The Vatican’s first ever conference on autism, “The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope,” is being held this week. Pope Francis has established the conference in the hopes of ending the stigma of autism and the isolation of those living with autism.
In the spirit of inclusion and volunteerism, Pope Francis will call on the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to embrace people with ASD. This is the latest example of his efforts to make the church a “home for all” by rethinking social issues and the role of science, and by embracing people who may be marginalized.
One of the largest medical conferences on autism, more than 650 experts from 57 countries will discuss genomic research, treatment, and acceptance of the estimated 70 million people worldwide living with autism. Topics include the brain and behavior; environmental factors in autism; early diagnosis; technology like iPads that can improve the quality of life; and ways for volunteers to help.
This conference is not the first of its kind for Pope Francis. His fondness for children with special needs is well-known. In addition to raising awareness during the conference, the Pope will also deliver a speech to the audience gathered at the Vatican hall. Music and movement for the children will be included in the session.
Pope Francis’ call-to-action and focus on social, economic and environmental justice is a message that he has taken to the secular leaders of the world, as well as to members of all religious denominations. The question becomes, “How can we fulfill this mission in our daily lives?” Please share your thoughts on this important issue.