By Hannah Brockhaus
Pope Francis said Tuesday that disabled people make important contributions to humanity, and called discrimination against them a sin. The pope added that disabled people are not members of humanity’s minor “leagues.”
“We are called to recognize in every person with a disability, even with complex and serious disabilities, a unique contribution to the common good through their original life story,” he said Dec. 3.
“Recognize the dignity of each one, knowing that it does not depend on the functionality of the five senses.”
Pope Francis sent his message on the 2019 World Day of People with Disabilities, the theme of which is “the future is accessible.”
The Gospel teaches the dignity of every person, the pope said, adding that everyone must work to fight a culture which considers some people to be part of “Serie A” and others “Serie B,” a reference to the major and minor Italian soccer leagues.
“A culture that considers some lives to be ‘League A’ and others ‘League B’” based on their physical or mental abilities is “a social sin!” he added.
Francis noted that unfortunately, in some countries, people with disabilities are not treated with equal dignity, “as brothers and sisters in humanity.”
“Have the courage to give voice to those who are discriminated against due to their disability,” he said.
Inclusive laws and protections against discrimination are important, but they are not enough if not accompanied by a change of mentality, he said, “if we do not overcome a widespread culture that continues to produce inequalities, preventing active participation in ordinary life for people with disabilities.”
Pope Francis asked everyone, on this World Day of People with Disabilities, to renew their faith, a faith which sees “in every brother and sister the presence of Christ himself, who considers every gesture of love for one of the least of his brothers to be made for him.”
“On this occasion, I would like to recall that today the promotion of participation rights has a central role to combat discrimination and promote a culture of encounter and quality life,” he said.
He explained that a lot of progress has been made in the medical and welfare fields, but even today there is a culture of waste, and a feeling for many that they exist “without belonging and without participating.”
“All this calls [us] not only to protect the rights of people with disabilities and their families,” he said, “but urges us to make the world more human by removing all that prevents them from full citizenship, the obstacles of prejudice, and by promoting the accessibility of places and quality of life, which takes into account all the dimensions of the human.”