A "thank you" to the elderly "for your example of love," dedication and wisdom and an appeal “never deny society your smile and the beautiful brightness of your eyes!", was Pope Francis conclusion at a meeting today in the Paul VI with members of the National Older Workers Union and the Italian Seniors Federation, in the context of the Day of the Elderly.
Addressing participants - not all elderly – who filled the whole
room, the pontiff expressed the esteem that the Church has towards
elders and grandparents: "The Church regards the elderly with affection,
gratitude and high esteem. They are an essential part of the Christian
community and society, in particular they represent the roots and the
memory of a people.
You are an important presence, because your
experience is a precious treasure, which is essential to look to the
future with hope and responsibility. Your maturity and wisdom
accumulated over the years, can help young people, supporting them on
the path of growth and openness to the future, in search of their way.
The elderly, in fact, show that, even in the most difficult trials, we
must never lose trust in God and in a better future. They are like trees
that continue to bear fruit: even under the weight of years, they can
make a decided contribution for a society rich in values and for the
affirmation of the culture of life.
Many elderly people generously spend their time and talents that God
has bestowed upon them by helping and supporting others. I think of how
many of you volunteer in parishes in a truly valuable service: some
dedicated to the upkeep of the house of the Lord, others as catechists,
leaders of the liturgy, witnesses of charity. And what about their role
in the family? How many grandparents care for grandchildren, simply by
transmitting to children the experience of life, the spiritual and
cultural values of a community and a people! In countries that have
suffered a severe religious persecution, it was often the grandparents
to pass on the faith to new generations, leading the children to be
baptized in a painful underground environment".
"In a world like this, often subject to the myth of power and
appearance, your mission is to witness to the values that really
matter and which endure forever because they are engraved on the heart
of every human being and guaranteed by the Word God. Just as people of
the so-called third age you, or rather we - because I too am one of them
- are called to work for the development of the culture of life,
witnessing that every season of life is a gift from God and it has its
own beauty and its importance, although marked by fragility".
The pope also recalled the elderly "who live with the disease, the physically disabled and need assistance”.
"Today I thank the Lord for the many people and structures that are
dedicated to offering a daily service to the elderly, to promote
adequate human contexts, in which everyone can live this important stage
of their lives with dignity. The institutions that house the elderly
are called to be places of humanity and loving attention, where the
weakest are not forgotten or neglected, but visited, remembered and
cherished as brothers and sisters. It is also a good way to expresses
gratitude towards those who have given so much to the community and are
at its very root".
Francis has also launched an appeal to institutions and communities
to facilitate the participation and appreciation of the elderly: "To do
this we must counter the harmful culture of waste that marginalizes the
elderly considering them unproductive. The public, the cultural,
educational and religious leaders, as well as all people of good will,
are called upon to commit to building a more welcoming and inclusive
And to emphasize the negativity of the "culture of waste," moving
from his scripted text he recalled an episode from his childhood: "One
of my grandmothers told that their grandfather lived with them (he was a
widower). He didn’t have very good table manners, his meal fell from
[his mouth]. One day her father decided that the grandfather should eat
in the kitchen, at a small table just for him ... So the family ate
A few days later, he found one of his young children playing with
hammer and nails. The father asked him what he was doing. The child
answered him: I am making a wooden table so that when you become old you
have somewhere to eat too .... ".
"This culture of waste – he continued – is like this 'you are old,
you are not needed anymore...'. We cannot let this scrap culture go
"It is important - he added - also favor the link between
generations. The future of a people requires the encounter between young
and old: the young people are the vitality of a people on the way and
the elderly reinforce this vitality with memory and wisdom. It does me
good to read when Joseph and Mary brought the child to the temple. And
there they found two old people ... And they were the wisdom of the
people. The elders receive Jesus in the temple, not the priest. Read
this in the Gospel of Luke (2, 22-38). This is wonderful".
Before blessing those present, Francis invited them to pray "the
grandmother of Jesus, Saint Anne. Everyone should quietly ask St. Anne
to teach us to be good and wise grandparents".
Eventually he went to
greet the dozens of ill and disabled present at the meeting.