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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

General audience: awaken a collective sense of gratitude towards grandparents and the elderly

Vatican City, 4 March 2015 (VIS) – Grandparents were the focus of this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square. Continuing his catechesis on the family, today the Pope considered the difficult current situation faced by the elderly, commenting that next week he will present a more positive view of the vocation that corresponds to this stage in life.

Thanks to advances in medical care, the Holy Father observed, life expectancy has increased and there is a far greater number of elderly people, but nevertheless society has not adapted to this change, and has not responded by creating space for them, with the respect and consideration their fragility and dignity demand. “When we are young, we are induced to ignore old age, as if it were an illness to keep at bay; however, once we become old, especially if we are poor, ill and alone, we experience the gaps in a society programmed for efficiency, which as a consequence ignores the elderly”.

He recalled the words of Benedict XVI during his visit to a residential home for the elderly: “The quality of a society … is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life”, and exclaimed, “A civilisation can sustain itself if it respects wisdom, the wisdom of the elderly. On the contrary, a civilisation in which there is no place for the elderly or in which they are discarded because they create problems … carries the virus of death”.

He continued, “In the west, scholars present the current century as 'the century of old age: there are fewer children and an increase in elderly people. This imbalance is a great challenge to contemporary society. And yet, a certain culture of profit insists on making the elderly appear to be a burden, an extra weight. They are not only unproductive; they are an encumbrance, and are to be discarded. And discarding them is sinful. We do not dare to say this openly, but it happens. There is something cowardly in this inurement to throwaway culture. We want to remove our growing fear of weakness and vulnerability, but in this way we increase in the elderly the anguish of being inadequately supported and abandoned”.

Francis recalled that during his ministry in Buenos Aires he had first hand experience of these problems. “The elderly are abandoned, and not only to material precariousness. They are abandoned as a result of our selfish inability to accept their limits, which reflect our own limits, in the many difficulties that they must overcome nowadays to survive in a civilization that does not allow them to participate, to have their say, or to be referents according to a consumerist model in which 'only the young can be useful and can enjoy themselves'. The elderly should instead be, for all of society, the reserve of wisdom of our population. How easy it is for our conscience to slumber when there is no love”.

In the tradition of the Church, there is “a legacy of wisdom that has always promoted a culture of closeness to the elderly, a willingness to provide affectionate and supportive accompaniment in this final stage of life. This tradition is rooted in the Sacred Scripture”. Therefore, “the Church cannot and does n wish to conform to a mentality of impatience, far less indifference and disdain, with regard to old age. We must reawaken our collective sense of gratitude, appreciation and hospitality that enable the elderly to feel like a living part of the community. The elderly are men and women, mothers and fathers who have walked the same road before us, in the same house, in our everyday struggle for a dignified life. They are men and women from whom we have received much. The elderly person is not an alien. We are the elderly: sooner or later but in any case inevitably, even if we do not think about it”.

“We are all a little fragile, the elderly”, he continued. “Some, however, are particularly weak, many are alone, and affected by illness. Some depend on the indispensable care and attention of others. Will we take a step back for this? Will we abandon them to their fate? A society without closeness, in which gratuitousness and selfless affection – even among strangers – are disappearing, is a perverse society. The Church, faithful to the Word of God, cannot tolerate these degenerations. A Christian community in which closeness and gratuitousness are no longer considered indispensable, would lose its soul with this. Where there is no honour to the elderly, there is no future for the young”.

The Pope receives bishop friends of the Focolare Movement

Vatican City, 4 March 2015 (VIS) – The Pope, before today's general audience, received in the Paul VI Hall the seventy prelates from thirty-five countries attending the 38th Congress of Bishop Friends of the Focolare Movement, which began yesterday and will conclude on 6 March. The theme of the congress is “Eucharist, mystery of communion”. The president of the Movement, Maria Voce, and the co-president Jesus Moran, were also present in the Paul VI Hall. Following greetings from Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, archbishop of Bangkok, Thailand, the Holy Father gave a brief address.

“You have united in Rome the friendship of this Movement and an interest in the spirituality of communion”, said the Holy Father. “Effectively, the charism of unity, typical of the Work of Mary, is strongly anchored in the Eucharist, which confers its Christian and ecclesial character. Without the Eucharist, unity would be reduced to an emotion and a solely human, psychological, sociological dynamic. Instead, the Eucharist guarantees that Christ is at the centre, that it is His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that guides our steps and our initiatives for encounter and communion”.

“As bishops, we gather our communities around the Eucharist, the dual nourishment of the Word and the Bread of Life. This is our service, and it is fundamental. The bishop is the principle of unity in the Church, but this is not possible without the Eucharist: the bishop does not gather the people around his person or his ideas, but rather around Christ, present in His Word and in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. And following Jesus, the good pastor who made Himself lamb, sacrificed and resurrected, the bishop gathers the flock entrusted to him by offering his life, assuming himself a form of Eucharistic existence.”

The Holy Father gave special thanks to the prelates from the “bloodsoaked lands” of Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. “In the suffering you live with your people, you experience the strength that comes from Jesus in the Eucharist, the strength to go ahead united in faith and hope. In the daily celebration of Mass we join with you, and we pray for you, offering Christ's Sacrifice; and in this way the many initiatives of solidarity with your Churches take on strength and meaning”.

“Dear brothers”, he concluded, “I encourage you to continue in your commitment to promoting the ecumenical path and interreligious dialogue. And I thank you for the contribution you give towards greater communion between the various ecclesial movements”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 4 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Bishop Joaquim Wladimir Lopes Dias as bishop of Colatina (area 13,086, population 568,000, Catholics 484,000, priests 59, permanent deacons 11, religious 86), Brazil. Bishop Lopes Dias is currently auxiliary of the archdiocese of Vitoria, Brazil.

- appointed Rev. Jorge Cuapio Bautista as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Tlalnepantla (area 682, population 2,300,239, Catholics 1,953,239, priests 312, permanent deacons 10, religious 347), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in Santa Ana Chiauhteman, Mexico in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He belongs to the Community of the Missionaries of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. He holds a licentiate in philosophy from the Universidad Popular Autonoma of the state of Pueblo, and a licentiate in science of the family from the John Paul II Institute in Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Texcoco, including parish vicar, professor in the seminary, parish priest of the “San Salvador” and “San Bartolome Apostol” parishes, episcopal vicar for pastoral ministry and member of the College of Consultors. He currently assists in the parish of “Santa Isabel Ixtapan”.

- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Tlalnepantla, Mexico, presented by Bishop Francisco Ramirez Navarro upon reaching the age limit.
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