A Maltese delegation led by Fr Martin Micallef, Director of Id-Dar tal-Providenza took part in an International Conference on Catechesis of Persons with Disability in the life of the Church. It was held at the Università Pontificia Urbaniana between Friday 20th and Sunday 22nd October 2017 and it was organised by the Pontificial Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The conference was opened by the President of the Pontificial Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation, Archbishop Rino Fisichella who also celebrated Holy Mass for the participants at St Peter’s Basilica at the end of the conference. Most of the speakers were either persons with disability or relatives of persons with disability. They shared experiences on what they are doing or what is happening in their respective dioceses so that persons with disability will have equal opportunities to grow in their faith.
On Saturday morning, the participants had to opportunity to meet Pope Francis at the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. In his address, Pope Francis reiterated that “although today there is a growth in awareness of the dignity of every person, at cultural level however expressions persist that harm the dignity of these people through the prevalence of a false concept of life.” The Pope said that “a vision that is often narcissistic and utilitarian unfortunately leads many to consider as marginal people with disabilities, without recognizing in them the multiform human and spiritual wealth.” He added that “an attitude of denying this condition, as if it prevented happiness and the realization of the self, is still too strong in the common mentality. This is shown by the eugenic tendency to suppress unborn children when they are shown to have some form of imperfection. In reality, we all know many people who, with their fragility, even in serious cases, have found the path of a good life rich in meaning, if with some hardship.”
On the subject of Catechesis , the Pope said that in a special way the Church “is called to discover and experiment with coherent forms so that every person, with his or her gifts, limits and disabilities, even serious, may encounter Jesus on the way and abandon himself to Him with faith.” He contuned to say that “no physical or psychic limit may ever be an obstacle to this encounter, because the face of Christ shines in the intimacy of every person.” The Pope urged the Church “to form – first of all by example – catechists who are increasingly capable of accompanying these people so that they may grow in faith and make their genuine and original contribution to the life of the Church.” Finally Pope Francis hoped that “in communities, people with disabilities may too be catechists, also by their witness, to transmit faith in a more effective way.”
The other members of the Maltese delegation apart from Fr Martin were Mrs Rita Darmanin from the Malta Catechetical Commission, Mr Natalino Psaila, a deaf person and Mrs Giselle Pisani, a mother of an autistic child.
At the end of the meeting with Pope Francis, Fr Martin presented him with a draft copy of a publication of a booklet of prayers in the Maltese Sign Language. The booklet is due to be published locally in the coming weeks.
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