Pope: the autistic person can be a good Samaritan

Alice Topno

 “It is necessary to continue to raise awareness about the various aspects of disability, breaking down prejudices and promoting a culture of inclusion and belonging, based on the dignity of the person”: Pope Francis made this exhortation in his meeting with over 200 representatives of the Italian Autism Foundation (FIA), celebrating The World Autism Awareness Day.

The Pope appreciated the work done by the Italian Autism Foundation (FIA), an institution made up of researchers, doctors, psychologists, families and associations, whose common goal since 2015 has been the promotion of a culture in favour of people on the autism spectrum and with intellectual disabilities.

Pope Francis said “Today, more than ever, the themes and issues your Foundation faces are of vital importance. Indeed, by carrying out research and initiatives in favour of the weakest and most disadvantaged, you make a valid contribution to counteracting the throwaway culture, which is so widespread in our society that is too intent on competition and profit. We are victims of this throwaway culture.”

He encouraged a culture of inclusion, participation, and solidarity for those suffering from the disorder.  Many people with autism are gaining good work experience while others are dedicating themselves to helping others as -the Pope said-  St Margaret of Città di Castello, a young Italian woman with a disability who dedicated her life to the Lord in the service of the poor. The Pope emphasis Samaritan may be the same person with disabilities, with autism, who makes him- or herself close to others, placing his or her talents at the service of the community.

The Culture of inclusion and belonging represents a challenge and an opportunity to build together a more inclusive and civil society, where family members, teachers, and associations like FIA are not left alone but are supported by breaking down prejudices, and promoting a culture of inclusion and belonging, based on the dignity of the person.

An essential aspect of the culture of inclusion is the possibility for people with disabilities to participate actively. The Holy Father said “Placing them at the centre mean, besides breaking down physical barriers, also ensuring they can take part in the initiatives of the civil and ecclesial community, giving their contribution”.