Pope Benedict XVI has recently canonised five new saints, including Father Damien de Veuster, a 19th-century Belgian priest who worked with lepers living in government-sanctioned segregation in Molokai, Hawaii.
Saint Damien died from leprosy at Molokai in 1889, at the age of 49.
The Pope urged the faithful to learn from 'the luminous examples of these saints', who, as he said 'did not put themselves at the centre but chose to go against the current and live according to the Gospel.'
He also called for prayer and help for 'all those engaged with generosity in the fight against leprosy', and what he called 'other forms of leprosy - caused by lack of love, by ignorance and cowardliness.'
Many people today regard Saint Damien as a symbol of how society should treat, not only leprosy sufferers, but also those with HIV/AIDS.
Several 'Damien Centres' have been established worldwide to serve HIV/AIDS sufferers. It should be noted that 27 percent of health care for HIV/AIDS victims worldwide is provided by Catholic organisations.
ARNOLD JAGO (DR)