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Pope Francis blesses an elderly woman Pope Francis blesses an elderly woman  (Vatican Media)

The Pope: diversity is a richness, never a reason for exclusion

Pope Francis receives members of the International Association of Faith and Light (Foi et Lumière) on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Faith and Light International was established following a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, in 1971. It is a community movement whose essential purpose is to create bonds of trust and friendship between its members which are based on, and fulfilled in, Jesus.

According to the Association, “in a world where it is increasingly considered normal to eliminate disabled children before and after birth, the Faith and Light communities set out to enable mentally disabled people to recognise and to exercise their own gifts in the joy of friendship.” 

From pilgrimage to movement

Greeting members of the association in the Vatican on Saturday, Pope Francis recalled that pilgrimage to Lourdes fifty years ago saying, “From that moment, under the loving gaze of Mary, the experience of Faith and Light began: the Holy Spirit suggested the birth of something that no one had foreseen, that is, your communities, in which you celebrate joy, reconciliation and mutual communion.”

The Pope went on to say that on this pilgrimage, “the Holy Spirit accompanied the journey of your Movement and many "Faith and Light" communities were born in many countries on the five continents, bringing a message of love and welcome.”

This message, Pope Francis continued, “reminds us that every person, even and especially the smallest and the most fragile, is loved by God and has a place in the Church and in the world.”

Diversity is a wealth

The Pope underlined that “the presence of Faith and Light was and is a prophecy”, because often the most fragile people are discarded, considered useless.

He added that this prophecy is “even more important today, to combat the culture of discarding and to remind everyone that diversity is a richness and must never become a reason for exclusion and discrimination.”

These fifty years of Faith and Light can be seen as “a great pilgrimage”, as an ideal continuation of the first pilgrimage, Pope Francis noted.

Ecumenism

He also described it as an “ecumenical journey”  where people of different Christian denominations meet in a concrete sign of unity and communion.

“It is precisely the most fragile people who become a source of reconciliation because they call us all to a path of conversion,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis told those present that although the stretch of road they have travelled is long and full of fruits, there is still today in the Church and in the world “many who in their littleness and fragility are forgotten and excluded.”

With that in mind,  the Pope encouraged the Faith and Life communities “to continue with the strength of the Holy Spirit,” and always be “places of encounter, of human promotion and of celebration for all those who still feel marginalized and abandoned.”

Be a sign of hope

“May you be a sign of hope for families who are experiencing the birth of a child with a disability, so that no one will be closed in on himself, in sadness and despair,” he said.

The Pope also invited them “to participate in the life of the Church, in parishes and in the neighbourhoods,” bringing their experience and witness to God's choice for the last, the little ones, the excluded.”

“May the spirit of communion and friendship, which is part of your charism, always make you instruments of reconciliation and peace, especially where there are conflicts and divisions,” he said.

The boat on a rough sea

In conclusion, Pope Francis dwelt on the emblem that represents the association. “Your logo," he said, "is a boat on a rough sea, as the sun rises from the clouds after the storm. During this pandemic, I have often recalled, thinking of the Gospel episode of the disciples in the storm, that we are all in the same boat; and so I confirm you in this commitment of yours: to be, in the storms that individuals and families experience, a small boat on which everyone can find a place, in the certainty that on that same boat there is the Lord Jesus.”

02 October 2021, 12:42