Pope Francis met on Friday with Jean Vanier, founder of the International Federation of L’Arche, where people with and without disabilities live and work together in community.
Vanier met the pontiff during a trip to Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of L’Arche. The layman shared with Vatican Radio the ways in which Pope Francis has helped to raise awareness about the value of people with disabilities.
The founder of the largest and most well-known Catholic federation of communities for people with disability also said the weakest and most fragile members of society are necessary for the Church—the Body of Christ.
One day before his Friday meeting with Pope Francis, Jean Vanier told Vatican Radio that the Church today is actively engaged in helping people gain a better knowledge of the faith at an intellectual level. But when relating to people with disabilities, it is the heart that is more important, the desire for encounter.
Religious congregations, he said, are close to the poor and to people with disabilities, but they are mostly specialized groups on the outskirts.
He acknowledged a general malaise in the Church when ministering to people with disabilities. “Many people feel embarrassed before people with disability,” he said, adding that there are still priests who refuse to give Communion to people with disabilities.
“There is still work to do,” he said.
Many people also believe that one has to be a specialist to relate to people with disability. But the only need, he said, is to be human and to relate with the other with simplicity of heart.
He described Pope Francis as “super” in reference to his words and gestures regarding people with disability.
“He is the Pope of encounter in the profound sense of seeing the other as a human being, without judging,” said Vanier. “And I think he is teaching us that encounter is not about converting people or telling them something… but about looking at the other the way Jesus looks at them, with tenderness, kindness and love.”
Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/03/22/vanier:_still_work_to_do_in_church_re_people_with_disabilities/en1-783819
of the Vatican Radio website
Soruce: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/03/22/vanier:_still_work_to_do_in_church_re_people_with_disabilities/en1-783819 Vatican Radio