Vatican City, 25 January 2013 (VIS) – This Sunday, 27 January, will mark the 60th World Day for the Fight Against Leprosy. For the occasion, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, has published a message entitled: "A Fitting Occasion for Intensifying the Service of Charity". In the text of the document the archbishop notes that Hansen's disease is "a malady that is as old as it is grave when we consider the suffering, the social exclusion and the poverty that [it] involves".
"According to the most recent data of the WHO," the message states, "about 220,000 people―men, women and children―contracted leprosy in 2011 and many of these new cases were diagnosed when the disease was at an advanced stage. These data demonstrate the continuation―notwithstanding the praiseworthy action of international and national, governmental and non-governmental, institutions, such as the WHO and the Raoul Follereau Foundation and the Sasakawa Foundation―of a still insufficient level of access to centres that offer diagnoses and of a lack of education as regards prevention in communities that run the risk of contagion, as well as the need for specifically designed medico-hygienic initiatives. All of this is fundamental in the case of leprosy, which by now does not lead to death if it is suitably treated, as it is the case, to a greater extent, of the other ‘neglected diseases’ ... These are pathologies that constitute authentic scourges in some parts of the world but which do not receive sufficient attention from the international community; amongst these pathologies we find dengue fever, sleeping sickness, bilharziosis, onchocerciasis, leishmaniasis, and trachoma."
"In the face of such a health-care emergency, in the light of the Year of Faith as well, and with the wish to commit ourselves increasingly intensely, as Catholics, to carrying out what Jesus requested by his commandment ‘Euntes docete et curate infirmos’ and by our baptism, I wish to renew my invitation to work to ensure that this Sixtieth World Leprosy Day constitutes a new ‘fitting occasion for intensifying the service of charity in our ecclesial communities, so that each one of us can be a good Samaritan for others, for those close to us’."
"An equally important role should also be played by all those people who are victims of leprosy, who are called to cooperate in the establishment of a more inclusive and just society that will allow the integration of those people who have been cured of leprosy; in spreading and promoting its forms of diagnosis and treatment; in stressing the need to receive therapies so as to be cured, thereby contributing to a weakening of the disease; and in distributing those medico-hygienic criteria that are indispensable to hindering its further propagation in the contexts to which they belong."
"As a Christian, a person who has been afflicted by leprosy also has the possibility of living his or her condition in a perspective of faith, ‘finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love’, praying and offering up his or her suffering for the good of the Church and humanity. In awareness that what has been emphasised is certainly not easy, and requires charity towards themselves and their neighbours, hope, courage, patience and determination, I would like to observe, employing the words of St. Paul, that none of us ‘received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear’: we have ‘received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!"’. And, ‘if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him’. Even in the most adverse situations, a Christian is certain that ‘nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’," concludes the text.