From exclusion to belonging

An appeal to transform “indifference into proximity” and “exclusion into belonging” was launched by Pope Francis during a meeting with a group of people with disabilities, received in audience on Saturday, December 3, in the Clementine Room on the occasion of the international day dedicated to them.

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

I am glad to meet you today, on the occasion of the World Day of Persons with Disabilities. I thank Monsignor Giuseppe Baturi for his words and also for the commitment of the Churches in Italy to keep care for people with disabilities alive, with active and inclusive pastoral action. Promoting recognition of the dignity of every person is a constant responsibility of the Church: it is the mission of continuing over time the closeness of Jesus Christ to every man and every woman, particularly those who are most fragile and vulnerable. The Lord is near.

Welcoming people with disabilities and responding to their needs is a duty of the civil and ecclesial community, because the human person, “even if he is weak in mind or in his sensory and intellectual capacities, is a fully human subject, with the sacred and inalienable rights of every human creature” (Saint John Paul ii , Speech to the participants of the Symposium “Dignity and rights of persons with disabilities”January 8, 2004).

This was the look of Jesus on the people he met: a look of tenderness and mercy especially for those who were excluded from the attention of the powerful and even the religious authorities of his time. For this reason, each time the Christian community transforms indifference into proximity – this is a true conversion: transforming indifference into proximity and closeness – each time the Church does this and transforms exclusion into belonging, it fulfills its own prophetic mission. In fact, it is not enough to defend people’s rights; it is necessary to work to also respond to their existential needs, in the various dimensions, bodily, psychic, social and spiritual.

Each man and each woman, in fact, in whatever condition they find themselves, is the bearer, in addition to the rights that must be recognized and guaranteed, also of even deeper instances, such as the need to belong, to relate and to cultivate spiritual life. until experiencing the fullness and blessing the Lord for this unrepeatable and wonderful gift.

Generating and sustaining inclusive communities – this word is important, inclusive, always – means, then, eliminating all discrimination and concretely satisfying the demand of every person to feel recognized and feel part of. In fact, there is no inclusion if the experience of fraternity and reciprocal communion is lacking. There is no inclusion if it remains a slogan, a formula to use in politically correct speeches, a flag to appropriate. There is no inclusion if there is a lack of conversion in the practices of coexistence and relationships.

It is necessary to guarantee people with disabilities access to buildings and meeting places, make languages ​​accessible and overcome physical barriers and prejudices. But this is not enough. It is necessary to promote a spirituality of communion, so that each one feels part of a body, with its unrepeatable personality. Only in this way each person, with their limits and their gifts, will feel encouraged to do their part for the good of the whole ecclesial body and for the good of the whole society.

I wish all Christian communities to be places where “belonging” and “inclusion” do not remain words to be pronounced on certain occasions, but instead become an objective of ordinary pastoral action. In this way we can be credible when we announce that the Lord loves everyone, that he is salvation for everyone and invites everyone to the table of life, no one excluded. I am very moved when the Lord tells the story of that man who had a party for his son’s wedding and the guests did not come (cf. mt 22,1-14). He calls the servants and says: “Go to the crossroads and bring everyone.” “Everyone” says the Lord: young, old, sick, not sick, small, big, sinners and non-sinners… Everyone, everyone, everyone! This is the Lord: all, without exclusion. The Church is the home of all, the heart of the Christian is the home of all, without exclusion. We must learn this. We are sometimes a little tempted to go down the path of exclusion. No: inclusion. The Lord has taught us: all. “But this one is ugly, this one is like that…”. Everyone, everyone. The inclution.

Dear brothers and sisters, at this time, in which we daily hear war bulletins, your testimony is a concrete sign of peace, a sign of hope for a more humane and fraternal world, for all. Go forward on this path! I bless you from my heart and I pray for you. Thank you for what you do, thank you! And I ask you to pray for me. Thank you!

From exclusion to belonging – L’Osservatore Romano