Cardinal Robert Sarah’s detailed discourse on leprosy in the Bible and its association with divine punishment — “the plague par excellence with which God strikes sinners” — was a reminder for those attending a recent Vatican symposium of how deeply perceptions of leprosy have been influenced by its Biblical representation.
Notwithstanding the example of Jesus in the New Testament, who touches people with leprosy, heals them and reintegrates them into the community, the social prejudice that surrounds the disease has proved hard to root out — despite the medical advances that have been made.
Tapping into the world’s religions, especially the Catholic Church, and urging faith leaders to use their influence to help end the stigmatization of leprosy, was one of the goals of Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa when he first proposed the Vatican symposium. In the Conclusions and Recommendations, the symposium duly issued such a call. Let us have faith its recommendations will be acted upon.