Pope Francis invites the deaf to help others “hear” the voice of God

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis receives members of the Italian Federation of Associations for the Deaf in audience in the Vatican, and stresses the need for inclusion and a culture of encounter.

The Italian Federation of Associations for the Deaf was founded in 1920. In the words of its original mission statement, it was created in order to “counter the isolation, marginalization, and humiliation of the hearing and speech impaired”.

Inclusion and quality of life

Pope Francis met with members of the Federation in the Vatican on Thursday and expanded that mission, saying the Federation is now dedicated to “tackling the culture of waste, and encouraging greater inclusion in all environments”. This work is necessary, he said, in order “to ensure a better quality of life for the deaf person and the overcoming of this disability by valuing all dimensions, including the spiritual one”.

Fragility and encounter

While his words were simultaneously translated into sign language, Pope Francis said: “Deaf people inevitably experience a condition of fragility”. Like so many other people with disabilities, they also often experience forms of prejudice, even in Christian communities. “This is not right”, insisted Pope Francis. The deaf teach us that only by accepting our limitations and fragilities can we help build “the culture of encounter”, as opposed to widespread indifference, he said.

“Hearing” the voice of God

“God’s presence is not perceived with the ears, but with faith”, said Pope Francis. God’s voice resounds in each person’s heart, “and everyone can hear it”. The Pope invited those present to “help those who do not ‘hear’ God’s voice to be more attentive to it”.

Finally, Pope Francis offered his prayers for all deaf people throughout the world, “especially those who live in conditions of marginalization and poverty”. I pray that you “may bring your special contribution to society”, he said, and that you “may be capable of a prophetic gaze, capable of accompanying processes of sharing and inclusion, of cooperating in the revolution of tenderness and closeness”.