In the ever changing landscape of religion, autism and other disabilities seem to be accepted with open arms.
As I a junior in college, I would not call myself an extremely religious person. Until the past couple weeks, I was a “C&E,” better known as someone who only goes to Mass on Christmas and Easter. Even though I barely stepped foot in a church, I never felt as if I ever lost my faith. I felt as if, once again, I was on my own path.
I believe those prominent in the public eye have the ability to influence people. Their words and actions hold so much weight for so many people. Look at Oprah when she was at the peak of her career.
Barely two months into his reign as head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has already earned an enormous fan in yours truly. Aside from his friendly and approachable demeanor, he seems to have no fear when interacting with the people. This was shown less than a week after his election.
Before his inaugural Mass, Pope Francis took a ride in his Pope-Mobile around St. Peter’s Square. As he looked into the crowd, he saw a disabled man and asked for his caravan to stop. Pope Francis walked over to the disabled man and embraced him like a brother.
Only a few weeks later, after his first Easter Mass, Pope Francis stopped his caravan once more to embrace a disabled boy. The boy’s father called the moment “incredibly moving.” It is in these moments where Pope Francis showed, through his actions, that acceptance does not stop at the top.
Pope Francis was applauded by many for his actions. He lived out the words, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” In a pastoral statement from the U.S. Catholic Bishops, the bishops cited the disabled as the true witnesses of Jesus’ power. He did not mingle with the rich and powerful, instead Jesus found the outcasts, the sick and the sinners.