Observes World Day Against Hansen´s Disease

John Paul II Recalls Plight of Lepers

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2001 (Zenit.org)0.-
John Paul II today remembered the plight of lepers, the most forlorn of patients, and assured them of his solidarity and prayer.

The Holy Father spoke for World Day Against Hansen´s Disease, or leprosy, which affects 12 million people. The disease is widespread in 91 countries; 73% of recorded cases are in India, followed, in order, by Brazil, Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania.

When greeting pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square today, from his library window, the Holy Father expressed his appreciation for all «those who, in different ways, commit themselves to conquer Hansen´s disease and remain close to those affected by it.»

He acknowledged the Friends of Raoul Follereau association, which works to raise public awareness about this illness, and appeals for funds to banish this disease.

First treatments against the disease began in 1940, with only partial results. Polychemotherapy was introduced at the end of the 1970s, and, thanks to this treatment, over the past decade 10 million people have been cured.

In a report, the international agency Fides denounced that the large pharmaceutical companies are not interested in investing in research to find a vaccine against leprosy, which affects the poorest of the planet.

The Church manages 823 leprosariums: 375 in Africa (116 in Senegal alone); 92 in America (including 43 in Brazil, 8 in Mexico, 5 in Haiti, 3 in the Caribbean Islands, 1 in Guatemala); 349 in Asia (including 263 in India); 6 in Europe; and 1 in Oceania, in Papua New Guinea.

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