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Pope's Influence Felt Globally After Autism Conference

November 25, 2014

Pope Francis shined a light on autism last week when he met with families and health professionals at the first-ever Pontifical conference on autism, called “The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope. His actions brought the plight of those with autism to a global stage, starting conversations both online and off.

In a blog post by Dilshad Ali on the website Patheos, the writer, who is Muslim and raising a son with autism, thanks the Pope for his efforts:

In perusing photos and reading more about the meeting, I felt a strange sort of uplifting, better articulated by one of the parents who, along with her child, met the Pope:

"After offering a prayer, Francis greeting the young children and teens with autism and their families, kissing the children and cupping their faces in his hands as he circulated the auditorium at the Vatican. Some appeared to avoid the pope’s eyes, while one teen whom the pope had greeted followed the pontiff and gave him another hug from behind.

Families of children affected with autism were touched by the pope’s words.

‘It was an explosion of emotions,’ said Maria Cristina Fiordi, a mother of a child with autism. 'For us, we are parents of a child affected with autism, this meeting was very important. It was as an outstretched hand through a problem that is very often not considered in the right way.'"

It matters. It just does. To be acknowledged, to be heard and seen, to have our hopes, dreams, fears, troubles and joys talked about. It all matters.

Read Ali's full blog post here.

Autism Speaks co-founders Bob and Suzanne Wright spoke at the conference focusing on volunteerism. They also attended Pope Francis' mass for families affected by autism.

Watch: Pope Francis Holds Mass for Families Affected by Autism

Click here to read Pope Francis' translated remarks on autism.

Watch: Mr. and Mrs. Wright speak on a panel at the Vatican. 

To learn more about how Autism Speaks is spreading awareness about autism, visit our Light it Up Blue website.