Pope: seniors are the indispensable link to educate youth to the faith
The ecclesial community must become a place of "intergenerational sharing" and seniors are “the present and the future of the Church.” “They are not only people whom we are called to assist and protect to guard their lives, but they can be actors in a pastoral evangelising ministry, privileged witnesses of God’s faithful love.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke today to the participants at a conference on the pastoral care of seniors titled ‘The richness of many years of life’. The three-day event, which ended today, was organised by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, and held at the Augustinianum Congress Centre.
In his address, the pontiff noted that in a society in which life expectancy gets longer, the Church must cope with the problem of seniors who are the “intergenerational link” between youth and a Christian education and a living faith since parents are by-and-large unable to pass them on in today’s secularised societies.
For the pope, the Church must be the place where generations can share and grand-parents are “the present and the future of the Church.” On the basis of this, he urges the ecclesial community to include seniors “in our pastoral horizons and to considering them, in a non-episodic way, as one of the vital components of our communities. They are not only people whom we are called to assist and protect to guard their lives, but they can be actors in a pastoral evangelizing ministry, privileged witnesses of God’s faithful love.”
“The ‘richness of many years’ is a richness of people, of each individual person who has many years of life, experience and history behind them. It is the precious treasure that takes form in the journey of life of each man and woman, whatever their origins, provenance, and economic or social conditions. Life is a gift, and when it is long it is a privilege, for oneself and for others. Always, it is always this way.”
In this century, “Social disorientation and, in many respects, the indifference and rejection that our societies manifest towards the elderly demand not only of the Church, but of all of us, a serious reflection to learn to grasp and to appreciate the value of old age.”
For the Holy Father, this should “not remain an isolated initiative,” but ought to instead “mark the beginning of a journey of pastoral exploration and discernment. We need to change our pastoral habits in order to respond to the presence of so many older people in families and communities.
“In the Bible, longevity is a blessing,” Francis noted, a “time to prepare to deliver our spirit into His hands, definitively, with childlike trust. But it is also a time of renewed fruitfulness.” Thus, “Aware of this irreplaceable role of the elderly, the Church becomes a place where generations are called to share in God’s plan of love.”
This “is why I ask you not to spare yourselves in proclaiming the Gospel to grandparents and elders. Go to them with a smile on your face and the Gospel in your hands. Go out into the streets of your parishes and seek out the elderly who live alone. Old age is not an illness, it is a privilege! Loneliness can be an illness, but with charity, closeness and spiritual comfort we can heal it.
“God has a large population of grandparents throughout the world. [. . .] They are not only people whom we are called to assist and protect to guard their lives, but they can be actors in a pastoral evangelising ministry, privileged witnesses of God’s faithful love.