Pope Francis advocates for inclusion of people with disabilities in society

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA


Pope Francis met with the Italian Autism Foundation in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on April 1, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Apr 1, 2022 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Ahead of World Autism Awareness Day, Pope Francis called for a “culture of inclusion,” which breaks down barriers to ensure that people with disabilities can more fully take part in church communities and civil society.

Pope Francis met with an autism association at the Vatican on Friday and expressed the importance of supporting education, employment, and social opportunities for people with all types of disabilities.

“Disability, in all its forms, represents a challenge and an opportunity to build together a more inclusive and civil society, where family members, teachers and associations like yours are not left alone but are supported,” the pope said in the meeting on April 1.

“For this reason, it is necessary to continue to raise awareness about the various aspects of disability, breaking down prejudices and promoting a culture of inclusion and belonging, based on the dignity of the person.”

The pope underlined that the Church in particular is called to help those with disabilities to “make their voices heard.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a very serious impact especially on the most vulnerable, on the elderly, on people with disabilities and their families. In recent weeks, the tragedy of the war in Ukraine has been added: let’s think of those who are most disadvantaged,” he said.

World Autism Awareness Day takes place each year on April 2. It was established by the United Nations in 2008 to promote the rights and well-being of people who live with learning differences and developmental disabilities.

Pope Francis met with the Italian Autism Foundation, an organization dedicated to research and the creation of social inclusion programs for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Philip, a 20-year-old man living on the autism spectrum, shared his life experiences with the pope in a brief speech at the beginning of the meeting in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

After the papal audience, some of the group’s young members with autism volunteered to help bring food to the homeless in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope commended the young people for this “beautiful” gesture, which he said reminded him of the Good Samaritan described in Jesus’ parable in the Gospel of Luke.

“Closeness, compassion, tenderness. With these three features we see the face of God, the heart of God, the style of God,” he said.

Pope Francis pointed to the example of Saint Margaret of Citta de Castello, a 13th century woman born with multiple disabilities who devoted herself to prayer and caring for the poor.

He said that “all those men and women who are more fragile and vulnerable, too often marginalized because they are labeled as different or even useless … are actually a great treasure for society.”

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  1. Francis fails to counsel obstinate ‘Catholic’ politicians who support abortion. ‘Catholic’ politicians fail to denounce abortion of those identified in the womb as disabled.

    Francis’ words on ‘including’ the disabled carry no weight of moral authority.

    I am proud parent to one God-enabled ‘disabled’ person, a blessing beyond any worldly measure.

    • My son’s disability was discovered during pregnancy. We terminated our relationship with the Ob-Gyn doc whose vehement recommendation of abortion we denounced.

      It has ever since been our understanding that persons with disabilities display and demonstrate the effects and consequences of original sin. Acknowledging and working with our son with this view has kept us based in reality, integrity, and sanity. Else how do we understand the reproach of those who do not accept persons with disability?

      Many ‘typically abled’ persons tend to deny that they themselves are infected. They tend to deny that they contain or carry any germ of imperfection, seeming to see themselves as glorious specimens of knowledge, materiality, and beauty. Like Job’s friends and wife, they view people like Job, people with sin shining through, as to blame, at fault, ‘not right.’ This calls to mind the existence of sin in otherwise ‘perfect’ lives.

      To keep society pure, the ‘perfect’ prefer a holocaust, an exclusion, a slaughter, a denial of the ‘disabled.’

      Let Francis talk about SIN in ALL. Acknowledging this reality will grant Francis a share of solidarity with the ‘disabled.’ Then will moral authority be granted unto the man.

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