Pope to visually impaired: 'One sees well only with the heart'
By Lisa Zengarini
In a society blinded by appearance and prejudices that exclude its weakest, Jesus invites us to see people and things with the heart, Pope Francis said on Saturday. He made the remarks during an audience with a group of pilgrims of the Association ”Voir Ensemble” (“See together”), a French Catholic non-profit organization committed to improving the well-being of people who are blind or visually impaired and advocating for their inclusion.
Addressing 25 members of the association, who are in Rome for a pilgrimage, Pope Francis said the encounter with Jesus should spur Christians to reject the culture of prejudice that marginalizes the sick and the disabled, and to embrace encounter and fraternity instead. He commended the group for bringing together blind and visually impaired people who “want to walk together to live the joy of the Gospel in fellowship.”
The Pope took cue from the healing of the blind man in the Gospel of John, chapter 9, noting that Jesus radically rejected the prejudices of those times concerning people born blind. Similarly, he noted, today “we are used to perceiving only the outside of things, the most superficial aspect. Our culture states that people are worthy of interest in terms of their physical appearance, their clothes, their beautiful homes, their luxury cars, their social position, their wealth.” But the Gospel, he said, tells us another story.
Not remaining indifferent to suffering
Pope Francis went on to remark that in giving sight to the blind man, Jesus shows that His heart “cannot remain indifferent to suffering,” hence inviting us “to act immediately, to console, soothe and heal the wounds of our brothers”.
Pope Francis further called attention to the paradox of the blind man becoming able to see after meeting “the One who is the Light of the world” and the many who, while meeting Jesus, remain blind. “This paradox,” he noted “very often runs through our own life and our ways of believing.”
Seeing with the heart
Recalling the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – who in “The Little Prince” wrote, “One sees well only with the heart” – the Pope stressed that Jesus invites us to renew our way of seeing people and things.
“Seeing with the heart is seeing the world and our brothers through God's gaze," he said, noting that “faith cannot be reduced to a series of theoretical beliefs, traditions, and customs. It is a bond and a path along which we follow Jesus, who renews our way of seeing the world and our brothers.”
Bearing witness to Jesus in our life
Pope Francis went on to stress that Christians “cannot be satisfied with being enlightened,” as the Pharisees did: they must also be "witnesses of the light” as the blind man was.
Bringing his address to a close, Pope Francis encouraged “Voir Ensemble” to “continue walking on the path of ‘seeing together,’ with the heart,“ allowing the charism of their founder to bear fruit.
The association was founded in 1927 by Father Yves Mollat, a blind Jesuit priest. Today it has grown to have 3,000 members across France and advocates for the inclusion of those with visual disabilities in society.