by Lydia O’Kane
On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3rd, Pope Francis recalls how the promotion of the right to participation plays a central role in combating discrimination and promoting a culture of encounter and quality of life.
In his message marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pope Francis notes that “great progress has been made towards people with disabilities in the medical and welfare fields.”
But he highlights the fact that even today there is still a culture of waste with many disabled people feeling that “they exist without belonging and without participating.”
Protection of rights
The Pope stresses that “all this calls not only for the rights of people with disabilities and their families to be protected”, but, he adds, “it also urges us to make the world more human” by removing prejudice.
It is necessary, Pope Francis writes, “to take care of and accompany people with disabilities in every condition of life, also making use of current technologies”, so that they can actively and with dignity participate in both civil and ecclesial communities.
He also says, that the accessibility of places and quality of life need to be promoted, taking into account all the dimensions of the human being.
In the message, the Pope emphasizes “the many ‘hidden exiles’ who live in our homes, our families and our societies”.
“I am thinking”, he continues, “of people of all ages, especially the elderly, who, also because of their disability, are sometimes felt as a burden, as ‘cumbersome presences’, and are in danger of being discarded, of being denied concrete job prospects to participate in the construction of their own future.”
Pope Francis stresses that “we need to develop antibodies against a culture that considers some lives” first or second class. This is a social sin”, he says.
A change of mentality needed
On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Pontiff invites people to “have the courage to give a voice to those who are discriminated against because of their disability.”
“Making good laws and breaking down physical barriers is important”, the Pope writes, “but it is not enough, if the mentality does not change.”
Concluding his message, Pope Francis encourages “all those who work with people with disabilities to continue with this important service and commitment, which determines the degree of civilization of a nation.”