Health Care Council to Host Conference on Autism

Pope to Greet Participants at General Audience

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The Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry’s 29th international conference will focus this year on the topic of autism.

The Thursday through Saturday event was presented at a press conference today at the Vatican.

The theme is “The person with autism spectrum disorders: animating hope.”

The speakers were Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry; Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu and Fr. Augusto Chendi, M.I., respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery; and Stefano Vicari, head of the Department of Child Neuropsychiatry at the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital, Rome.

Archbishop Zimowski explained that in general, autism spectrum disorders manifest themselves before the age of three, and are life-long. The most recent statistics confirm that around 1% of children worldwide are affected.

“The many difficulties, including those of an ethical, moral and spiritual nature, faced by those with autism spectrum disorders and their caregivers have led us to choose such an important, difficult and delicate theme for this conference,” the prelate explained. “It will be a special occasion for observing the advances that have been made in research and treatment, as well as legal and political-administrative aspects; three valuable days for listening and exchanging experiences, and learning from the world’s most qualified specialists.”

The conference will be attended by more than 650 people from 57 different countries, and will include an encounter with the Holy Father during the Wednesday general audience, as well as an exhibition of paintings by the Taiwanese autistic artist Leland Lee, a moment of prayer and testimonies from people affected by autism spectrum disorders, their families, and associations. Various famous Italian singers will offer a musical contribution.

The congress will be “a great opportunity because it will gather outstanding scientists. A doctor, psychologist or therapist is not enough; the whole society must be united in this endeavor,” indicated Archbishop Zimowski.

Archbishop Zimowski explained that it is about “sensitizing not only the scientific world, but also the affected families, and society, which can stigmatize this syndrome.”

The conference will produce a final message to the dioceses and to the International Community, to the World Health Organization and Health Institutes.

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