(Vatican Radio) An estimated 650 participants attending a congress for people with disabilities, gathered in the Paul VI hall on Saturday to be greeted by Pope Francis where he also answered questions from a number of those gathered.
The congress organized by the Italian Bishops Conference was taking place on the occasion of the Year of Mercy jubilee celebration for the sick and persons with disabilities, and on the 25th anniversary of the Sector for Catechesis for the disabled run by the Italian National Catechetical Office.
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report
In his prepared remarks, the Pope said, that this 25th anniversary offered them the chance to renew their commitment to ensure that disabled people were fully welcomed in parishes, associations and ecclesial movements.
During the encounter Pope Francis took questions from a number of participants. One of those gathered was Fr Luigi who came from a parish in the South of Rome. He explained to the Pope that sometimes even in his parish not everyone has the capacity to be really welcoming and asked the Holy Father, how was it possible to educate people so they are able to welcome everyone? The Holy Father respond by saying that there was a richness in diversity and it was important to remember that in order to move forward.
Another participant Serena told the Pope that she at times was not allowed to take part in certain celebrations with other people in her parish, due to her disability and asked the Pope to explain to her why this could be so? Pope Francis replied by saying many people are the subject of discrimination and that was a terrible thing. He added that sometimes there are reasons for decisions taken, but told Serena that she as a disabled person had the possibility to be better and that everyone had the possibility to grow.
Following the event the Holy Father greeted the many people with disabilities gathered, many of whom had come bearing gifts for him.