Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski told those affected by leprosy that God's love will never fail them.
In statement for the 59th World Leprosy Day, which will be observed on Jan. 29, the archbishop addressed survivors of the disease and those still suffering from it around the globe.
“He who is in suffering and … prays to the Lord is certain that God's love will never abandon him,” the Archbishop told those who are suffering from the disease.
Archbishop Zimowski, who heads the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, said that those currently being treated for leprosy can and must “express all the riches of their dignity and spirituality.” He also counseled them to be in solidarity with others who have been “equally afflicted and have been marked indelibly by this infection.”
Those who have been cured of the disease can “communicate their gratitude in a practical way” by providing moral support to those still suffering from leprosy and contributing to the identification and prevention of the disease, he said.
“Those who have attained a cure can in this way communicate all their interior riches ... as people touched by suffering and involved in working for the health of the community to which they belong.”
Leprosy, which is also called Hansen’s Disease, has not been eradicated from the modern world, although it continues to decrease every year. The World Health Organization estimated a total of about 200,000 cases in 2010 – 2011.
Archbishop Zimowski said that God's love and the love of the Church, which is an extension of God's work, “will never fail” them.
Pope Benedict XVI recently chose the gospel passage of Luke 17:19, “Stand and go; your faith has saved you” as the theme for the 20th World Day of the Sick, to be held on Feb. 11.
The archbishop pointed out that those afflicted by leprosy can find particular comfort in the Pope's scripture selection because it speaks of Christ's healing of the 10 lepers who were “readmitted to the community and reintegrated into the social occupational fabric.”
He expanded on the scripture passage by pointing out that the leper who returned to thank Jesus showed that “reacquired health is a sign of something more precious that mere physical healing.” The healing that the leper experienced was also a sign of salvation through Christ.
Archbishop Zimowski noted the many volunteer organizations that have helped in reducing the number of cases of leprosy, especially the Raoul Follereau Foundation based in Bologna, Italy.
He urged those involved in treating leprosy to fight against the disease and to continue their work “tenaciously” to reduce relapse cases.