Kontum diocese in the Central Highlands says it aims to improve the material and spiritual lives of leprosy sufferers in remote ethnic villages. Some 80 priests, Religious and health workers who work with ethnic villagers suffering from leprosy shared their experiences and made long-term plans to serve them better at their annual meeting at Thang Thien Church in Pleiku City on May 10. Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh of Kontum told them that the diocese, which covers Gia Lai and Kon Tum provinces, has the largest number of lepers in the country. It is also home to many ethnic minority groups. “Try and make a detailed map of places where lepers reside and local congregations should be assigned to particular places,” Bishop Oanh suggested. The prelate urged Church workers to look for, and provide material support and healthcare, for lepers in remote villages. “These patients might not know what disease they are suffering from or do not want others to know about their disease,” he noted. The 72-year-old bishop also asked Church workers to educate local people about leprosy that is curable so they could be more sympathetic to sufferers. Father Pierre Nguyen Van Dong, head of Caritas in the diocese, said Church workers should teach patients how to tend their wounds, use medicine and provide health insurance for them. Patients should also be given clean water and even houses so that they can enjoy as normal life as possible. Father Dong also asked local Catholics to join Caritas in donating 1,000 dong (US$0.05) a day to support lepers. The diocese serves 250,000 Catholics including 160,000 ethnic people. In recent years, he said, Church workers have been visiting, providing food, medicine and accommodation and taking leprosy patients to state-run hospitals for treatment. The local Church is serving around 3,000 patients, he added. Related report New church hope for leprosy patients
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