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Pope meets with autistic children

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VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope Francis has called for an end to the isolation and stigma of people living with autism spectrum disorders and their families during an audience aimed at raising awareness about the condition.

The pope met Saturday with children with autism and their parents, calling on governments and institution to respond to their needs to help break “the isolation and, in many cases also the stigma” associated with autism.

Francis circulated the auditorium, embracing children and teens with autism spectrum disorders. Some of the children appeared to avoid the pope's eyes, while one teen whom the pope had greeted followed the pontiff and gave him another hug from behind.

The audience capped an international conference on autism hosted by the Vatican's health care office.