Message for Leprosy Day Notes "Image of God"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2004 ( The Church sees the “image of God” in lepers and proclaims its respect and esteem for those afflicted, says the Holy See’s message for World Leprosy Day.

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The message, signed by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, appeals to the whole Church to continue giving a helping hand to lepers, so stricken “by the physical sickness and the prejudices that lead to a humiliating exclusion.”

World Day of Leprosy Patients, which will be observed Sunday, was established in 1953 by Raoul Follereau, “the apostle of lepers.”

Praising the commitment of many religious, priests and lay people for their care of leprosy patients, the cardinal notes that the disease is far from defeated.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2002 there were 620,672 new cases recorded: 48,248 in Africa; 39,939 in the Americas; 4,665 in the Mideast; 520,632 in South and Southeast Asia; 7,154 in the Far East and Pacific; and 34 in Europe.

Between 2 million and 3 million people suffer the effects of Hansen’s disease, as it is known technically. The Catholic Church administers to 817,321 patients in 678 leprosariums worldwide.

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