Disabled Catholics share their vision for a synodal church

People are pictured in a screenshot of a Zoom meeting with Vatican officials during a listening session with 30 people with disabilities on May 19, 2022. The meeting was part of the preparation process for the Synod of Bishops. (CNS Photo courtesy Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life)

VATICAN CITY – Catholics with disabilities can and want to be active members of the Church and missionary disciples, but this will require challenging discrimination, exclusion and paternalism, participants in a listening session say online for the Synod of Bishops.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, sponsored a two-hour session on May 19 with representatives of episcopal conferences and international Catholic associations to hear directly from Catholics with disabilities , “who are often on the fringes of our churches,” according to a press release.

“Although many of them have already been involved in the meetings promoted by parishes, dioceses and associations” in preparation for the World Synod of Bishops in 2023, “the meeting was in fact the launch of a real process international synod dedicated to them,” the statement said.

Some 30 participants with sensory, physical or cognitive disabilities joined the meeting from more than 20 countries and shared in their own languages ​​- including three types of sign language – their thoughts on the synod questions: “How do we walk with Jesus and our brothers and sisters? sisters to proclaim it? For the future, what does the Spirit ask of our church to grow in our journey with Jesus and with our brothers and sisters to announce it?

“Four moving testimonies from Liberia, Ukraine, France and Mexico drew attention to the need to overcome discrimination, exclusion and paternalism,” the Vatican said.

A French woman with Down syndrome, who received a mandate from her bishop as a catechist and evangelist, told the assembly: “At birth, I could have been aborted. I am happy to live. I love everyone and thank God for creating me.

Father Schonstatt Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, told participants that one of the challenges of the synodal process is to “overcome all the prejudices” of people who think that someone who has difficulty expressing himself “don’t have a personal thought or anything interesting to communicate.

The Dicastery and Synod Office hope to continue the discussion with an in-person meeting, and participants in the online session have already committed to drafting a document to submit to Synod.

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