ROME — Every human being is precious and has a value that does not depend on his or her abilities, but on the fact that he or she is a person created in the image of God, Pope Francis said.

“If disability or illness makes life more difficult, it is no less worthy of being lived, and lived to the full. After all, who among us does not have limitations and does not, sooner or later, come up against limitations, even serious ones?” he said during an audience Dec. 13 in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.

The pope was speaking to staff and students of the Seraphic Institute of Assisi, which specializes in education, rehabilitation and care for children and young people with disabilities; the institute was celebrating its 150th anniversary.

“The most important thing is the spirit with which you all dedicate yourselves to this mission,” Pope Francis told them.

“It is clear to you, as it should be to everyone, that every human person is precious, has a value that does not depend on what he or she has or on his or her abilities, but on the simple fact that he or she is a person, the image of God,” he said.

People with disabilities must be seen “as one of us, who must be at the center of our care and our concern, and also at the center of everyone’s attention and of policies. This is a goal of civilization,” he said.

A person with a disability “not only receives, but gives,” which means that providing assistance and care is not “a one-way gesture, but an exchange of gifts,” he said.

Everyone, not just Christians, can recognize this truth because it is inscribed “in our conscience, which makes us feel our condition of unity among all human beings. We are truly connected by a bond of fraternity,” he said.