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Consultation on Reforms: PWDs Want to Play Major Role In Catholic Church

Joseph Walugembe, an activist of disability-inclusive development and the Projects Coordinator at Stromme Foundation, says that people with special needs also admire to freely associate with affairs of their faith including being given the opportunity to perform key roles like their counterparts without disabilities.
Joseph Walugembe, an activist of disability-inclusive development making a public address, He also wants the Church to fully embrace PWDs

Audio 5

Persons with Disabilities-PWDs want the Catholic Church to consider integrating them in key positions and roles as a way of promoting their empowerment. According to the PWDs, their apparent exclusion from key responsibilities such as being ordained into the priesthood and other classical positions in the Church is a form of discrimination that needs to stop.

Joseph Walugembe, an activist of disability-inclusive development and the Projects Coordinator at Stromme Foundation, says that people with special needs also admire to freely associate with affairs of their faith including being given the opportunity to perform key roles like their counterparts without disabilities.   

Currently, the Catholic Church is for the first time in its history is carrying out worldwide consultations on possible reforms the believers would wish to see in the management of its affairs.  While declaring the consultations late last year, Pope Francis informed the Church of the desire to build holistic participation of all the faithful in the activities of the Church, strengthening the cohesion of the church institution and addressing traditional prejudices between them and other faiths.  

Walugembe says it is high time the Catholic Church waived some structural limitations against persons with disabilities, such that they are also allowed to exercise their unique potentials in serving the faith.  

He explains that unlike in the past, the advancement in technology has drastically removed the barriers that would affect their competence and efficiencies in performing many tasks. He cites the example of brail slates, white canes, text-screen readers for the visually impaired and other advanced gadgets that simplify movement for the physically impaired.  

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Luganda 

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Besides being integrated into key roles, Walugembe says that they are also looking forward to having a deliberate decree that obliges all Churches to put in place disabilities-friendly facilities and an enabling environment to cater for all persons with disabilities. 

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According to demographic statistics from the World Health Organization, at least 15 percent of the world population is living with some form of disability. In Uganda, the number is estimated to be 12.5 percent of a population of about 42 million people.   

Dick Bugembe, the Board Chairperson for Masaka Association of Disabled Persons Living with HIV and AIDS-MADIPHA says that they comprise a bigger constituency of the society whose needs ought to be catered for in all spheres of life. 

Bugembe, whose priestly dream was allegedly shattered because of a disability of his hand palms, says that they are now looking at the ongoing consultations as an opportunity to request the Church to fully embrace PWDs by making relative adjustments to allow them opportunities to serve as long as they express a desire to serve God.

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Reverend Fr. James Ssendege, the Masaka Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator who is leading the local consultation process, says that they are open to all thoughts of people. 

He says that they will be thoroughly studied by higher authorities who will eventually make the final decision for the good of the Church.   

At this stage he says, the committees are not at liberty to discuss people's views.