Catholic World News

Vatican conference focuses on pastoral problems of the deaf

November 20, 2009

In a private audience on November 20, Pope Benedict XVI gave his encouragement to participants in a 3-day conference on the pastoral needs of deaf persons, organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care.

The Pope observed that the Church has historically been at the forefront of efforts to help the deaf, but he also recognized that more work needs to be done to ensure that deaf people feel fully accepted and incorporated in the church. "Unfortunately experience has shown that hearing-impaired people do not always meet with ready acceptance, committed solidarity and affectionate communion," the Pontiff said. That failure to gain acceptance, he said, illustrates "the deafness of the spirit which raises ever-higher barriers to the voice of God and of our fellow man."

Pope Benedict called attention to the disproportionate number of deaf people living in impoverished countries. (The conference had established that about 80% of the world's estimated 278 million people with serious hearing problems live in undeveloped countries.) In some cases the problem is due to a lack of medical attention, he said, noting that deafness can be cured in many cases. These countries also need to devise policies that provide more help for those in need because of hearing impairment, the Pope said.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, chaired the 3-day meeting at which participants focused on the special problems that deaf people face in the Church, including problems of instruction and access to the sacraments. There are about 1.3 million deaf Catholics worldwide.


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  • Posted by: - Nov. 20, 2009 9:42 PM ET USA

    These 'deaf' people ... do they include the bishops?