People with Disabilities and the Synodal Journey

People with disabilities from the world's five continents were invited to actively participate in the Synodal Journey to share their realities in an open dialogue with the Holy See.

The Church is our Home

Worldwide, more than a billion people live with a physical, organic, sensory, cognitive (intellectual) or mental disability. That’s about 15% of the world’s population.

In May 2022, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, in agreement with the General Secretariat of the Synod, invited around 30 people with disabilities from the five continents to actively participate in a synodal journey by offering their contribution through an open dialogue with the Holy See.

All of us are in the same boat in the midst of a turbulent sea that can frighten us. Yet in this same boat, some of us are struggling more; among them are persons with serious disabilities.

Pope Francis

The Kairos Forum, an organisation that aims to provide support, spiritual care and accompaniment for people with disabilities, and some of its UK-based members, participated in the online discussion.


The fruit of this synodal participation is a statement called “The Church is our Home”.

Whilst acknowledging that, in recent decades, people with disabilities have been more able to participate in the life and mission of the Church, the statement stresses that there is still a way to go:

“Participating in the life of one’s church community remains conditioned by the presence of material and immaterial barriers. For this reason, it is necessary that church communities work to put into place reasonable accommodations that can make the participation of people with disabilities possible. A progressive journey is needed to prepare each reality of the parish community for welcoming.”

Change of mindset: “Us” not “them”

The pressing need for a change of mindset from “them” to “us” is also highlighted:

“In an inclusive community, each person walks his or her own path of conversion. Recognising one’s limitations and fragilities, people are led to walk alongside others without feeling superior, inferior or different, rather as brothers and sisters and fellow travellers. People with disabilities are faithful called to conversion like anyone else and not ‘already saints’ or ‘sufferers,’ or ‘Christs on the Cross’ because of their condition of disability.”

Changing the narrative

This positive statement also looks at the obstacles to inclusion and how we can overcome them, but one concern, raised more than once, is that disability and suffering appear to be linked in “an inseparable pair”:

“The lives of people with disabilities have been, and still are, all too often associated with the idea of suffering. Often we are seen as a burden to the families in which we live, some wonder what the point is of giving birth to a life that will be marked by pain, others – even – point to suffering as a particular mission to which we are particularly called.”

However, the participants come to the shared conclusion “that suffering is not a sentence and that our ecclesial experience is very often marked by joy. This is a unanimous testimony of all those who are on a journey together with people with disabilities, particularly those with cognitive disabilities.”