|Vatican||POPE PRAYS FOR LEPERS ON WORLD LEPROSY DAY|
On Sunday Pope John Paul marked World Leprosy Day with a prayer for sufferers of the centuries-old affliction.
"The Church, following the example of Christ, has always paid special attention to lepers," the Pope said in his regular post-Angelus address to worshipers in St Peter's Square.
"I embrace all the brothers and sisters who suffer from Hansen's disease and reiterate my hope that in this Holy Year they can feel the healing force of solidarity," said the Pontiff, looking fit and speaking in a clear voice. The Pope has declared 2000 a Roman Catholic Holy Year.
An estimated 2.5 to 2.8 million people suffer from leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease. World Health Organization figures show almost 80 percent of sufferers live in India.
Worst afflicted countries are Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal and Niger.
Reuters 12:38am 1/2/00