UN leprosy ambassador upset at pope’s remarks

Mauro Olivieri

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The U.N. goodwill ambassador for eliminating leprosy has written to Pope Francis complaining about his recent comment that careerism among Catholic Church officials was “a leprosy.”

In a letter to Francis released Thursday, Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa wrote that such remarks can reinforce discrimination against leprosy patients and their families. He said he feared the Argentine-born pope’s comments could have a big impact in South America, “where there are many Catholics and still quite a few people affected by leprosy.”

Sasakawa asked for an audience with the pope to update him on the fight against the disease.

Speaking on June 6 to students of the Vatican’s diplomatic academy, Francis urged them not to become career-focused bureaucrats but to be missionary priests. He said: “Carreerism is a leprosy, a leprosy.”

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