Pope Francis asks the Church and civil institutions to embrace inclusion and to foster the active participation of people with disabilities

  • In The Pope Video for December, Pope Francis asks for prayers for people with disabilities so that they “may be at the center of attention in society.”
  • “It means changing our mentality a little and opening ourselves to the abilities and talents of these people who are differently abled,” the Holy Father
  • In addition, Pope Francis calls on institutions to promote “inclusion programs that enhance” the active participation of persons with disabilities.

(Vatican City, 28 November 2023) – “Programs and initiatives are needed that promote their inclusion,” Pope Francis says in the December edition of The Pope Video in which he asks that we pray for people with disabilities. Through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the Holy Father asks “that people with disabilities be at the center of attention in society, and that institutions offer inclusion programs that enhance their active participation.”

This prayer intention coincides with the month in which the UN established the International Day of People with Disabilities (December 3) with the objective of promoting their rights and well-being. Pope Francis insists on the concept of “differently abled” to underline the huge contribution that the full inclusion and appreciation of the most fragile people can bring to society.

This is attested to by the images that accompany the Pope’s words: different stories that together show the capacity of enhancing the talents of people with disabilities. From scenes of paralympic athletes who successfully challenge their own limitations in various international competitions, to those of showing the friends of the Community of Sant’Egidio painting works of art or serving tables in a restaurant. Others show a Jesuit theologian in Australia who has a visual disability, another, a nun with Down’s Syndrome ministering in Lourdes, both of whom participated in a meeting prior to the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which was recounted in the #IAmChurch campaign sponsored by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. The Pope Video this month, produced in collaboration with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is a song to life itself, as well as an appeal to change our way of thinking.

Society and the Church

In our world today, Pope Francis reports, some people with disabilities “suffer rejection, rooted in either ignorance or prejudice, which then marginalizes them.” It is, therefore, time to “change our mentality a little and open ourselves to the abilities and talents of these people who are differently abled, both in society as well as in the life of the Church.” The Pope then asks civil institutions to support the projects of people with disabilities, by providing “access to education, employment, and places where they can express their creativity” and with initiatives “that promote their inclusion.” The Church, he says, should not limit itself to eliminating physical barriers,” but should also “stop talking about ‘them’ and start talking about ‘us.’” He reiterates to all of us that, “big hearts are needed who want to accompany.”

A deeper way of seeing

Regarding the Holy Father’s video for the month of December, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, adds: “The Pope’s invitation to welcome people with disabilities in the life of the Church and society is a huge help toward recognizing the mystery each person is. Jesus was in contact with people who experienced physical, psychological and spiritual fragility. He saw beauty and promise in them. By perceiving the divine mystery in Him, they felt the presence of the One who saves, of the One who is Father. In a world where productivity seems to be more important than the human person, and beauty is regulated by commercial standards, the Christian community gains a deeper and freer way of seeing in prayer. The Church denies participation in the Word and the Sacraments to no one, but rather shares the right way with every person. Our very often non-inclusive societies need a common and concrete commitment so that, following Jesus’ example, everyone’s dignity might be respected and fraternity might grow.”

Inclusion, the rock on which we must build

Father Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, backs up Pope Francis’ invitation: “the focus of this month’s Pope’s prayer intention is to promote the active participation of people with disabilities, building programs and initiatives that no one is excluded from, so that they might be supported, welcomed, integrated and recognized by society. This is what Jesus did – he welcomed everyone. No one felt excluded by him. We know this, but we find it difficult to live it. This is why we must pray, because it requires a change of mentality, of how we see things, beginning with our own way of seeing things. This is how, the Pope tells us, we can ‘open ourselves to the abilities and talents of these people who are differently abled, both in society as well as in the life of the Church.’”

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About The Pope Video
The Pope Video is an official global initiative with the purpose of disseminating the Holy Father’s monthly prayer intentions. It is carried out by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer). Since 2016, The Pope Video has had more than 210 million views across all the Vatican’s social networks, and is translated into more than 23 languages, receiving press coverage in 114 countries. The videos are produced and created by The Pope Video Prayer Network team, coordinated by Andrea Sarubbi, and distributed by La Machi Communication for Good Causes. The project is sponsored by Vatican Media. More information: The Pope Video.

About the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network
The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is a Vatican foundation, with the mission of mobilizing Catholics through prayer and action in response to the challenges facing humanity and the mission of the Church. These challenges are presented in the form of prayer intentions entrusted by the Pope to the entire Church. The foundation’s mission is inscribed in the dynamic of the Heart of Jesus, a mission of compassion for the world. Founded in 1844 as the Apostleship of Prayer, it is present in 89 countries, and is made up of more than 22 million Catholics. It includes a youth branch, the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM). In December 2020, the Pope constituted this pontifical work as a Vatican Foundation and approved its new statutes. Its international director is Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ. For more information, visit: www.popesprayer.va.

About the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was created on 17 August 2016. Since January 2017, the competencies of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers were united in the Dicastery. The Dicastery promotes the human development of the person in the light of the Gospel according to the social doctrine of the Church. It pays close attention to questions regarding social justice; deepens and develops themes regarding the common good, peace and the protection of creation, human rights, healthcare, migrants and human trafficking; and expresses the solicitude and concern of the Pope for those who suffer and are in need.

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