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Pope marks World Leprosy Day

(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI marked the 60th World Leprosy Day this Sunday, calling on people to entrust their prayers for those suffering from Hansen’s disease to the intercession of St. Damien de Veuster and the recently canonised St. Marianna Cope.

Following the Angelus prayer he said: “Today we are celebrating the 60th World Leprosy Day. I express my closeness to those who suffer from this disease and encourage researchers, health professionals and volunteers, particularly those who are part of Catholic organizations and the Association of Friends of Raoul Follereau. I invoke the spiritual support of St. Damien de Veuster and St. Marianna Cope, who gave their lives for those suffering from leprosy”.

The President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers is drawing attention to the suffering of people with leprosy. In a message for the World Day, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski describes Hansen’s Disease, another name for Leprosy, as an “ancient evil” characterized by suffering, social exclusion and poverty. In his message, he calls on all Christians and people of good will to increase their efforts to reintegrate into society those suffering from Leprosy and their families.

The World Health Organization says some 220,000 men, women and children contracted Hansen’s Disease in 2011 alone – many reported in advanced stages of the crippling illness.
Despite international and non governmental efforts to curb the disease, the Archbishop says access to diagnostic facilities, training and prevention in at-risk communities is lacking.

Leprosy, the Archbishop reminds us, is just one of many “scourges” such as dengue fever, sleeping sickness and other deadly diseases which in developing nations cause hundreds of thousands to die or remain severely disabled each year. Raising awareness about health risks, proper sanitation and healthcare, the prelate noted, will help change these sad statistics.

This Year of Faith, writes the Archbishop, offers a new "favorable opportunity to enhance the service of charity…to each be the Good Samaritan,” bringing aid and comfort to the sick, for children and most marginalized.

Recalling Saints Damian and Marianna from the leper community on the island of Molokai, Archbishop Zimowski says victims are also called to become advocates of the prevention and spread of the disease and the social reintegration of others.

Listen to this report by Tracey McClure: RealAudioMP3