VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is observing World Autism Awareness Day by calling on Christians to recognize the risen Christ in autistic people and increase solidarity with them.
“The [Pontifical] Council wishes to share with people who suffer because of autism the hope and certainty that adherence to Love enables us to recognize the risen Christ every time that he makes himself our neighbor on the journey of life,” said the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski.
“Setting oneself to listen must necessarily be accompanied by an authentic fraternal solidarity,” the archbishop said in his April 2 message.
Today is the sixth year of World Autism Awareness Day, and the Vatican released the message to express solidarity with those suffering from the disorder, as well as their families.
“Such solidarity (…) becomes a loving presence and compassionate nearness for those who suffer, following the example and in imitation of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, who, by his passion, death and resurrection, redeemed humanity,” said Archbishop Zimowski.
”The Church with humility proposes the way of service to the suffering brother, accompanying him with compassion and tenderness on his tortuous human and psycho-relational journey,” he said.
Archbishop Zimowski advocated for people with disabilities being allowed to participate in social life as far as they are able. The “world of rights,” he said, quoting Blessed John Paul II (who died eight years ago today), cannot be only for the healthy.
The message also quoted Pope Francis, who said in the first days of his papacy, “we must not allow a one-dimensional vision of the human person to prevail, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and to what he consumes: This is one of the most dangerous snares of our time.”
The archbishop also noted that the Church supports people affected by autism through parishes, associations and Church movements, and he encouraged them to “take advantage” of what is being offered.
Those who care for people with autism were also on his mind.
He counseled them that “no procedure, however perfect it may be, can be ‘effective’ if it is deprived of the ‘salt’ of Love.”
“Every worker, each according to his or her role, must know how to transmit (care) to the sick person and his or her family, not making that person feel like a number, but making real the situation of a shared journey that is made up of deeds, of attitudes and of words.”