The Catholic Church must walk alongside of autism sufferers and their families “to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey,” Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski said in his April 2 message for the Fifth World Autism Day, published by Vatican Radio.
To God’s loving hands, he said, “we entrust the lives of so many of our autistic brothers and sisters and their families who, although enveloped in the mystery of silence because of a grave psychological disturbance, are never alone.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported March 29 that an estimated 1 in 88 U.S. children have been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. Disorders are almost five times more common among boys than girls.
The findings represent a sharp increase over previous years, showing that the rate of autism has doubled in the U.S. since 2002. The report has raised questions about whether the high rate increase reflects increased awareness, an increase in environmental causes of the disorders, or incorrect diagnoses, Reuters reported.
In Europe, an estimated 60 in 10,000 children are affected by autism, Vatican Radio said.
Archbishop Zimowski noted in his message that autistic spectrum disorders create a “grave” alteration of behavior, communication, and social integration and have a wide-ranging effect on the normal development of the personality.
Victims’ sufferings can also create frustration and resignation among both themselves and their families, he said.
However, the Church is committed to being “traveling companions” of autism sufferers, following the example of the Good Samaritan. The Church also aims to be “the house of the Father where everyone can find the fullness of human and divine love,” he added.
Archbishop Zimowski praised the devotion of families, communities, health care workers, educators and volunteers who help autism sufferers. He called for more scientific research and health care policy that addresses autism.
He said that every human person has a dignity that “even the gravest and most devastating disability does not eliminate.” This dignity fills Christians with hope, because they are nourished by the redemption of “the glorious Cross of Christ.”