Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski's Message for World Autism Day

«From this closeness and nearness […] there can arise and become strong a hope that attenuates moments of discouragement, of disheartenment and of surrender as well.»

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Here is the translation of the message written by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, on the occasion of the Seventh World Autism Day. 

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Message of the President of the Pontifical Council

for Health Care Workers

H.E Msgr.  Zygmunt Zimowski

for the Seventh World Autism Day

(2 April 2014)

 ‘The Hope that Comes from Cooperation and Trust’

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For some years this Pontifical Council – of which I have the honour to be President –  has on the occasion of the World Autism Day expressed the nearness and the concern of the whole of the Church in relation to what is experienced by people with autism spectrum disorders, and in particular to the families who every day share in that experience.

We draw near to these families and this in particular is directed towards ensuring that hope is not extinguished in them, providing support so that they do not feel lost or in a state of crisis as regards their relationships at the level of emotions or as relatives. A real difficulty of integration and communication exists between the autistic person and those who enter into contact with him or her.

A question thus arises: how can this stigma be combated? A pathway of integration within the community must be followed which breaks down the isolation and the barriers that are established by these disorders and by prejudice, thereby strengthening personal relationships. This can also take place with the support of social commitment and with synergic actions in the fields of care, information, communication and formation, thereby fostering a move to true understanding and acceptance of this illness which never denies or undermines the dignity with which every person is clothed.

In this way the bases can be established for a hope that isolates neither people with autism nor their families but which, instead, is rooted in and nurtured by cooperation and reciprocal trust, following an ethic of solidarity which we should all rediscover and nourish.

The strong attention which the Church intends to pay to this work of support and renewed promotion of hope in the field of autism spectrum disorders intends to express itself this year in a totally practical way. In this regard, I am happy and honoured to announce that the twenty-ninth international conference organized for 20 to 22 November by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care) in the Vatican, will have as its theme: ‘Autism, an Illness with Many Faces: Generating Hope’.

The complexity which autism spectrum disorders present to the scientific community, to families and to institutions concerned with education and social integration, can on that occasion, through the papers and contributions of researchers, experts and health-care workers from all over the world, find a moment of dialogue and commitment. As Pope Francis observed in his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium: ‘It is essential to draw near to new forms of poverty and vulnerability, in which we are called to recognize the suffering Christ, even if this appears to bring us no tangible and immediate benefits’ (n. 210).

From this closeness and nearness, which excludes none but welcomes everyone lovingly with respect, there can arise and become strong a hope that attenuates moments of discouragement, of disheartenment and of surrender as well.

Making myself from this moment an interpreter of this solidarity and entrusting you to the Mother of believers, who with an unshakeable faith stayed in front of the Cross, to everyone, and especially to people with autism and their families, I express my wishes for all good and joy in the Risen Lord.

The Vatican, 2 April 2014

H.E Msgr. Zygmunt Zimowski

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