Father Damien de Veuster, one of Hawaii’s most revered figures, was remembered on Friday by the state’s most famous — U.S. President Barack Obama.
The 19th century Roman Catholic priest from Belgium cared for people with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, who had been placed in government-sanctioned quarantine on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.
Father Damien, who eventually contracted the disease and died of it at age 49, is honored around the world as the “leper priest.” He is also considered a patron saint of those who suffer from HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Pope Benedict will canonize Father Damien as a saint on Sunday, making him the first saint with such close ties to Hawaii.
“I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those suffering from leprosy who had been cast out,” said Obama, a Hawaii native, in a statement on Father Damien’s upcoming canonization.