On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pope Francis said we must “acknowledge the dignity of each person,” as doing otherwise is social sin.

Pope Francis’ gave his message marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, held annually every year on December 3rd, the theme of which this year is “the future is accessible.”

He recognized that “great progress has been made towards people with disabilities in the medical and welfare fields,” but called out todays “throwaway culture” that makes them “feel that they exist without belonging and without participating.”

“This calls not only for the rights of people with disabilities to be protected, but it also exhorts us to make the world more human by removing everything that prevents them from having full citizenship, the obstacles of prejudice, and by promoting the accessibility of places and quality of life.”

He said we must “recognize the dignity of each one, knowing that it does not depend on the functionality of the five senses”, for their “unique contribution to the common good through their original life story.”

“Let us not forget the many ‘hidden exiles,’ who live within our homes, our families, our societies. People of every age, especially the elderly who, also due to disabilities, are at times considered a burden, a ‘cumbersome presence,’ and risk being discarded, of being denied concrete job prospects for the construction of their future.”

Pope Francis said our culture cannot place them in the minor “leagues,” and that not recognizing the dignity of those with disabilities is a “social sin” as “taught by the Gospel.” He invited all to “have the courage to give a voice to those who are discriminated against because of their disability.”

“Making good laws and breaking down physical barriers is important, but it is not enough, if the mentality does not change, if we do not overcome a widespread culture that continues to produce inequalities, preventing people with disabilities from actively participating in ordinary life.”

You can read the full message here on the Vatican website.

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