The Elderly Need More Interaction with the Young, Says Vatican

Archbishop Martino’s Statement at the United Nations

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NEW YORK, OCT. 9, 2002 ( More contact between the generations is needed in order to help keep the elderly from becoming isolated, the Vatican recommended at the United Nations.

Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Holy See’s observer delegation to the United Nations, made this suggestion Monday to a committee that is discussing the secretary-general’s follow-up report to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Aging.

That summit on the elderly was held April 12 in Spain. It resulted in the 2002 International Plan of Action on Aging, which was supported by the Vatican.

Archbishop Renato talked about the Vatican’s programs with the elderly and said, “Too many people, especially older persons, are not aware of the work that has been done, and too many do not know that there is, indeed, a plan to help them to better realize their role in the societies in which they live, and the responsibilities that societies have in helping older persons fulfill those roles.”

The Vatican representative indicated that his delegation believes that the secretary-general’s report “does not go far enough in its recommendations on how the United Nations system might better help in the implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action.”

To illustrate his point, Archbishop Martino referred to the work being done with the elderly at St. Ann’s Center for Intergenerational Care, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, operated by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.

This center gathers people of all ages and abilities in a homelike setting and offers them a range of educational and therapeutic services, based upon intergenerational interaction. Older persons share the facilities with children so that they might interact with them, while the children have an opportunity to learn from and become comfortable in dealing with older persons.

“My delegation reports that worldwide, the Catholic Church, through its various agencies and local diocesan programs, operates more than 13,238 homes, hospices and care institutions for older persons,” said the archbishop, who was recently appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

“At the same time, my delegation realizes that the number of people served by these facilities is only a small percentage of those persons who have reached their 60th year,” he added.

Quoting John Paul II, Archbishop Martino concluded that old age is a “time of grace, which is an invitation to be united with a deeper love to Christ’s saving mystery and to participate more profoundly in his plan of salvation. The Church looks with love and trust upon you elderly people, dedicating herself to encouraging the fulfillment of a human, social and spiritual context in which every person can live this important stage of his life fully and with dignity.”

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