Vatican City, 28 September 2014 (VIS) – Today in St. Peter's Square a meeting was held to celebrate old age, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Family, entitled “The blessing of long life”. The meeting, which brought together thousands of elderly and grandparents accompanied by their relatives from all over the world, began at 8.30 a.m. with a “tour of old age through five Biblical episodes”. An hour later, the Holy Father arrived in the Square to join the elderly, with whom he had spoken before Mass at 10.30 a.m. The Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was personally invited by Pope Francis and participated in the meeting.
The Pope explained that the 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'. 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 re-established, unless a new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium is restored, what results is a serious impoverishment for all, and the freedom which prevails in society is actually a false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism”.
Francis emphasised that “Jesus did not abolish the law of the family and the passing of generations, but brought it to fulfilment. 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”. He remarked that Mary, when she visited her relatives Elizabeth and Zechariah, “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”, and added, “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”.