04/20/2022, 12.14
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Pope: honoring the elderly is returning love

At today's general audience, which has returned to St. Peter's Square, the Pope returned to his reflections on old age. "Please do not turn away the elderly and if they are in a nursing home bring the children to them." The greeting to a group of pilgrims from Myanmar and the invitation to continue to pray for the families who suffer because of wars in the world.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) - After last week's reflection on Easter, Pope Francis returned to talk about old age  this morning at the general audience, continuing the cycle of Wednesday catechesis. There were about twenty thousand faithful today in St. Peter's Square, coming from Italy and from all over the world, to listen to the Pope's words.

In his address- which centered on "Honor your father and mother: the love of life lived" - the pope analyzed the fragility of the elderly, marked in a special way by the experiences of loss and despondency, loss and abandonment. "How often have we said these old people are a nuisance or how often have we wanted to distance the old from us," Francis said. Yet the revelation of the Gospel points to a different path: that of "returning love," the path of honoring those who have gone before us.

"This special love that paves the way in the form of honor - tenderness and respect at the same time - intended for the elderly is sealed by God's commandment: Honor your father and mother," the pontiff continued. It is a solemn commitment, the first of the "second table" of the Ten Commandments, which refers not only to parents but also to the generations before us.

Pope Francis explained how to translate this gesture into practice, "To honor father mother and to honor the elderly is to recognize the dignity they have." Indeed, even the very care of the sick or the guarantee of sustenance can lack honor. "Honor is lacking when the excess of confidence, instead of declining as delicacy and affection, tenderness and respect, turns into roughness and prevarication," he said.

This can happen anywhere, between domestic walls, in nursing homes, in offices or in the open spaces of the city, and the very serious effects of this attitude of contempt can produce horrible things. The pope recalled the recent news episode that saw two boys set fire to the blanket of a "homeless man," seen by them as "a human waste." Such episodes are only the tip of an iceberg, "of the contempt for a life that, far from the attractions and impulses of youth, already appears as a life of waste." "We think so many times that the old are the discard - he denounced -. This contempt, which dishonors the elderly, actually dishonors all of us."

In this regard, Pope Francis cited an episode related to the story of Noah, when after drinking a few too many drinks, he lay decomposed. "The sons, in order not to make him wake up in embarrassment, delicately cover him, with a lowered gaze, with great respect - said Francis - . This text is very beautiful and says everything about the honor due to the elderly man: to cover his weaknesses, so as not to make him feel ashamed."

He then made an open-hearted appeal: "Please don't turn away the elderly and, if you can't keep them at home and the only solution is a nursing home, at least visit them and take the children with you." Recounting a personal anecdote, the pope went back to the time when he was a priest in Buenos Aires and often visited homes for the elderly: "A lady one day told me that she had four children - each with a family - and that they always went to visit her.

Instead, later the nurse told me that this was not the case and that her children hadn't come for six months." Instead, caring for the elderly must be everyone's job, as "love for the human that is common to us, inclusive of honor for the life lived, is not a matter for old people," but must become everyone's ambition. "May the wisdom of God's Spirit grant us to open the horizon of this true cultural revolution with the necessary energy," the pope said.

With his heart always turned to the peoples of the world in difficulty, Francis at the end of the audience greeted the faithful from Myanmar and blessed the generosity of the Polish people for welcoming Ukrainian refugees. Without forgetting to renew his invitation to prayer: "Let us pray for peace and for the comfort of all the families who suffer because of wars in the world."

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