Pope supports conference on religious education and formation for people with disabilities

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The Kairos Forum – a UK-based organisation that responds proactively to the spiritual and religious needs of people with disabilities – is partnering with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization to run a global conference in Rome to help people with disabilities fully engage in the life of the Catholic Church.

The conference runs from 20 – 22 October at the Pontifical Urbaniana University and takes the theme “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church”.

Pope Francis has granted a private audience to those attending the conference.

Speaking to the EWTN network Monsignor Geno Sylva from the Pontifical Council talks about the motivation for the conference:

“What we’re hoping to do, first of all, is to bring together all the resources out there for the catechesis of people with
disabilities that maybe people around the world don’t know even exist.

“We’re exploring how, by bringing experts together to share best practices, they can inspire each other to move forward with this essential mission of the Church.”

The two-day conference will be attended by 450 people from around the world and features a host of expert speakers tackling a variety of challenging subjects.

Baroness Sheila Hollins, serving on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, will address delegates on the vital need to protect people with disabilities. Pia Matthews, a lecturer at St. Mary’s University, London, will speak alongside Stefano Toschi, Association ‘Beati noi’, on “Life in Christ: The person made in the image of God”.

Much time will be given to Christian prayer – both religious and experiential dimensions. Cristina Gangemi, Director of The Kairos Forum and an expert in the field of disability will offer her insights as part of a panel.

Other key interventions will be made on the Sacraments as precious occasions for catechesis and a wider discussion on experiences of catechesis.

This unique programme is grounded in prayer and delegates will be led in prayer by people with autism, the European Deaf Community and the Fede e Luce Community.

Mgr Sylva stresses that helping people with disabilities fully engage with the Gospel is at the heart of the Church’s mission:

“It’s important to remember that the departure point for all the presentations will be the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself – how each person is made in the image and likeness of God and how we understand Christian sacraments in prayer.

“The Church has a responsibility to take into account the special needs of each person. Every woman and man, no matter what disability they may have, is made in the image and likeness of God and so we’re looking at how we can create catachetical tools and instruments that can help bring the Word of God – the teachings of the faith – to people with disabilities and help them have an encounter with the one who is loved – Jesus Christ.”


Watch Mgr Geno Sylva’s interview with EWTN on the conference.


You can download the transcript of this interview in large print (16pt font size):


You can also download the full programme for the conference:

Conference Programme EN

Kairos Forum

The Kairos Forum’s participation in the conference is kindly sponsored by Caritas Westminster, Livability, The British Province of the Carmelites and The Jack Del Rio Foundation.