Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - After the Marian prayer of the Angelus, transmitted from the Library of the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, Pope Francis recalled the 68th World Day for Leprosy Sufferers and encouraged those who are alongside the sick with these words: "Today we are celebrating World Leprosy Day, which began more than sixty years ago by Raoul Follereau and is being continued especially by the associations inspired by his humanitarian work. I express my closeness to those who suffer from this disease, and I encourage missionaries, health workers and volunteers committed to their service. The pandemic has confirmed the need to protect the right to health for the most vulnerable people: I hope that the leaders of the nations will join efforts to treat the sick of Hansen's disease and to ensure their social inclusion".
The Church has a long tradition of helping lepers, especially in mission territories, which is expressed, in addition to medical care and spiritual assistance, by offering them the possibility of reintegration into society and promoting their rights. Eloquent in this regard are the testimonies of many missionary Saints who dedicated their lives to alleviate the sufferings of leprosy patients, such as Saint Jozef Daamian De Veuster SSCC, Saint Marianna Cope, OSF, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Jan Beyzym, SJ, the Venerable Marcello Candia, layman. According to data of the latest "Statistical Yearbook of the Church", the Catholic Church manages 577 centers for leprosy patients worldwide: 209 in Africa, 33 in America, 316 in Asia, 18 in Europe and 1 in Oceania. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 1/2/2021)