Pope Reminds Elderly That Old Age Is Time of Grace

Thousands Join Francis, Benedict XVI in St. Peters Square

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Saint Peter’s Square witnessed once again the embrace of the Pope Emeritus and Pope Francis. The occasion was today’s celebration of the Elderly. This Sunday morning, grandparents and elderly from more than 20 countries gave witness of a full and happy life at the service of others.

This Day, called “The Blessing of Long Life,” organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, was an opportunity to hear the testimonies of grandparents who have found a true vocation in being grandparents. Forgetting their fear of being older or useless, the elderly proclaimed the joy of arriving to this stage of life.

The music and songs for this feast could not be performed otherwise than by those with grey hair. The first song was sung by the famous Italian singer Andrea Bocelli, with his well known hit “I shall go with you.”

After hearing the various testimonies of grandparents and elderly from different parts of the world, the Holy Father addressed those present, thanking all for coming and for their welcome and expressing a special thank you to Benedict XVI. “I have said many times that I very much like that he lives here in the Vatican, because it is like having a wise grandfather at home,” said Francis.

Then the Pontiff highlighted one of the testimonies heard this morning in the Square, that of a married couple from a city near Mosul in Iraq. “To them we, all together, say special thanks. It’s lovely that you came here today and a gift for the Church, and we offer you our closeness, our prayer and concrete help,” continued Francis.

“Violence to the elderly is inhuman, as it is to children. But God doesn’t abandon you. He is with you. With his help you and will continue to be memory for your people, and also for us, for the great family of the Church. Thank you,” he added.

These brothers also give witness to us that, even in the most difficult trials, the elderly who have faith are like trees that continue to give fruit. And this is true also in the most ordinary situations, where there can be other temptations and other forms of discrimination, said the Pope.

The Holy Father pointed out that, “old age is, in a particular way, a time of grace in which the Lord renews His call, He calls us to keep and to transmit the faith. He calls us to pray, He calls us to intercede, He calls us to be close to those who need it.” Because “grandparents have the ability to understand the most difficult situations — a great ability. And when they pray for these situations, their prayer is strong, it is powerful,” he stressed.

Pope Francis added that “grandparents, who have received the blessing to see the children of their children, have been given a great task: to transmit the experience of life, the history of a family, of a community, of a people; to share, with simplicity, wisdom and the faith itself – the most precious inheritance!”

In this connection, the Pontiff mentioned the countries where religious persecution has been cruel, where “it was grandparents who have taken children secretly to be baptized, to give them their faith.” They “have saved the faith in those countries.”

Left alone

However, the Pope noted, the elderly do not always have a family that cares of them. Therefore, the Holy Father requested that homes for the elderly “be truly homes and not “prisons.” They should be for the good of the elderly people, “and not for others’ interests,” said Francis, adding that “there must not be institutes where the elderly live forgotten, hidden, neglected.” He also stressed that the residences of elderly should be “lungs” of humanity in a country, in a neighbourhood, in a parish. “They should be shrines of humanity where one who is old and weak is taken care of and protected as a brother or an older sister.”

Another aspect on which the Holy Father reflected was the abandonment of the elderly. He pointed out the times when “the elderly are discarded with attitudes of abandonment which are a real and proper hidden euthanasia.” This “is the effect of the throw-away culture that does so much wrong to the world.” Thus, “we are all called to counteract this poisonous throw-away culture.”

As Christians we are called to imagine, with creativity and wisdom, the ways to address this challenge. “A people that does not protect grandparents and does not treat them well is a people with no future,” stressed Francis. However, he also pointed out to the elderly that they “have the responsibility to keep alive these roots” in themselves “with prayer, the reading of the Gospel, and works of mercy.” In this way, we remain as living trees that in old age do not cease to bear fruit, he added.

Finally, the Bishop of Rome said that, “one of the most beautiful things of family life, of our human family life, is to caress a child and to let oneself be caressed by a grandfather or a grandmother.”

The celebration culminated with the Pope’s celebration of Holy Mass and the Marian prayer of the Angelus.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Rocío Lancho García

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation