Australia’s bishops have urged all Catholics to promote, empower and recognise the gifts of people with disability.
Bishop Don Sproxton, Auxiliary Bishop of Perth and the newly-appointed Bishop Delegate for Disability Issues, said that as the Church prepared for Advent, it was appropriate to observe the International Day of People with Disability, held each year December 3.
This year’s theme is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” – inspired by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“The 2030 Agenda, pledging to ‘leave no one behind’, is an ambitious plan of action of the international community towards a peaceful and prosperous world, where dignity of an individual person and equality among all is applied as the fundamental principle,” Bishop Sproxton said.
“It is critical to ensure the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and includes active participation in our Church and faith communities to create enabling environments by, for and with persons with disabilities.”
In his address to people with disability last year, Pope Francis said: “We are all different. There is no one exactly like another. Differences are a richness because I have something, and you have something else, and by putting the two together, we have something more beautiful, something greater.”
Pope Francis added that people must not be afraid of diversity, but see it “as the path to improvement, to be more beautiful and richer”.
Bishop Sproxton said people’s faith calls and challenges them to take action to ensure communities are open and active in promoting opportunities that include people with disability.
“This includes work opportunities, empowering people with disabilities to take an active role in leadership and ensuring our faith communities are accessible physically and attitudinally, guaranteeing ‘no one is left behind’,” he said.
“In particular, we need to ensure that people with disability living in remote and rural areas, those who are new to our country and those struggling with the ever-increasing daily expense of living are supported and encouraged in the most practical and appropriate manner.
“This timely theme is an invitation and call to us to create and ensure a change in societal attitude that sees disability as a burden to humanity and a costly experience to society.”
A prayer for International Day of People with Disability:
We Are All Different
Loving God, author of all gifts;
We praise and thank you for all the gifts you have entrusted to us.
Pour out your Spirit upon us so that, true to our baptismal promises, we may form faith communities that recognise and promote the gifts in all people so that we may all share in the mission of Jesus.
Inspire us to be a Church that is welcoming and accepting, and which sees everyone as an expression of Christ.
May our faith communities nurture and commission all members to live our particular gifts as a reflection and imitation of Jesus’ life.
Give us the courage to be the light of welcome in the darkness of exclusion, a voice of gentleness in the wilderness of the unheard and an outstretched hand of love to those longing for community. Amen.
With thanks to the ABCB