News & Media

Excluding people with disabilities makes Church ‘incomplete’

A leading expert on faith and disabilities has said that people with disabilities are an essential aspect of the Church’s life and mission, and that parishes which exclude them are “incomplete.”

“It’s important to say from the very beginning that any parish that doesn’t have people with disabilities in it, is an incomplete body of Christ…their full capacity to evangelize and catechize is impoverished,” Cristina Gangemi told EWTN News Oct. 18.

Gangemi is co-director of The Kairos Forum, and an expert in pastoral care for people with intellectual disabilities. She has partnered with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization to host a conference on catechesis for people with disabilities.

The conference, titled “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church,” will take place Oct. 20-22 at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome.

Gangemi told EWTN News that “to have everybody the same doesn’t celebrate the beauty of diversity, because one thing that we’re all the same in, one true moment of equality, is that we’re all different.”

But, she said, when people with disabilities participate in parish life, it is sometimes “presumed by the priest…that they don’t have the learning capacity to be able to be prepared for First Communion or the Sacraments.”

While people with disabilities are often described as having “learning difficulties,” Gangemi said the reality is actually the reverse: “the problem is that there are lots of teaching difficulties.”

She noted that many resources used in catechetical preparation for the reception of the sacraments are not adapted to the learning styles of intellectually disabled people, who frequently learn best through action, drama, art and music.

“So we’ve got this paradox. You’ve got people with disabilities who long to receive the sacraments, who from the moment of their conception are touched by God’s grace, and so therefore are called to the sacraments, and then you’ve got this problem in parish structures where nobody really knows how to make all their programs accessible.”

Because people with disabilities often struggle to learn using traditional methods, “the presumption is they can’t be catechized.”

The heart of catechesis and evangelization is essentially “the echoing down of faith from one generation to another, from one person to another in the parish,” she said. “And as for evangelization, everybody, no matter who they are, holds the capacity to be an agent of evangelization.”

Pointing to another example, Gangemi recalled the story of a 50-year-old man with disabilities at a parish in London, who at every Mass, during the consecration or when people went up for Communion, would extend his hand toward the altar and make unintelligible sounds.

Typically the man’s caretakers would tell him to be quiet and not to make noise. However, one day as the man was watching others receive Communion, he again reached out his hand and said, “Why not me?”

“This reaching out for 40-45 years, watching everybody go up to Communion and come back again, was his longing for the Eucharist,” Gangemi said. “And if you think of what Jesus did and what Jesus said, he made a special focus on people who are left out.”

“His lament, ‘why not me?’ was no different than the psalmists and the people that were exiled. So I think that’s got to stop, my hope is that that will stop, she said.”

In 2016, Pope Francis told an Italian group that excluding anyone from parish life because of a disability is wrong, stressing that it is better to “close the door” of a parish than to exclude the disabled.

Disability catechesis, Gangemi said, is not simply about making sure people with disabilities have access to the Sacraments, but is more broadly focused on “how can we ensure that every single person, born and baptized, can be an agent of evangelization and can have the faith echoed down to them so that they can echo down the faith to others.”

“People with disabilities who become active in the Church through their own creative skills then become people that can evangelize to others and call others to salvation,” she said.

The catechetical conference was proposed in 2016 by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for the New Evangelization, and approved personally by Pope Francis. Gangemi, who has a number of family members with disabilities, was invited to help organize the event because of previous Vatican conferences on disabilities she’d arranged.

So far, 420 people who work in catechesis have signed up, coming from professions and countries all over the world. Archbishop Fisichella, Baroness Sheila Hollins of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and representatives from dioceses around the world will present methods for the catechesis of disabled people. Participants will also have an audience with Pope Francis on day two of the event, demonstrating the Pope’s keen interest in the topic.

In her comments to EWTN News, Gangemi called the conference “historic,” since it is among the first global events to address the topic of catechizing those with intellectual disabilities.

Gangemi is also partnering with the Archdiocese of Newark’s office for Pastoral Ministry for Persons with Disabilities, to launch a parish training course on catechesis for the disabled.

The goal, she said, is to engage people so as to “try to make a shift in the way we see and think” about disability, “because the Catholic Church teaches that all life is gift.”

“That’s our starting point: all life is gift,” she said, and voiced her hope that the conference would be “the beginning, and that those of us who live now will leave a legacy for those to come, that it won’t die.”

International Conference to Focus on Disability and Catechesis

Bishop of Broken Bay Peter Comensoli will lead a session at an international convention to be held in Rome this month for more than 450 participants working in the area of catechesis for persons with disabilities, the Diocese of Broken Bay reports.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, in collaboration with the Kairos Forum for Cognitively and Intellectually Disabled People, will host the Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Churchconference at the Pontifical University Urbiana, from October 20–22.

Recognising the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the conference, at its heart, will honour persons with disabilities and highlight the unique blessings they bring to the Christian community.

“We believe this conference will empower people from around the world to make a positive difference in their local parishes and communities,” says Australian coordinator, Dr Zachariah Duke, Associate Dean, Broken Bay Institute – The Australian Institute of Theological Education.

“It is about bringing our theology and pastoral practice into dialogue with one another – sometimes there is a disjoint between the two, and it is the hope of this conference to iron out any disjoints!”

Following on from the success of the 2016 conference, Living Fully, this year’s conference conference will hear from international experts including Archbishop Rino Fisichella (Vatican), Cristina Gangemi (England), Isabel de la Taste (France), Fr Gabriele Pipinato (Kenya) and Anne Dewulf (Belgium).

Bishop Comensoli will lead a joint session with Professor Miguel Romero (USA) on the “Celebration of the Christian Mystery – Sacraments as precious occasions for catechesis”.

“Those among us who are profoundly, cognitively-impaired live a graced humanity,” Bishop Comensoli said.

“It is for everyone to recognise that they are privileged stewards of sacramental faith because they are quite ordinarily participants in the life of Christ.”

Program highlights over the three days include exploration of prayer and the experience of catechesis, pastoral and catechetical tools enabling inclusion of persons with disabilities, protection of persons with disabilities, and an audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace.


For mor information visit: LivingFully

Watch the interview: Tutti o Nessuno. Chiesa e disabilità 23/10/2012

Watch the News Report: EWTN News Nightly

Our Work With The Vatican 2017

The Kairos Forum is very excited and honoured to be partnering with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. In October 2017, we will help deliver a global conference in Rome at the Urbaniana University. The conference will host some of the leading theologians and practitioners who work within the field of disability, theology and catechesis. The conference will gather resources from all over the world with the aim to fully engage, people who have been disabled, in the life of the Catholic Church.

The conference runs from 20 – 22 October at the Pontifical Urbaniana University and takes the theme “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church”.

Pope Francis has granted a private audience to those attending the conference.

Bishops Conference Article

Pontifical Council For New Evangelisation and Catechesis 

Please do watch out for our social media invitations and follow he conference, If you want to join us PLEASE DO !!!

You can email or for a booking form.


Watch the interview: Tutti o Nessuno. Chiesa e disabilità 23/10/2012

Watch the News Report: EWTN News Nightly

Living Fully – Strasbourg 2017

30 August – 2 September 2017

In June 2016, The Kairos Forum went to Rome to deliver the Living Fully Academic Symposium and conference in the Vatican – co-patroned by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

The four-day event brought together persons with disabilities, members of their families, leading theologians and practitioners within the field of theology and disability. Our time together,
celebrated the presence of persons with disabilities and advocated a place of belonging and hope for all people – no matter their ability.

Now we’re repeating the ‘Living Fully’ experience in another European city… Strasbourg in France.

From the 30 August to 2 September 2017, Kairos in partnership with the European Society for the Study of Disability will hold another Living Fully event.

We have organised four workshops within the framework of the European Society for Catholic Theology’s (ESSTD) Congress on Fraternity in Strasburg.

Our workshops will provide an opportunity to deepen the theme of fraternity and disability within all fields of theology but also in its relationship with, sociology, anthropology, charity, environment, education and more.

Visit the google site for the Strasbourg conference and join us in France!


Strasbourg Conference Programme 2017

Vatican co-signs Living Fully 2016 Statement and Charter

The Pontifical Council for Culture has continued its collaboration with The Kairos Forum and other delegates who attended the ground breaking international symposium and conference, ‘Living Fully 2016’ in Rome that took place in June 2016.

The outcome is a robust Statement and Charter for the Church, affirming that everybody of all abilities has a place in our faith communities. Conversations and presentations from the four days spent together are integrated into this key statement document.

Reinforcing the importance of this event and the ongoing mission to include everyone of all abilities, the Statement and Charter are now on the way to becoming official documents. Key signatories of the document include Cardinal Ravasi, President and Monsignor Melchor Sánchez de Toca, Under Secretary of The Pontifical Council for Culture. Enabling disabled people is now more than ever part of the Council’s culture. Given this ongoing commitment, future opportunities to expand on the ‘Living Fully 2016’ events are not only possible, but likely.

The Pontifical Council for Culture has produced a special edition journal, merging their own ongoing work with the ‘Living Fully 2016’ outcome. This includes abridged versions of selected papers presented at the events, as well as the Statement and Charter and for the first time ever, a Widgit symbols statement within a Pontifical publication.

Monsignor Gergely Kovács, Head of Office at the Pontifical Council for Culture compiled Vol. XXIV 2016 N.3 of the Dicastery’s journal, which has a focus on the ‘Living Fully 2016’ conference. The first part of this edition contains details of the conference, along with articles written by its participants.

Fullness of life and loneliness, both issues in the lives of disabled people, were just two of the many topics the conference covered. Great care was taken in selecting a statement from each ‘Living Fully 2016’ paper in order to highlight the importance of each and every one.

Cristina Gangemi, Director of The Kairos Forum sums up the Living Fully mission:

“The conference looked at new ways that parishes could become a place of welcome and belonging in the life of the Church, for those who have been excluded in different ways. It also brought attention to the important dialogue about people with different abilities within the Church, while celebrating their lives and how they uniquely live their faith.”

The journal will be published in January 2017 and will be widely available. In addition, building on the successful events of this year, more exciting Living Fully events are planned for 2017 with details to be announced in the new year.


Living Fully 2016 – Statement and Charter