During today’s general audience, Francis focused again on the consequences of the war in Ukraine, making “a heartfelt appeal that every effort be made to resolve this issue”. During the catechesis, he asked political leaders, “How is it that modern civilisation, so advanced and efficient, is so uncomfortable with sickness and old age?”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke again about the consequences of the war in Ukraine this morning, during the Wednesday general audience in St Peter's Square.
“The blocking of grain exports from Ukraine, on which the lives of millions of people depend, especially in the poorest countries, is of great concern,” he said. “I make a heartfelt appeal that every effort be made to resolve this issue and to guarantee the universal human right to food. Please do not use wheat, a staple food, as a weapon of war!”
During his address, Francis greeted Portuguese-speaking pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, saying, “at the end of the month of May, we raised to Our Lady, Mother of Jesus, our insistent supplication for peace. Let us remain united with her, waiting for a new Pentecost, asking that the gift of the Holy Spirit make us discover paths of dialogue and unity.”
In today’s catechesis, Francis focused on the prayer of the elderly man found in Psalm 71 to reflect on the topic “Forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Ps 71:9).
“The beautiful prayer,” he said, “encourages us to meditate on the strong tension that dwells in the condition of old age, when the memory of labours overcome and blessings received is put to the test of faith and hope.”
In addition to the reference to the vulnerability of old age, the elderly psalmist mentions that old age can become an occasion for abandonment, deception, abuse and arrogance vis-à-vis the elderly.
“In this throwaway society, this throwaway culture, elderly people are cast aside and suffer these things.” This is “A form of cowardice in which we specialize in this society of ours. Indeed, there is no lack of those who take advantage of the elderly, to cheat them and to intimidate them in myriad ways.”
“Such cruelty also occurs within families,” he lamented. “The elderly who are rejected, abandoned in rest homes, without their children coming to visit them, or they go a few times a year. The elderly person is placed in the corner of existence.” Instead, “The whole of society must hasten to take care of its elderly – they are its treasure! – s who are increasingly numerous and often also the most abandoned.”
For Francis, when we hear about elderly people who have been deprived of their autonomy, sometimes even of their home, we can see the ambivalence of today's society towards old age. This “is not a problem of occasional emergencies, but a feature of that throwaway culture that poisons the world we live in,” the pontiff said.
On a wider scale, “How is it that modern civilization, so advanced and efficient, is so uncomfortable with sickness and old age? [. . .] And how is it that politics, which is so committed to defining the limits of a dignified survival, is at the same time insensitive to the dignity of a loving coexistence with the old and the sick?”
The elder in the Psalm rediscovers trust in the Lord and turns to God, who alone can “rouse consciences that have been diverted by insensibility to the span of mortal life, which must be protected in its entirety.”
“The elderly, by virtue of their weakness, can teach those who are living in other ages of life that we all need to abandon ourselves to the Lord”; indeed, “yes, there is a gift in being elderly, understood as abandoning oneself to the care of others, starting with God himself.”
According to pope, there is a "magisterium of frailty”, hence, we must not hide the frailty of old age. This magisterium opens up a decisive horizon for the reform of our own civilisation.
People, the pope added, must look at the elderly in their own family, ask themselves how close they are to them and how much the latter are part of their daily lives. “Protect the elderly, who are wisdom,” he said in concluding his address.
In his first audience of June, the pope greeted Polish pilgrims noting that “Today we begin the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, source of love and peace. Open yourselves to this love and take it to the ends of the earth, bearing witness to the goodness and mercy that flow from the Heart of Jesus.”