By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service
BOGOTA, Colombia -- Proudly showing off their costumes for television cameras before Pope Francis arrived, dozens of young people with Down syndrome and other developmental challenges were obviously proud and pleased.
Pope Francis, smiling broadly, was obviously delighted by the precision of the traditional Colombian songs and dances they performed for him Sept. 7 outside the Vatican nunciature, where he was staying.
But the atmosphere changed when one of the young women spoke.
Just to make sure everyone heard her, the pope asked the "beautiful Maria" to repeat what she had said.
"We want a world in which vulnerability is recognized as essential to the human person," Maria repeated. Vulnerability, "far from weakening, strengthens and dignifies us" and is "a common meeting place that humanizes us."
Pope Francis seconded what Maria said, insisting vulnerability is part of "the essence of being human."
"We are all vulnerable, everyone," he said. Some people are particularly vulnerable in their feelings and reactions to other people, so no one sees that vulnerability. Other people have vulnerabilities that are obvious.
Either way, the pope said, that vulnerability must be "respected, caressed, cared for as much as possible."
Pope Francis ended the brief meeting by leading the young people in reciting a Hail Mary. And, to his usual "please, do not forget to pray for me," he added, "because I am very vulnerable."
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