HONOLULU (AP) – Catholic church officials are hopeful that the beatification ceremony for a Franciscan nun who worked for more than 30 years with leprosy patients in Hawaii will happen next month, a church spokesman said Thursday.

Roman Catholic Bishop James Moynihan of Syracuse, N.Y., said Wednesday that the beatification ceremony for Mother Marianne Cope – which, before his death, Pope John Paul II had scheduled for May 15 – was not on the schedule for the newly ordained Pope Benedict XVI.

But Patrick Downes, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese in Honolulu, said Thursday that he had been told by Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, a Franciscan nun in Syracuse, that there’s still hope for scheduling Mother Marianne’s beatification next month.

“She has not given up hope yet,” he said.

Hanley told Downes that the Syracuse bishop has been in contact with the Vatican, and said church officials were still hopeful that the ceremony would take place.

Some 40 people from Hawaii, including Downes, and nearly 100 from Syracuse have already made plans to travel to Rome from May 12-17, he said.

“Everyone’s going,” Downes said. “It’s too late to back out of travel plans. Tickets have been bought and hotel rooms have been arranged.”

Mother Marianne and six other Franciscan sisters came to Hawaii in 1883 to work with leprosy patients at the Kalaupapa settlement on Molokai alongside the more famous Belgian missionary Father Damien DeVeuster, who also is a candidate for sainthood. A German immigrant who was raised in Utica, she died in 1918 at age 80.

In December, the pope accepted a report of a miracle attributed to Mother Marianne’s intervention. The miracle was the healing of a teenage girl with multiple organ failure.

Her body, buried at Kalaupapa, was exhumed in January and returned to Syracuse.

Once beatified, she will take the title “Blessed” and will be assigned a feast day on the church calendar. Acceptance of a second miracle is required for sainthood.

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