Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - The Church has a long tradition of assistance towards leprosy patients, especially in mission territories, which is expressed not only with medical care and spiritual assistance, but also offering them the possibility of reintegration into society.
The testimonies of missionary Saints who dedicated their lives to alleviate the suffering of leprosy patients are eloquent in this regard, such as St. Jozef De Veuster Daamian SSCC, universally known as the Apostle of the lepers of Molokai, and Saint Marianne Cope, O.S.F., who spent 35 years in Molokai and together with other sisters carried out the work of Fr. Damiano; or Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Jan Beyzym, S.I., who served his pastoral role among the lepers of Madagascar, the venerable Marcello Candia and Raoul Follereau, the French writer and journalist who in 1954, introduced World leprosy Day, to be celebrated on the last Sunday of January.
According to the latest "Statistical Yearbook of the Church", the Catholic Church runs 612 centers for leprosy patients in the world: 174 in Africa, 43 in America (total), 313 in Asia, 81 in Europe and one in Oceania.
The nations that are home to the largest number of centers for leprosy patients are in Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo (27), Madagascar (26), Kenya (21); North America: United States (2); Central America: Mexico (5), Honduras (2); Central America-Antilles: Haiti (2) and Dominican Rep. (2); in South America: Brazil (14), Ecuador (4), Peru (4); in Asia: India (234), Korea (22), Vietnam (15); Oceania: Papua New Guinea (1); in Europe: Portugal (63), Germany (16), Belgium (1), Italy (1). (SL) (Agenzia Fides 28/01/2017)