Vatican City, 22 November 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father today received in audience the participants in the 29th International Conference organised by the Pontifical Council for Health Workers (for Health Pastoral Care), dedicated to autism, including persons affected by this disorder and their families.
The Pope thanked the organisers of the Conference for having chosen such a complex theme, “which appeals directly to the responsibility of governments and institutions, without forgetting, of course, Christian communities”, and he emphasised the need for common efforts to promote “acceptance, encounter and solidarity … to break through the isolation and, in many cases, the stigma that burdens people affected by autism spectrum disorders, and frequently also their families”.
“This does not mean an anonymous and impersonal accompaniment, but instead and above all listening to the profound needs that emerge from within a disorder that is not only often difficult to diagnose, but which does not easily find acceptance without shame and solitude. In the assistance of those affected … it would be helpful to create, throughout the country, a network of support and services, complete and accessible, involving not only parents but also grandparents, friends, therapists, teachers and pastoral workers. These figures may help families to overcome the sensations of inadequacy, inefficacy and frustration that may emerge”.
Pope Francis went on to thank, personally and on behalf of the Church, the families and religious groups and various associations present for the work they carry out every day with persons affected by autism, and encouraged scholars and researchers in the arduous task of discovering therapies and support mechanisms in the treatment and above all the prevention of these disorders. He concluded, “All this is to be done with the necessary attention to the rights of those affected, considering their needs and their potential, and always safeguarding the dignity of every person”.