Out of the Shadows

Making room in your parish for people with disabilities

August 15-22, 2016 Issue America Magazine
Kevin Clarke

Continuing what has been a series of powerful gestures to quite literally embrace people with physical or intellectual disabilities, Pope Francis celebrated Mass during the jubilee of the sick and persons with disabilities on June 12. He was accompanied by altar servers with Down syndrome and persons with disabilities proclaimed the first two Scripture readings, including one in Braille. “The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’—not to mention fake—people live there,” he said, “but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase.”

In an age when many seem to believe “anything imperfect has to be hidden away,” the pope said that limitations are part of being human. “Each of us, sooner or later, is called to face—at times painfully—frailty and illness, both our own and those of others.” The day before the Mass, answering questions from participants at a conference on catechesis for persons with disabilities, Pope Francis said a pastor who declines to provide special religious education classes “must convert.”

“Think of a priest who does not welcome everyone. What advice would the pope give him?” Pope Francis asked. “Close the doors of the church! Either everyone or no one” should enter.

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