Mentally Handicapped Have Need to Love, Says John Paul II

Urges Educational Support for Them

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says the mentally handicapped have the same need for love proper to every man and woman, and he calls for "continuous and discreet educational support" for them.



The Pope addressed the emotional and sexual dimension of the mentally handicapped in a message sent to the participants of the Symposium on the Dignity of the Person with Mental Disabilities, being held here through Friday. The symposium is an initiative of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the conclusion of the European Year of Disabled People.

"Particular attention must be given to the emotional and sexual dimensions of disabled persons," the lengthy papal message states. "It is an aspect that is often eliminated or addressed in a superficial and reductive or even ideological way."

"The sexual dimension is, however, one of the constitutive dimensions of the person who, insofar as created in the image of God Love, is originally called to manifest itself in encounter and communion," he adds.

"The assumption for the emotional-sexual education of the handicapped person lies in the conviction that he has the same need for affection as any other person. He also needs to love and to be loved, has need of tenderness, closeness and intimacy," the Pope writes.

"The reality, unfortunately, is that the person with disabilities must live these legitimate and natural needs in a situation of disadvantage, which becomes ever more evident with the passage from childhood to adulthood," he continues.

"The handicapped person, although he has lesions in his mind and in his interpersonal relations, seeks genuine relations in which he is appreciated and recognized as a person," the Pope states.

"The experiences realized in some Christian communities have shown that an intense and stimulating community life, a continuous and discreet educational support, the promotion of friendly contacts with adequately trained persons, the custom of channeling impulses and of developing a healthy sense of modesty as respect of one's own personal intimacy, are often able to re-balance emotionally the person with mental disabilities and lead them to experience rich, fruitful and satisfying interpersonal relations," the message adds.

"To show the handicapped person that he is loved, means to reveal to him that we value them," the Holy Father continues. "Attentive listening, understanding of needs, the sharing of sufferings, patience in accompaniment are likewise ways to introduce the handicapped person to a human relationship of communion to make him perceive his value, to make him aware of his capacity to receive and give love."

"Without a doubt, handicapped people, in revealing the radical frailty of the human condition, are an expression of the drama of suffering and, in our world eager for hedonism and seduced by ephemeral and deceitful beauty, their difficulties are often perceived as a scandal and a provocation and their problems as a burden that must be eliminated or rapidly resolved," the Pope says.

"They, however, are living images of the crucified Son. They reveal the mysterious beauty of the One who emptied himself for us and became obedient unto death," the Pontiff contends.

"Because of this, and with reason, it has been said that persons with disabilities are privileged witnesses of humanity," he points out.

He adds: "They can teach all what saving love is and can become messengers of a new world, which is not dominated by force, violence and aggressiveness, but by love, solidarity, acceptance, a new world transfigured by the light of Christ, Son of God, incarnated for us, crucified and resurrected."