City Lit Blog

City Lit Head of Deaf Access and Interpreting, James Fitzgerald, interprets into BSL for Pope Francis

Story added 1st Nov 2017

City Lit's James Fitzgerald meeting Pope Francis at a conference in Rome.

It’s not every day that a member of City Lit’s staff gets to spend time with one of the world’s leading figures.

However, that’s exactly what happened last week to James Fitzgerald (Head of Department, Deaf Access and Interpreting in our Centre for Deaf Education), who had the honour of interpreting for Pope Francis in the Vatican.

James acted as interpreter at an international three-day conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation, called ‘Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church’. This included keynote presentations from various academics and theologians on the subjects of disability, theology and experience.  The highlight for James was a private audience with Pope Francis where the Holy Father met conference delegates and gave an address in Italian. James interpreted for six Deaf BSL-users (including a Deaf priest) from the UK. City Lit fellow Baroness Sheila Hollins also presented a paper at the conference.

James (right) interpreted into BSL for Pope Francis at the three day conference in Rome.

Speaking about his experiences of the event, James said:

“I was asked to interpret at this conference as I have experience working with this sort of language and in this type of setting.  There are very few other Catholic BSL interpreters who are familiar with ecclesiastical, theological and liturgical language – so for me, it was a great opportunity to use my skills and experience to provide access for Deaf people at an international event such as this. 

“On a personal level, as a Catholic it was a particular joy for me to meet the Pope in such a beautiful and historic setting. From a professional perspective, it was a wonderful and exhilarating experience to be working alongside other sign language interpreters from Italy, France, Ukraine, Malta and the United States. Certainly the best booking I’ve ever had as an interpreter!”

James’ trip to Rome concluded with Sunday Mass at St Peter’s Basilica, which he interpreted, and was then followed by a lunch hosted by the Italian Deaf community which included presentations from various Deaf delegates from around the world.

Centre for deaf education

City Lit's Centre for deaf education has grown to become an internationally-renowned centre of a wide range of provision - it is the largest centre of its kind in Europe. Our staff is a mixed group of deaf and hearing professionals; all highly skilled in their own areas of specialist expertise. Find out more about British sign language / BSL courses at City Lit.