“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a very serious impact especially on the most vulnerable, on the elderly, on people with disabilities and their families. In recent weeks, the tragedy of the war in Ukraine has been added: let's think of those who are most disadvantaged,” he said.
World Autism Awareness Day takes place each year on April 2. It was established by the United Nations in 2008 to promote the rights and well-being of people who live with learning differences and developmental disabilities.
Pope Francis met with the Italian Autism Foundation, an organization dedicated to research and the creation of social inclusion programs for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Philip, a 20-year-old man living on the autism spectrum, shared his life experiences with the pope in a brief speech at the beginning of the meeting in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
After the papal audience, some of the group’s young members with autism volunteered to help bring food to the homeless in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope commended the young people for this “beautiful” gesture, which he said reminded him of the Good Samaritan described in Jesus’ parable in the Gospel of Luke.
“Closeness, compassion, tenderness. With these three features we see the face of God, the heart of God, the style of God,” he said.
Pope Francis pointed to the example of Saint Margaret of Citta de Castello, a 13th century woman born with multiple disabilities who devoted herself to prayer and caring for the poor.
He said that “all those men and women who are more fragile and vulnerable, too often marginalized because they are labeled as different or even useless … are actually a great treasure for society.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
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