Over 420 people who work in catechesis are registered for the conference, and come from professions and countries all over the world.
In addition to Fisichella, other speakers include Baroness Sheila Hollins of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and representatives from dioceses around the world, who will present methods for the catechesis of disabled people. Disabled people participating will lead moments of prayer throughout the gathering.
Participants will also have an audience with Pope Francis during the event, demonstrating the Pope's keen interest in the topic.
In his speech, Fisichella said addressing the topic of disability within the Christian community is “urgent” because of the social and cultural stigmas that people with disabilities often face today.
Recounting several examples of situations when people with disabilities have been discriminated against, he noted that in 2015 an elderly parent who was beaten for taking a reserved parking spot when buying medicine for his son, who was having an epileptic emergency.
He also pointed to how in August of this year a disabled teenage girl was raped in the Italian town of Piacenza, and her attacker immediately set free. Another example was how, earlier this month in Naples, seven couples who had made adoption requests refused the offer of a child with Downs Syndrome.
“The bullying and arrogance of the stronger” can always happen to anyone, Fisichella said, but noted that it's also always true “that when this happens to a person who is disabled, and therefore weak and defenseless, then the disdain and the complaint” must be more forceful.
Fisichella reflected on the way that God relates to man, saying it is the Lord from the beginning who chose to speak and reveal himself to man. Revelation, and the response of faith, begins with “the act of love from which comes God’s decision to reveal himself and the purpose of calling one to share in his own life,” he said.
There are different stages of revelation, he said, noting that each one “is marked by the love of God.”
“It's a love that reaches the heart of every person, meeting them in their interior, where the perception of a presence that gives meaning to life is best expressed,” he said.
Faith, he said, is “a personal act which testifies to having encountered God who made himself known.”
Faith “is never far from love,” Fisichella said, explaining that love itself “generates faith and sustains it with the strength of hope.”
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“Love comes from God and returns to God,” he said, and “this completely transforms man, because it renders him capable of relating to himself and others with a love he receives as a gift and which he himself cannot produce.”
Fisichella said that “one can think of catechesis as a desire to stay for a long time in order to grow in knowledge of the Lord Jesus,” adding that the heart of catechesis is “to make the life of the believer a path where through the knowledge of what is believed we enter into the mystery by celebrating it with the prayer of the entire people of God.”
To fully understand this, it's necessary that “it be made easier to understand the impact that catechesis can have on people with disabilities,” he said.
Ultimately, the goal of catechesis is “to make it so that God seizes everyone, whatever state they are in, because the primacy lies with him,” Fisichella said, stressing that God “finds the most adequate means to communicate his life of love and to make the love he invests in a person felt.”
The archbishop pointed to music, song and art, which all bespeak love, he said, allowing those who experience them to understand God in a different way, he said. So “no one is excluded from the Word that God speaks, with which he makes himself known to each one.”
He then spoke of the need to promote the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis speaks of so often, with a special emphasis on friendship, brotherhood and solidarity.