Dear Friends in Christ,
It is appropriate that we observe and celebrate the International Day of People with Disability as we prepare during the Advent season for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The theme this year is,
“Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”.
The overarching principle of this theme is to ‘leave no one behind’ and empowers people with disability to be active contributors to society, which includes active participation in our Church and faith communities.
In his address to Government officials this year, Pope Francis stated:
“True development is measured by concern for human beings, who are the heart of all development: concern for their education, health and dignity. The greatness of any nation is revealed in its effective care of society’s most vulnerable members – women, children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and minorities – lest any person or social group be excluded or marginalized”. (4/28/17, Government Authorities)
As members of the Catholic Church in Australia, are we ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’?
People with disability and their families have told us, that invitation and access to their parishes and faith communities is vital for their full participation in the Church. There is still a need for videos to be captioned and materials be made available in large print and Braille. The Catholic Deaf community in Australia has called for a stronger presence of Auslan interpreters for major diocesan and national events. People with mental health issues have requested a greater role in our Church. When access is provided, everyone is included and no one is left behind.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave to his disciples the most privileged of names; I call you friends. Friendship, which is open and apostolic, leads to the harmony of mutual giving and receiving in times of both joy and sorrow. Friendship welcomes all. We must not forget the great value for real and meaningful friendships with people with disability and their families.
We must accept the call to be communities that gladly welcome people with disability and their families, recognising in all the presence of Christ.
I invite you to consider using the materials and resources available at catholic.org.au/disability to promote and recognise the gifts of people with disability and to celebrate International Day of People with Disability, which is observed on the third day of December each year.
Thank you again for your support in this most important endeavour.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Terence J Brady,
Bishops’ Delegate for Disability Issues
Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference