Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "There is no future for people" if the inter-generational encounter is lacking and while here are times when generations of young people feel a deeper need to be independent from their parents", nevertheless, if the meeting of generations is lost and not re-established, and a "new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium not restored," the inevitable result will be, "serious impoverishment for everyone, and the freedom which prevails in society is actually a false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism".
There were many white heads today in St. Peter's
Square for "The blessing of long life" event organized by the
Pontifical Council for the Family: 40 thousand "grandparents" from
whom Pope Francis heard stories and testimonies, and for whom he concelebrated
Mass together with a hundred elderly priests.
For Pope Francis today's meeting was also an opportunity to return to two of his favorite topics; the need to promote a welcoming society and condemn the predominate "throw away" culture. "Seniors, grandmothers and grandfathers don't always have a family who can take them in - he noted - Homes for the elderly are great ... as long as they are truly homes, not prisons! And let them be for the elderly, and not for someone else's personal gain! There must never be institutions where the elderly are left abandoned to themselves forgotten, as if hidden, neglected. I feel close to the many elderly people who live in these institutions, and I think with gratitude of those who go to visit them and take care of them. Homes for the elderly should be the 'lungs' of humanity in a country, in a community, in a parish. They should be the 'sanctuaries' of humanity where those who are old and weak are cared for and guarded like an older brother or an older sister. It does us so much good to go to visit a senior! Just look at our kids: sometimes we see them listless and sad; they visit an elderly person and they are filled with joy". But "how often we discard the elderly with an attitude of abandonment that is nothing more than true and proper euthanasia, children are discarded, young people are discarded because they have no job and the elderly are discarded under the pretense of maintaining a balanced economic system at the center of which there is the god of money. We are all called to counter this poisonous throw away culture, the Christians with all men of good will are called to build a more humane patient and inclusive society".
Before the celebration of the Eucharist, during the
personal testimonies, one was particularly moving. It was the story of Mubarak,
a refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan, in the square with his wife, Aneesa: married
for 51 years, they have ten children and 12 grandchildren. Listening to Mubarak
and his wife 'who fled from a violent persecution ", the Pope responded by
welcoming them: "It is truly wonderful to have you here today, it is a
gift to the Church. And we offer our sympathy, our prayers and practical help.
Violence against the elderly is inhuman, just as it is against children . Yet
God will not abandon you, He is with you! with His help you are here and
continue to be a living memory for your people, and also for us, for the great
family of the Church. Thank you! These brethren testify that even in the most
testing difficulties, the elderly who have faith are like trees that continue
to bear fruit. And this is true even in the most ordinary circumstances, where,
however, there may be other temptations, and other forms of discrimination".
"In those countries - he added a little later - where religious
persecution was cruel - I think, for example, of Albania, where I went last
Sunday - in those countries were the grandparents have to take the children to
be baptized in secret, to give them the faith. Truly great people! they were truly
great people in the midst of persecution and have saved the faith in those
The meeting with the elders also saw the return to St Peter's Square, of Benedict XVI who was greeted with great warmth by those present and greeted affectionately by Francis, who later added in reference to the Pope Emeritus: "I have said many times that I like the fact you are living here in the Vatican so much, because it was like having a wise grandfather at home. Thank you."
In his homily, commenting on today's Gospel, which speaks of Mary's visit to Elizabeth, the Pope called it the Gosep of encounter: "The encounter between young and old, an encounter full of joy, full of faith, and full of hope.
"Mary is young, very young. Elizabeth is elderly, yet God's mercy was manifested in her and for six months now, with her husband Zechariah, she has been expecting a child.Here too, Mary shows us the way: she set out to visit her elderly kinswoman, to stay with her, to help her, of course, but also and above all to learn from her - an elderly person - a wisdom of life. Today's first reading echoes in various ways the Fourth Commandment: "Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Ex 20:12). A people has no future without such an encounter between generations, without children being able to accept with gratitude the witness of life from the hands of their parents. And part of this gratitude for those who gave you life is also gratitude for our heavenly Father".
"There are times when generations of young people, for complex historical and cultural reasons, feel a deeper need to be independent from their parents, "breaking free", as it were, from the legacy of the older generation. It is a kind of adolescent rebellion. But unless the encounter, the meeting of generations, is reestablished, unless a new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium is restored, what results is a serious impoverishment for everyone, and the freedom which prevails in society is actually a false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism".
"We hear the same message in the Apostle Paul's exhortation to Timothy and, through him, to the Christian community. Jesus did not abolish the law of the family and the passing of generations, but brought it to fulfillment. The Lord formed a new family, in which bonds of kinship are less important than our relationship with him and our doing the will of God the Father. Yet the love of Jesus and the Father completes and fulfils our love of parents, brothers and sisters, and grandparents; it renews family relationships with the lymph of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Saint Paul urges Timothy, who was a pastor and hence a father to the community, to show respect for the elderly and members of families. He tells him to do so like a son: treating "older men as fathers", "older women as mothers" and "younger women as sisters" (cf. 1 Tim 5:1). The head of the community is not exempt from following the will of God in this way; indeed, the love of Christ impels him to do so with an even greater love. Like the Virgin Mary, who, though she became the mother of the Messiah, felt herself driven by the love of God taking flesh within her to hasten to her elderly relative".
Thus the Pope continued, "we return to this "icon" full of joy and hope, full of faith and charity. We can imagine that the Virgin Mary, visiting the home of Elizabeth, would have heard her and her husband Zechariah praying in the words of today's responsorial psalm: "You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth... Do not cast me off in the time of old age, do not forsake me when my strength is spent... Even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come" (Ps 71:5,9,18). The young Mary listened, and she kept all these things in her heart. The wisdom of Elizabeth and Zechariah enriched her young spirit. They were no experts in parenthood; for them too it was the first pregnancy. But they were experts in faith, experts in God, experts in the hope that comes from him: and this is what the world needs in every age. Mary was able to listen to those elderly and amazed parents; she treasured their wisdom, and it proved precious for her in her journey as a woman, as a wife and as a mother.
The Pope concluded "The Virgin Mary likewise shows us the way: the way of encounter between the young and the elderly. The future of a people necessarily supposes this encounter: the young give the strength which enable a people to move forward, while the elderly consolidate this strength by their memory and their traditional wisdom".
Finally during the Angelus the Pope entrusted the Synod which will open next Sunday to Mary. He said "the Synodal Assembly on the theme of family begins next Sunday. I invite everyone, individuals and communities, to pray for this important event and I entrust this intention to the intercession of Mary, Salus Populi Romani".