Papal Delegate to Preside at Upcoming Beatifications

Including That of Mother Marianne of Molokai

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2005 ( The practice of having a papal delegate, instead of the Pope himself, preside over a beatification will be resumed next week.

The practice will be resumed May 14 when Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, the prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, presides over the beatification of two women religious, including one who worked with lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

By decision of Benedict XVI, at 5 p.m. that day, Maria Anna Barbara Cope and Mother Ascension of the Heart of Jesus will be proclaimed blessed, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The former was a religious of the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order of Syracuse, New York, known as Mother Marianne of Molokai.

Mother Ascension was co-founder of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary, of the Diocese of Pamplona, in Spain.

In recent decades, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II presided at beatification and canonization ceremonies.

Next week that will change, when Cardinal Saraiva presides.

This is not «an absolute novelty, but the resumption of a plurisecular practice which was in use in the Church until 1971,» the cardinal told Vatican Radio today.

«According to this praxis, in fact, it was not the Pope who celebrated beatifications not even when they took place in Rome, in St. Peter’s Basilica,» he said. Instead, «the rite was celebrated by a bishop or a cardinal delegated by the Holy Father.»

Cardinal Saraiva recalled that Paul VI in 1971 presided in person over the beatification ceremony of Maximilian Maria Kolbe at the Vatican.

«It was the first time it occurred,» the cardinal said. «Moreover, on the occasion of the Holy Year 1975, which witnessed an increase in beatification ceremonies, Paul VI maintained this decision, and proceeded in person to preside over beatifications during the Holy Mass, and he did so until the end of his life.»

He continued: «The practice introduced by Paul VI was constantly followed by John Paul II. More than that, on the occasion of numerous and frequent apostolic and pastoral trips in different continents and countries, John Paul II began to carry out in those churches, in addition to solemn Eucharistic celebrations, also the rite of beatification.»

One of the soon-to-be-beatified, Mother Marianne Cope, was the «successor» of Blessed Father Damian, the apostle of lepers in the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

Born Barbara Koob in Heppenheim, Germany, in 1838, she moved to New York when she was 3 and became an American citizen. She later joined the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Syracuse.

Later, as superior of the Franciscan convent in Syracuse, Mother Marianne answered King David Kalakaua’s request for assistance for children with leprosy, described as a «national affliction» in Hawaii.

She took six other nuns and remained in the islands until her death in 1918 at age 80.

The woman religious worked in Kalaupapa, on Molokai, alongside Father Damien de Veuster during the last five months of his life. The Belgian priest died of leprosy in 1889 and was beatified in 1995.

After Father Damien’s death, Mother Marianne ran the home for men and children with leprosy in Molokai. Her legacy has inspired books, plays and songs.

In addition to establishing a home for women with leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, in Molokai, she started what is now the Maui Memorial Hospital.

Mother Ascension of the Heart of Jesus, born Florentina Nicol Goñi on March 14, 1868, in Tafalla, Spain, will also be beatified.

She entered the convent of the Dominicans of the Third Order in Huesca and was co-founder and first general superior of the Dominicans of the Holy Rosary. She was a teacher and director of the school adjoining the convent.

In Peru she helped Dominican Bishop Ramón Zubieta in the foundation of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary, instituted to evangelize the tribes of the Amazon. She was their first general superior.

Mother Ascension died in Pamplona, Spain, on Feb. 24, 1940.

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