The message for the World Day for Leprosy was released today from president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Ministry, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski. The archbishop explained in the message that "it's not only a day of reflection on this devastating disease but, most of all, it's a day of solidarity with the brothers and sisters than are affected by it."
Quoting a statistic from the World Health Organization of 210,000 new cases of the disease in 2009, Archbishop Zimowski, said that to this number we can add the "innumerable" additional people "that have been infected but not counted and still lack access to a cure."
In the message, released for the observance of the "World Day" on Jan. 31, the archbishop explains that the disease remains "invisible to the eyes of others, of society (and) of public opinion," despite its significant presence in Asia, South America and Africa.
"In the most economically-advanced countries it seems like this disease has been forgotten, as have also the people affected by it," he noted.
Many, said the archbishop, including St. Damian and "so many other saints and men of good will have helped to overcome the negative attitudes towards leprosy," and there is an effective cure for the disease, but it persists in the world due mainly to collective and individual poverty. The plight of those infected is not helped by an accompanying fear of the disease, he added.
Archbishop Zimowski also took the opportunity of the World Day for Leprosy to make a call "to the international community and to the authorities of each individual State, inviting them to develop and reinforce the strategies to fight leprosy, making them more effective and far-reaching especially in places where the number of new cases remains high.”
"This must be done without overlooking educational and awareness-raising campaigns capable of helping those affected, and their families, to emerge from isolation and obtain the necessary treatment," the archbishop advised.
At the end of his message, the president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Ministry expressed his thanks to the WHO, and to religious, missionaries, non-governmental associations and organisations, and many volunteers for their commitment "to eradicate this and other 'forgotten' diseases."