03/29/2014, 00.00
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Pope to the blind and deaf: Jesus encounters people marked by disease to make them witnesses

In an audience with six thousand people from the Apostolic Movement for the Blind and Little Mission of the Deaf-mute, Pope Francis speaks of the "culture of encounter" and that of "exclusion", remembering a man born blind . "Only those who recognize their fragility, their limits can build fraternal relations and solidarity, in the Church and in society". A greeting for those present while the crowd shake their hands in a gesture of applause.

Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - "Jesus especially wanted to meet people marked by illness and disability, to heal and to restore them to full dignity. It is very important that these very people become witnesses of a new attitude, which we call the culture of encounter. They typical example is the figure of the man born blind, presented to us tomorrow, in the Gospel (John 9:1-41 )".

Pope Francis spoke of the "culture of encounter" and faith in his audience this morning in the Paul VI hall with at least six thousand members of the Apostolic Movement for the Blind and Little Mission of the Deaf-mute and Italian Union of the Blind.

The pontiff also spoke of a "culture of exclusion", marginalization, again inspired by the figure of the man born blind: "That man - he said - was blind from birth and was sidelined in the name of a false conception that thought him struck by a divine punishment. Jesus categorically rejects this way of thinking - really blasphemous! - and carries out 'God's work' for the blind man giving him sight. But the remarkable thing is that this man, because of what happened, becomes a witness of Jesus and his work, which is the work of God, of life, of love, of mercy. While the Pharisees, in their certainties, judge both him and Jesus as 'sinners', the healed blind man, with disarming simplicity, defends Jesus and eventually professes faith in Him, and also shares his fate: Jesus is excluded, and he is excluded. But in reality, the man became part of a new community, based on faith in Jesus and fraternal love".

At the beginning of the audience, a representative of the Apostolic Movement for the Blind pointed out that people with this disability often suffer exclusion, isolation, marginalization which create discouragement. Thanks to our community, he said, "the person with disabilities can be a happy, active member of the Church of Jesus Christ."

One of the priests in charge of the Little Mission for the Deaf-mute denounced that too often there are no events or catechesis for the deaf in churches, although he acknowledges that there are associations, movements, schools that take care of the 70 million deaf people in the world. He, too, pointed out that all the people present want to be part of the mission of the Church, as the Pope outlined in his Evangelii Gaudium.

Francis echoed this in his speech: "To be witnesses of the Gospel, we must have met Him, Jesus.  Those who really know Him , become His witness ... The sick or disabled person, because of their fragility, limits, can become a witness of this encounter: the encounter with Jesus, which opens us to life and faith, and the encounter with others, with the community. Indeed, only those who recognize their fragility, their limit can build fraternal relations and solidarity in the Church and in society".

The pope 's speech was simultaneously translated into signs by 64 volunteers placed at every sector of the Paul VI hall, crowded with families together with their children and even some guide-dogs.

Towards the end, the Pope has asked everyone to pray the Hail Mary together to Mary because "in her the first major encounter between God and man took place. She was the initiator of this culture of encounter".

Eventually he rose to greet them first row of guests one by one. The rest of the room applauded, some clapping, others waving their hands in the air.


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