VATICAN CITY, NOV. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- It is estimated that there are 1.3 million deaf Catholics, and the Vatican is intent on ensuring that they can fully participate in the Church.
This was an affirmation made by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, when he presented the dicastery’s 24th international conference, to be held in the Vatican on Thursday.
The event will have the theme “Ephphata: the Deaf Person in the Life of the Church.”
The prelate estimated that in developed countries, one child out of 1,000 is deaf, but the problem is more serious in poor countries, where 80% of the world’s deaf live. In these cases, deafness is often the result of insufficient medical care and lack of medication.
Archbishop Zimowski stressed the need to help people with this impairment, precisely as “the world has begun to overcome the prejudices and superstitions linked to physical disability.”
Within the Church, deafness implies “difficulties in participating fully,” the archbishop acknowledged, “which impedes possibility of growth in the spiritual life and in religious practice, but also implies the lack of their contribution in terms of vitality and wealth in the Church herself.”
Recalling words from Pope John Paul II during the Great Jubilee, the prelate explained the importance of “finding room for the deaf in the Church” to obtain “a real integration.”
“This is the objective of this congress,” he concluded.
The working sessions of the conference will consider deafness from several points of view — psychological, medical, sociological and pastoral.
Benedict XVI will address the participants Friday.