Next week’s International Day of People with Disability is a chance for Catholic communities to celebrate the lives, achievements and contributions of 4.4 million Australians with a disability, Bishop Don Sproxton has said.
The international commemoration is held each year on December 3. Bishop Sproxton, the Bishop Delegate for Disability Issues, has written a message for the day that urges parishes to be a hospitable place for all.
“I encourage parish communities to continue to promote a welcoming attitude among their people to the person with disabilities,” he wrote.
“This is more than attending to issues of physical accessibility. Each person in the community needs to be accepted as a brother and sister.”
Bishop Sproxton, whose letter was titled “‘Us’ not ‘Them’ – encouraging active participation”, cited comments from Pope Francis for last year’s International Day of People with Disability.
The Pope said the presence of a brother or sister with a disability will help the community “to develop attitudes and acts of solidarity, and service towards them and their families. Our aim should be to speak no longer about ‘them’, but rather about ‘us’”.
During the first general assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, Bishop Sproxton spoke up for the needs of people with a disability. He said the Church must “lead the way in our society with regard to all people with disabilities, who with their families, often find themselves on the margins”.
“I called for the Church to recognise and reach out to those with disabilities as they are our sisters and brothers, loved by God, and rightly have a place in our communities,” he wrote in his message, which also includes principles from Catholic Social Teaching and the theology of disability.
People with disability were encouraged to participate in the local consultation phase for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will shape an international gathering in October 2023 on “walking together” as the Church.
Bishop Sproxton concluded his International Day of People with Disability message by calling for people with a disability in the community to have “their voices heard, their experiences honoured and their gifts flourish”.
The full message can be accessed at: https://www.catholic.org.au/disability
Resources for the day have been prepared by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace, including a prayer service, images and links to key documents.