57 countries will update one another on such issues as genetic research, pain management and government policies toward people with autism.
It will also begin with a Mass and a monsignor preaching on suffering and will include presentations on how the church can better include autistic people in the core aspects of Catholic life, such as the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion. It will end with an audience Saturday with Francis, an event advocates hope will significantly move the needle on awareness, particularly in Spanish-speaking countries.
Bob and Suzanne Wright, Catholics and co-founders of the major U.S. advocacy group Autism Speaks, will give a presentation at the conference.
“We speak at colleges and places like that, but they don’t reach large audiences,” said Bob Wright, former chairman of NBC/Universal and grandfather of a teenage boy with autism. “Then we started with the religious aspect, but the problem is there aren’t any leaders who have large numbers. Most religions are split up. We zeroed in on the pope, and this pope in particular, because he has such a gift for reaching out to people, and he wants the church to be more inclusive.”