Vatican calls for sensitivity in dealing with those suffering with autism

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, has written a message for the Fifth World Autism Day, which falls on April 2, in which he makes an appeal for sensitivity and supportive solidarity towards autistic people and their families. In the message, made public yesterday, he recalls how "autistic spectrum disorders constitute ... a grave alteration of behaviour, of verbal and non-verbal communication, and of social integration, with a wide-ranging effect on the normal development and evolution of the personality".

"The Church", writes the archbishop in his English-language message, "sees as impelling the task of placing herself at the side of these people - children and young people in particular - and their families, if not to breakdown these barriers of silence then at least to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey of suffering".

This is particularly important because families with autistic children, "although they look after these children with loving care, experience repercussions as regards the quality of their own lives, and are often, in their turn, led to be closed up in an isolation that marginalises and wounds". For this reason the Church and all men and women of good will "feel committed to being ‘travelling companions’ with those who live this eloquent silence, which calls upon our sensitivity towards the suffering of others".

The president of the pontifical council highlights the efforts of health care workers, educators, professionals and volunteers, adding that "the scientific world and health care policies must also be encouraged to engage in and ... increase diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative pathways that can address a pathology which affects more people in numerical terms than could have been imagined only a few years ago. To encourage and sustain, in the supportive action of the world of schools, voluntary work and associations, these efforts is a duty, not least to discover and bring out that dignity which even the gravest and most devastating disability does not eliminate, and which always fills us with hope".

Finally Archbishop Zimowski commends autistic people and their families to God. "Although enveloped in the mystery of silence because of a grave psychological disturbance, they are never alone, inasmuch as they are passionately loved by God and, in Him, by the community of those whose faith commits them to becoming a living and transparent sign of the presence of the Resurrected Christ in the world".

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