Vatican Aide Affirms Depth of Sign Language

Says the Church Gives Importance to Deaf People

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2009 ( The 90 deaf people who gathered last week in the Vatican have helped the Church to rediscover the profundity of sign language, said the Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombari, director of the Vatican press office, stated this today on the latest episode of «Octava Dies.»

He spoke about an international conference on the theme of «Ephphata: the Deaf Person in the Life of the Church,» which brought together deaf people along with priests, religious and health care workers.

The event, which ended Friday, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. It aimed to consider ways in which the Church could better serve some 1.3 million Catholic deaf people.

Father Lombardi stated, «I saw a married couple: They spoke to each other continually in sign language: He is deaf, she is his ear and his voice for communicating with others.»

«More time and patience is necessary to communicate,» the priest observed, «but it is certainly not the hurried and superficial communication like that which we are normally used to.»

«It is a communication that comes from the depths and passes through an extraordinary commitment of love,» he explained, describing the conference’s environment.

The spokesman acknowledged that the conference will probably receive little attention. He said: «The media’s curiosity is focused on other problems in the life of the Church. But we think that this is important.»

He continued: «We will not forget the prayers and songs expressed with hand movements, the Pope’s address translated into sign language.

«Believers know that at the last judgment of the Lord — who on this earth opened the ears of the deaf and loosened the tongue of the mute — he will ask them: ‘I was deaf, and did you help me to hear? I was mute, and did you help me to speak?'»

Father Lombardi concluded, «These are questions on which it is worthwhile to reflect.»

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