The Nippon Foundation
Private audience with the Pope
Deep Understanding of Hansen’s Disease and Reference to the Tragedy of War
On the morning of January 26 (local time), Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO (World Health Organization) ambassador for the elimination of leprosy, had an audience with Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican Palace. We asked for cooperation to eliminate discrimination. In response, the Pope expressed his gratitude for the activities of the Ambassadors for the Elimination of Leprosy, and expressed his deep understanding that “leprosy is a curable disease and we need to continue our activities.” Pope Francis, who has visited Japan in 1981 and 2019, took out a photo of a boy standing at a crematory, which is known as a photograph of Nagasaki after the atomic bombings, and which the Pope himself has called for to be shared around the world. , It should not be done twice, ”he said.
On the 23rd and 24th, the Vatican of Rome and the Sasakawa Health Foundation co-hosted the second international symposium since 2016. Pope Francis also said at the symposium, “We must denounce and rectify the discrimination caused by leprosy.” I sent a message that said no. There are approximately 1.3 billion Catholics in the world, and the cooperation of the Vatican, which is the head temple of Catholicism, is a major force in activities to eradicate leprosy.
With Pope Francis for his deep understanding of leprosy (Photo by Vatican Media via Vatican PoolGetty Images)
▽Comment from Sasakawa: He also took a picture with a banner that read “Don’t Forget Leprosy/Hansen’s Disease”. It is obvious how much Pope Francis has warm affection for the oppressed. He gave me great strength and courage in carrying out activities against not only leprosy but also stigma and discrimination.
▽ Current status of leprosy: A treatment called MDT (multiple drug therapy) was established in the 1980s, and all countries except Brazil have achieved the WHO suppression standard of “less than 1 patient per 10,000 population”. Even now, there are approximately 200,000 new patients worldwide each year, and the global spread of the new coronavirus that occurred in 2020 has disrupted or delayed leprosy control projects in various countries, making it impossible to receive treatment. The number of patients is also increasing.
Meeting between Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, and Pope Francis
The Nippon Foundation held the International Leprosy Conference on January 23rd and 24th in the Vatican. On January 26, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, held a meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, the 266th Pope, at the Vatican Palace. Below is the content of the meeting.
Sasakawa: It’s an honor to meet you. I have devoted myself to activities to eliminate leprosy in the world. In particular, Hansen’s disease is a disease that involves discrimination, and efforts are being made to eliminate that discrimination. This time, with the help of the Vatican, we will hold a conference to eliminate discrimination against leprosy. There are many patients with Hansen’s disease in Catholic countries, especially in South America, especially in Brazil. It is a great achievement that we were able to hold a symposium on leprosy at the Vatican this time. We will continue to be active in South America, so I would like to have the opportunity to report again someday.
The Pope: (raising his left thumb) I am always ready for you (the door is open). Sasakawa: Hansen’s disease is a disease that is discriminated against by society even if it is completely cured. Some countries still have discriminatory laws, and even if you are completely cured of leprosy, you may not even be able to go to a restaurant. Due to this
discrimination, many of the recovering people are currently living as beggars (the pope nods as he listens). With the help of His Holiness the Pope, I would like to carry out activities to eradicate leprosy from the world, improve the lives of patients and those recovering from leprosy, and find a solution as a human rights issue.
Pope: The fight against leprosy continues in Argentina. Leprosy still exists in Argentina, and we, the Catholic Church, are working with passion and myth.
Sasakawa: I promise to work to reduce the number of leprosy patients to zero in Argentina (the Pope listens with a smile). Congratulations to Argentina on winning the soccer World Cup the other day. Did His Holiness see the World Cup?
Pope: I was too busy communicating with many people to see it. However, I am pleased to hear the results from you for the first time today. Thank you for your efforts to eliminate leprosy. Being cured is important and encouraging.
Sasakawa: In the 1980s, thanks to MDT, the cure for leprosy, approximately 16 million patients have been freed from the disease to date. However, it is also true that there are still hidden patients. Pope: We must actively seek and find.
Sasakawa: You are right. We have received great courage and strength from being able to meet His Holiness the Pope today.
The Pope: Thank you (the Pope raises both thumbs).
Sasakawa: When His Holiness the Pope visited Japan, the Japanese people warmly welcomed him. Do you have any memories of Japan? Pope: I have been to Japan twice. Last time, I visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Nagasaki was very moving. I felt a special connection. I saw a picture of the war in Nagasaki. I’m going to show you the picture now (the pope asked you to press the bell and bring the picture). It was a photograph of a boy who had fallen victim to the ravages of war, and it was very moving. This is a picture of my brother carrying his deceased brother on his back. This photo was taken by an American photographer. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet the photographer himself due to his poor physical condition, but I was able to meet the photographer’s son in Japan.
Sasakawa: Your Holiness, is there anything you would like to say to the people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima?
Pope: They are people who have suffered a lot in war. (While handing out photos to attendees) To the Japanese people
Respectful. This photo is of a boy waiting in line to cremate his deceased brother at the crematorium. It was taken by an American photographer. The boy bites his lips and has a look that endured the pain.
Sasakawa: World leaders are gathering in Hiroshima to prepare for an era without nuclear weapons. Your Holiness, what are your impressions of your visits to Nagasaki and Hiroshima?
Pope: War is a tragedy. War should never happen again. War should never happen again. (strength of language)
Sasakawa: I faced war when I was six years old. There was an air raid, and my mother and I were the only two survivors in the town where we lived. I believe that it is the responsibility of the survivors to work for the people of the world.
Pope: That’s great.
Sasakawa: Finally, I would like to ask His Holiness the Pope. Europeans tend to think of leprosy as a disease of the past, but there are still many leprosy patients in Africa, Asia and South America. (Showing the Don’t Forget Leprosy banner) I would like to hang this banner all over the world, and I would like to take a picture with His Holiness Pope Francis. .
Pope: Of course. (The Pope rings the bell to call the photographer, and the Pope and Sasakawa take a commemorative photo with the banner.) Sasakawa: This one photo will help people with leprosy all over the world. Thank you very much for your time.
Pope: I respect your work.
(Following this, the Pope handed over the medals, and after a handshake, the meeting ended.)
The words written on the back of the photo “Boy Standing at the Burning Place” (the original text is in Spanish, so this is a provisional translation):
“Products of War”
A child carrying his dead brother on his back at the crematorium. This photo was taken by American photographer Joseph Roger O’Donnell after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. A child’s grief can only be expressed by the bleeding of a bitten lip.
[About the Nippon Foundation]
The pain, the hope, the future, together.
Since its founding in 1962 as the largest foundation in Japan, The Nippon Foundation has
Activities in a wide range of fields, including children, people with disabilities, disasters, maritime affairs, and humanitarian assistance We are promoting the subsidy from the sales of the boat race as a financial resource.
Since the 1960s, efforts have been made to eradicate leprosy and the associated prejudice and discrimination.
We are continuing our activities.
https://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/what/projects/leprosy/about Details about this release: