In a meeting with disabled children and their caregivers at the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis said that a person’s value is not dependent on one’s abilities.
“Every human person is precious and has value that does not depend on what they have or on their abilities, but on the simple fact that he or she is a person, the image of God,” Pope Francis said in Paul VI Hall on Dec. 13.
“If disability or illness makes life more difficult, it is no less worthy of being lived and lived to the fullest.”
Speaking to members of the Seraphic Institute of Assisi, the pope underlined that it is “important to look at a disabled person as one of us.”
Pope Francis said that the disabled must be “at the center of our care and concern, and also at the center of … politics.”
In caring for those with disabilities, one receives as much as one gives, he said, describing the relationship as “an exchange of gifts.”
“We Christians find in the Gospel of love — I’m thinking of the parable of the Good Samaritan — one more reason for this. But the principle applies to everyone, inscribed as it is in our conscience, which makes us aware of our unity with all human beings,” the pope said.
The Seraphic Institute of Assisi is a non-profit Catholic organization that provides social and clinical assistance to children and young adults with physical, mental, and sensory disabilities.
Pope Francis commended the institute as it celebrates its 150th anniversary for welcoming young people with multiple and serious disabilities.
He added that he was pleased to hear that the Seraphic Institute had established perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in its chapel since his previous visit to the institute in 2013.
“I remember well the time I spent with you in Assisi,” he said.
“I had come to follow in the footsteps of the saint whose name I took. The meeting with your children, whom I greeted one by one, made me relive, in some way, that embrace of the least that characterized the life of Saint Francis.”
Pope Francis said that Saint Francis’ “embrace of the leper” contains the meaning of the saint’s entire life.
“He made himself poor, following the example of Jesus, to be fully on the side of the least. … In those sick and marginalized people, he saw Jesus.”