NEW YORK, NOV. 17 -- Scientists have positively identified a skeleton exhumed from a New York cemetery as the remains of a Haitian slave who is a candidate to become America's first black saint, Cardinal John O'Connor said today.
A team of archaeologists, forensic scientists and anthropologists determined that a skeleton dug up earlier this month was that of Pierre Toussaint, the cardinal said.
"The definitive identification was made of the bones, all of them in order, not a single one missing," O'Connor said at an archdiocesan conference on racial and ethnic issues. "This indeed is the skeleton of Pierre Toussaint."
He is considered the founder of Catholic Charities because he helped the needy for 66 years when no formal systems of assistance existed.
Toussaint was born in 1766 and brought to New York at age 21 by his French owners. Still enslaved, he became a leading hairdresser in the city and was allowed to keep some of his income.
When Toussaint's owner died, he left an impoverished widow and child, whom Toussaint secretly supported for 20 years. The widow freed Toussaint just before she died in 1807. Once free, he bought the freedom of slaves and lavished money on charities, including an orphanage and the city's first school for black children.