.- This morning Pope Benedict XVI received 400 participants in an international conference for the hearing impaired, saying to them, “you are not only recipients of the announcement of the Gospel but, by virtue of your Baptism, also its announcers.”
The conference titled, “Effata! Deaf People in the Life of the Church” is being promoted by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care and is headed by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski.
The Pope explained that the name “effata” was chosen as a theme for the conference was that “it is a paradigm of how the Lord works for people with a hearing impairment.” The Holy Father then referred to the passage from the Gospel of Mark where “Jesus takes a deaf man aside and, having performed certain symbolic gestures, raises His eyes to heaven and says: 'effata', that is, be opened.' In that moment...the man recovered his hearing, his tongue was loosened and he spoke plainly.”
The Pope said that Christ's actions in curing the man are full of love and compassion. “He expressed real concern, took him aside from the confusion of the crowds, and made him feel His closeness and understanding through certain highly significant gestures.”
Jesus not only heals physical deafness, said the Pontiff, but also the “deafness of the spirit which raises ever-higher barriers to the voice of God and of our fellow man, especially the cry for help of the poor and suffering, and which encloses man in a profound and destructive selfishness.”
The Holy Father then lamented that “hearing impaired people” are not always met “with ready acceptance, committed solidarity and affectionate communion.” “The many associations which have come into being to defend and promote their rights are evidence of the existence of an underlying culture marked by prejudice and discrimination,” he continued.
Despite this fact, numerous initiatives and institutions, “both ecclesial and civil,” have worked to promote justice and improve the lives and conditions of the hearing impaired around the globe.
“Yet we must not forget the serious situation in which deaf people still live in developing countries, both because of a lack of appropriate policies and legislation, and because of difficulty of access to basic healthcare,” warned the Pope. “Deafness, indeed, is often the consequence of easily-curable diseases.”
In response to such situations, Pope Benedict appealed to the “political and civil authorities as well as to international organizations to offer the support necessary to promote, also in those countries, due respect for the dignity and rights of deaf people, favoring ... their full social integration.”
The Holy Father concluded his address by saying, “Dear hearing-impaired brothers and sisters, you are not only recipients of the announcement of the Gospel but, by virtue of your Baptism, also its announcers.”
“Live every day, then, as witnesses of the Lord in the environments in which you live, making Christ and His Gospel known.”