Church in England Prepares for Olympics With Day Dedicated to Disability

International Conference Sets Out to Explore Disability in the Christian Experience

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LONDON, England, JULY 12, 2012, ( Just weeks before the 2012 Games in London, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has held an international conference and a national day dedicated to disability to demonstrate and witness in the words of John Paul II that «the body has the ability to manifest God’s deepest whisper.»

The conference, titled Everybody has a Place, and the national day called «Now is the time to be friends» set out to explore and celebrate the gifts of all people while offering theory and practice in the context of the topics of disability, theology and sport.

The Central London conference was attended by 160 people including people with disabilities and their families.

The Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith, opened the conference.

The Knights of Columbus helped to sponsor the event, and premiered their film Healing Haiti’s Children. It showed how football is being used to help adults and children in Haiti affected by the hurricane in January 2010 to regain social status.

Cristina Gangemi, disability consultant to the Catholic Church in England and Wales, called the Paralympics a Christological event. «The Paralympics show us what Christ asks all of us to do,» she said, «to see a person regardless of their human form in all its potential and placing that person into a society in which the disability disappears. The Paralympics enact the Theology of the Body written by John Paul II, who was himself a great sportsman. He was always in shape, firmly disciplined, and allowed the Spirit to guide him in sport. He also demonstrated, experiencing firsthand the physical disability, that there is continuity between health and illness and that the body must be respected and honored at all stages.»

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