The Pope's appeal was communicated by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano in a message sent on the occasion of the Fraternity Campaign traditionally promoted by the Church in Brazil during Lent.
The papal message, sent to Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia and president of the Brazilian bishops' conference, comments on the theme chosen this year: "Fraternity and Disabled People."
Recalling "the commandment to charity," "especially toward people suffering some form of disability," the papal text explains that it "is not simply an attitude of tenderness and consolation," but the complete insertion into society of these "our brothers and sisters in Christ."
Benedict XVI affirms in the message that "even when the problems [of disabled people] touch their minds or their sensorial and intellectual capacities, they remain fully human, with the sacred and inalienable rights that belong to humans."
"Indeed, human beings, irrespective of the conditions in which they live and the capacities they have, possess unique and extraordinary worth from the very beginning of their existence to the moment of natural death," continues the Holy Father in his message.
"To defend life in all its phases, from the beginning until the end, is a right and duty of all, which the Church will never cease proclaiming," he adds.
"To assume the dignity that God wished for us -- which is an intrinsic part of this life -- means adopting attitudes of commitment, at times heroic and worthy of eternal reward, not only for those who undergo such suffering, but also for those who help the most needy," the Holy Father states.
The Brazilian bishops' annual campaign aims to promote attitudes of authentic fraternity and social solidarity consistent with Gospel teaching.