The members of the Executive Committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) on July 14, 2020, released a Message entitled They Still Bring Forth Fruit in Old Age: A Lesson on Caring in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This message serves as an occasion for the Bishops of Canada to acknowledge the most serious difficulties faced by many vulnerable persons across the country during the pandemic, with particular concerns raised for the elderly in our communities.
The situation of Canada’s seniors, frequently including inadequate institutional care for their mental and physical health, as well as for their emotional and spiritual needs, often places them among the many others in society who are likewise vulnerable and marginalized, according to the bishops. As stated in the message: “What emerged at the beginning of the pandemic were the conditions in long-term care facilities and similar institutions that were particularly disturbing, as government and healthcare authorities began to acknowledge. […] That many elderly endured weeks practically in solitude to avoid contracting the virus even from caregivers, and that many died without either the presence of family members or the comfort and strength of the Church’s Sacraments and pastoral care is heartbreaking. […] Most upsetting and what has come to light is the admission that this situation already existed long before COVID-19 appeared on the horizon.”
The Message not only identifies concerns, but it also serves as an opportunity for Bishops to express their hope, encouragement, and recognition, which are equally important. It remains incumbent upon all members of society to understand, appreciate and cherish the gifts of the elderly and to bring about those necessary changes to improve the care and comfort of those most senior and vulnerable in our communities. “As we slowly return to a more normal way of life, let us not forget the elderly among us who still have so much wisdom to impart, faith to share, stories to tell and joys to offer. Let us create space in our hearts, homes, families, and communities to honor them and truly care for them in their weakness and their many needs. Let us welcome their unique giftedness in building a world which is more human, loving, generous, forgiving, and radiant with God’s grace.”