(Vatican Radio) Hundreds of experts from around the world are in Rome this weekend to attend a conference looking at best practices to help people with disabilities fully engage in the life of the Church.
The aim of the event entitled "Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church" is to bring together all the resources available for the catechesis of people with disabilities.
On Saturday the 450 participants, including those with special needs, will have a private audience with Pope Francis.
One of the experts taking part is Dr Liam Waldron, whose specialist subject is isolation and disability.
He spoke to Lydia O’Kane about the important place those with special needs have in the life of the Church and the issue of isolation and loneliness which many people with disabilities can face ”
Listen to the interview:
Disability and the Church
Speaking about the role the Church can play with regard to best practice for those with special needs, Dr Waldron says, “people with disabilities of all kinds are members of our parishes all over the world… but I think that really what we have to watch is, issues of caring for people with disabilities is not just somebody’s job, one person’s job or the job of a committee for example…it’s everyone’s business because they are our brothers and sisters, they’re part of our communities everywhere around the world and I think that it’s important that they’re seen as key and core to the lives of our parishes everywhere.”
Isolation and the role of Radio and TV
A real issue affecting many people with disabilities is isolation and loneliness and it’s a subject that Dr Waldron has studied at length. “There are so many people with disabilities around the world who have no friends and this really is a scandal, and I think we as Christians need to be doing something about it”, he stresses. They’re at home, they’re isolated, they’re in houses and apartments on their own, they have the radio, that’s where they get their companionship, that’s where they hear what’s happening in the world even related to the Church for example. If there are Church people they listen in, a lot of people have told me that. So Radio, TV, all of those media are really rightly important lifelines for people who have disabilities and they often tell me that their day is punctuated by certain radio shows and radio programmes…”
Asked about what he hopes the conference will achieve, Dr Waldron says, “I would like this conference to be the beginning of another renewed conversation about the vitally important place of people with disabilities in the life of the Church.”
The three day conference is being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and partnered by The Kairos Forum, a UK based organisation that focuses on the spiritual and religious needs of people with disabilities.
It runs from Oct 20 to 22nd.