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Pope calls for greater inclusion on World Day of the Deaf

By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 September, 2018

Pontiff pays tribute to those who value the life of every human being, particularly the dignity of deaf people.

Pope Francis has called for greater inclusion of the deaf community.

On World Deaf Day, the Pontiff lamented, in his message to the Ente Nazionale Sordi (ENS), or Italian National Agency for the Deaf, the prevalent culture of exclusion. He urged society to increase its welcome, inclusion, encounter and solidarity for the deaf.

He paid tribute to those who down the years have committed themselves to “fighting exclusion and the culture of waste in order to protect and promote, in every area, the value of the life of every human being and, in particular, the dignity of deaf people”.

Those people had not given up but had continued to believe in the self-determination of deaf people, he said.

According to the Pope, the fact that many deaf people and their families no longer feel alone was an important achievement.

But the Pontiff lamented that while progress had been made over the decades in the scientific, social and cultural fields, a dangerous and unacceptable culture of waste had also spread due to economic interests. He said power and unbridled consumption had replaced the centrality of the human person.

Among the victims of this culture, the Pope highlighted were the most fragile – the elderly and young people.

The Pope told members of the ENS, “Together we are called to go against the tide, fighting first of all that the right of every man and woman to a dignified life be always protected.”

He said, “It is not just a question of satisfying certain needs, but even more of seeing one’s own desire to be welcomed and to be able to live independently recognised.”

The challenge, Pope Francis said, is that inclusion should become a mentality and a culture, and that legislators and leaders should give this cause their consistent and concrete support.

The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) initiated the observance of World Deaf Day in 1958, with the first celebration taking place in Rome on 28 September that year.

The annual day was later extended to a full week at the end of September, becoming the International Week of the Deaf (IWD). World Deaf Day is marked on the last day of the IWD.

Last June, Pope Francis used sign language to communicate with a group of deaf pilgrims who attended an audience in the Vatican.

The Pontiff signed “I love you” to dozens of young people from North America and Central America.

The National Catholic Office for the Deaf in the United States estimates there are about 5.4 million deaf or hard-of-hearing Catholics in America.

Advocates on behalf of the deaf Catholic community in the United States have said the Church needs to do more to meet the community’s needs. Specifically, it wants more priests and ministers who understand deaf culture.

According to America magazine, deafness used to be considered a disability that prohibited ordination, and it was only in 1921 that Fr Charles La Fonta, who was deaf, was ordained to the priesthood.

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