A couple of days ago, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics officially began. Scheduled to be held until September 5, the Paralympics will see over 4,500 Paralympians in action across various sports–all vying for medals for their country.
And the Paralympics is just as beautiful an event as the Olympics because you see sportsmanship and camaraderie between individuals who share the same love for sports. On top of that, through this sporting event, we are able to see that persons with disabilities are just as capable in achieving amazing feats in sports as non-disabled individuals. (Read: These Pinoy Athletes Will Headline the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics)
So to encourage Paralympians even more, and to inspire PWDs to pursue their passions despite their special needs, here are some words from Pope Francis himself on the importance of PWDs to the society.
Pope Francis on PWDs: “The Lord reserves a special place in His heart for whoever has a disability.”
In 2018, Pope Francis spoke with members of the Deaf Catholic Youth Initiative of the Americas during his Wednesday General Audience. He made a stop at the Paul VI Hall, and greeted the group who was on a pilgrimage in Rome. “The Lord reserves a special place in His heart for whoever has a disability, and so does the Successor of Peter,” the Holy Father told them.
During the occasion, he also commended the Special Olympics organization as they celebrated their 50th anniversary that year. Pope Francis said, “The world of sport offers a particular opportunity for people to grow in mutual understanding and friendship.” He added that he hopes the Olympic Flame may be “a sign of joy and hope in the Lord who bestows the gifts of unity and peace on His children.”
Pope Francis on PWDs: “People with disabilities not only need to exist but they also need to belong to a community.”
In his message for the 2019 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pope Francis said that the society has made progress in becoming more accepting of PWDs, and seeing them as equals. However, the Holy Father said that despite this, many of those with disabilities still feel like they “only exist.” (Read: 5 Things We Can Learn From Helen Keller, Disability Rights Advocate)
He then shared that people without disabilities must make an effort to make PWDs feel like they belong in a community that accepts and gives importance to them. Just like what the Paralympics and Special Olympics are doing– they encourage people with disabilities to reach for their dreams, and create a loving and supportive community who stands behind them, cheering them on.
Pope Francis on PWDs: “[You are] an example for everyone of courage, tenacity, and perseverance.”
Pope Francis penned a message for the Paralympians competing in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics. He called all participating athletes as examples for everyone, as they exemplified “courage, tenacity, and perseverance” despite their disabilities. According to the pope, “Paralympic Games are a further sign of the way in which sport can help overcome disabilities,” as it includes individuals with disabilities, enables them to do things that others might think they can’t do, and helps transform societies for the better.
The Holy Father added that events like the Paralympics showed how sports helps “build bridges between countries in conflict, giving a valid contribution and perspectives for peace among peoples.” (Read: Prayer for People With Disabilities)