in a letter sent to his congregation that Audrey Toguchi was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer.

"During her sickness, Toguchi was visited by the brothers and sisters of the Sacred Hearts who invited her to personally direct herself to the intercession of Blessed Damien: She prayed with faith and got her family and friends to pray for her," said Father Benati.

The priest reported the words of the cured woman: "He was central to my prayers: from May 1, 1997, until Jan. 19, 2004, my prayers were directed to God exclusively through Blessed Damien. I am convinced that the miraculous disappearance of cancer is due to the intercession of Blessed Damien.'"

Perfect health

Father Benati added, "The medics who have examined this healing are all in agreement that it was 'extranatural and not exceptional.' Toguchi today enjoys perfect and full health."

Born Jozef De Veuster, he entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Leuven, Belgium, and took the name Damianus -- Damiaan in Dutch -- in his first vows.

Damien was sent as a missionary to Honolulu in 1864, and shortly afterward was ordained a priest.

Father Damien worked for several years in Hawaii before asking for permission to be assigned to Kalaupapa, a leprosy settlement on the island of Molokai. He arrived on May 10, 1873.

His first task was to build a Church and establish the Parish of St. Philomena.

Besides his responsiblities as pastor, the priest also attended to the lepors medical needs, built homes and beds, and even coffins and dug graves. He is also attributed with being a great leader of the community, who enforced laws and organized farms and schools.

Father Damien was 49 when he died of leprosy on April 15, 1889. He was declared blessed in 1995.

The priest could be canonized as early as this year.

Original story here.