Artistic depiction of Jesus touching and healing a man with leprosy Artistic depiction of Jesus touching and healing a man with leprosy 

Cardinal Czerny: World Leprosy Day a chance to be ‘united in dignity’

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development releases a message for World Leprosy Day, and calls on the Church never to let stigma and discrimination divide her members.

By Devin Watkins

Marking the 69th World Leprosy Day on Sunday, Cardinal Michael Czerny has expressed the Church’s solidarity with people who live with Hansen’s Disease.

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development sent a message to Church leaders and all people of good will, reflecting on the theme chosen for this year’s commemoration: “United in Dignity”.

The Cardinal noted that leprosy has been on the decline since a multidrug therapy was introduced in the 1980s, but said the tropical disease is still devastating and neglected.

“Beyond the daunting physical challenges associated with leprosy, the discouraging reality of stigma remains a formidable obstacle to total health and healing.”

Over the past year, over 127,000 cases of Hansen’s Disease were reported, with many cases leading to long-term complications.

Around 3-4 million people live with the visible impairments or deformities due to the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

‘United in Dignity’

Cardinal Czerny affirmed the right of people with leprosy to live in dignity, without discrimination.

He said stigma negatively affects the whole person, demeaning their spiritual and physical aspects.

“People with leprosy often bear a double burden; not only do they have to cope with the physical reality of the disease, but ‘many people with leprosy experience anxiety, depression, psychological distress, isolation and suicidal ideation.’”

Fruitful creativity

The Cardinal also recalled Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti, in which he urges everyone to embrace the suffering of our brothers and sisters and not remain indifferent.

“It is our common human dignity that knits us together as one. Jesus Christ teaches us this significant reality by His words, and even more so by His example.”

The Covid-19 pandemic, noted Cardinal Czerny, has made accessing healthcare even more difficult. However, he added, “no pandemic can change the dignity of the human person nor his or her inviolable worth and value in society”.

Being united in dignity, said the Cardinal, will result in fruitful creativity “that enables communities and individuals to recognize the value of every person, especially those who suffer from illness and disability.”

God-given value

Cardinal Czerny wrapped up his message for World Leprosy Day with a reminder that the medicine and technology to treat Hansen’s Disease exists and should be made more available to those who need it.

“May Our Lady, Help of the Sick, continue to intercede for us, that we may recognize in all persons that unique dignity and value that God has entrusted to the human family,” he prayed.

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30 January 2022, 12:15