19 January 2023
Pope Francis on Monday welcomed members of the Italian Union of Blind and Partially Sighted Persons (UICI) in the Vatican as they prepare to celebrate their Patron Saint Lucy of Syracuse, on December 13.
UICI is a non-confessional and non-profit association founded in 1920 and is a member of the World Blind Union (WBU), which was established to advocate for making the world a better and safer place for visually impaired people and eliminate social prejudices against them in order to achieve their full integration in society.
The courage of Saint Lucy of Syracuse
In his address in the Clementine Hall, Pope Francis expressed appreciation for UICI’s choice of meeting him on the eve of the liturgical feast of Saint Lucy, who he said, expresses the “traditional religious sense of the Italian people”.
He highlighted that Lucy of Syracuse - a 3rd-century Christian martyr who died for her faith during Emperor Diocletian’s Persecution and had her eyes plucked out to avoid marriage to a pagan before dying - reminds us with her example that the “highest dignity of the human person consists in bearing witness to the truth, following one's conscience whatever the cost, without duplicity or compromise”.
“This – he said - means being on the side of the light, serving the light, as the very name ‘Lucia’ evokes.”
“Be clear, transparent, sincere people; communicate with others in an open, clear, respectful way. This helps to spread light in the environments in which we live, to make them more human, more livable.”
Pope Francis lauded the Italian association as a “constructive force” in society, especially in Italian society, "which is going through a difficult moment", noting that the Church does not consider visually impaired persons as people in need of assistance or sometimes compassion.
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Indeed, from the Christian point of view disability should not be addressed with a “pietistic attitude or assistentialism”, but rather “with the awareness that fragility, assumed with responsibility and solidarity, is a resource for the entire society and ecclesial community”.
The Pope further insisted that visually impaired people, led by ethical principles and civic conscience, are at the forefront in building inclusive communities, “where everyone can participate without being ashamed of their limitations and weaknesses, cooperating with others to support each other”.
“We all need each other, not only people with physical fragilities. We all need the help of others to move forward in life, because we are all weak at heart, all of us.”
Transmitting hope to society
He, therefore, encouraged the association to go forward with “an ever more constructive, and proactive style, as a force that transmits trust and hope”, and to follow the example of Saint Lucy, who did not bow to threats and flattery and, instead, courageously stood up to the judge who was interrogating her.
“Italian society needs hope, and this comes above all from the testimony of people who, in their condition of fragility, do not close themselves up, or feel sorry for themselves, but work together with others to improve things.”
Source: Vatican News
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