On December 3, Pope Francis marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a profound statement, one that should be non-controversial but is still pretty revolutionary. He insisted that the disabled should not only be welcomed physically into the church, but should be embraced fully as equals, even embraced as catechists in their own right.
These words echo sentiments from the Directory for Catechesis, recently updated and republished by the USCCB in June. In that document, Pope Francis said that communities care for the disabled through “twofold attention” to their education in the faith and their formation as active ministers. He pointed out the presence of disabled people enriches the community, which “becomes more aware of the salvific mystery of the cross of Christ.”
Pope Francis doubled down on this summer publication in his December 3 statement, urging parishes to “build back better” by not just improving physical access to worship spaces, but reimagining the ways in which their disabled members participate in the liturgical life of the church. Referring to the parable of the house built on sand, he likened our throwaway culture of death to the stormy deluge threatening the house.