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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Church that defies throwaway culture with the embrace of the young and the elderly

Vatican City, 11 March 2015 (VIS) – The value and importance of grandparents in the family was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Firstly, Francis affirmed that he was able to identify with grandparents as he is of the same age. “When I was in the Philippines, the people called me 'Lolo Kiko', or rather, 'Grandpa Francis'”, he said, emphasising that although society tends to reject the elderly, the Lord does not: on the contrary, He calls us to follow Him in all stages of life as old age too “contains a grace and a mission, a true vocation”.

“However, it is not yet the time to 'set down our oars'”, he said. “This period of life is different to those that preceded it, without doubt; we must also reinvent it a little since our societies are not yet ready spiritually or morally to accord it its full value. Previously, in fact, it was not normal to have so much free time; today far more so. And even Christian spirituality has been taken a little by surprise, and has had to delineate a spirituality for the elderly. But thanks to God there is no lack of testimonies from elderly saints!”.

The Pope gave the example of the elderly Simeon and Anna, who awaited the arrival of Jesus in the temple for many years, and who were resigned to dying before seeing Him, even though that long wait had occupied all their lives and had been their most important commitment. However, when Mary and Joseph arrived in the Temple in compliance with the Law, the burdens of age and their long wait disappeared in an instant. “They recognised the Child, and discovered a new strength, for a new task: to give thanks and to bear witness to this Sign of God. Simeon improvised a beautiful hymn of jubilation and Anna became Jesus' first preacher, as Luke tells us in his Gospel: she began 'to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem'”.

“Dear grandparents, dearly elderly”, exclaimed the Pope, “let us follow in the wake of these extraordinary old people! Let us too become poets of prayer: let us acquire the taste for seeking new words, reappropriating those that the Word of God teaches us. The prayer of grandparents and the elderly is a great gift for the Church. It is a great injection of wisdom for all society, especially for those who are too busy, too encumbered, too distracted. Someone has to sing the signs of God for these people too, to proclaim the signs of God. Let us look at Benedict XVI, who has chosen to spend the final part of his life in prayer and in listening to God. Olivier Clement, a great believer from the last century, of Orthodox tradition, said, “A civilisation where one does not pray is a civilisation in which old age no longer has any meaning. And this is terrifying: more than anything we need the elderly who pray, because old age was given to us for this”.

“We are able to thank the Lord for the favours received, and fill the emptiness of ingratitude that surrounds us. We can intercede for the expectations of the new generations and give dignity to the memory and sacrifices of those past. We can remind the ambitious young that a life without love is arid. We can say to the fearful young that anguish about the future can be defeated. We can teach the young who are too wrapped up in themselves that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. Grandparents form the permanent 'choir' of a great spiritual shrine, where prayer of supplication and hymns of praise support the community that works and struggles in the field of life”.

Likewise, “prayer incessantly purifies the heart. Praise and supplication to God prevent the hardening of the heart in resentment and selfishness. How sad it is to see the cynicism of an elderly person who has lost the sense of his or her own testimony, who is disdainful towards the young and does not communicate the wisdom of a lifetime! Instead, it is beautiful to see the encouragement that an elderly person is able to transmit to the young in search of the meaning of faith and life. It is truly the mission of grandparents, the vocation of the elderly. The words of the elderly hold something special for the young. And they know this. The words my grandmother wrote to me on the day of my priestly ordination I still carry with me now, in my breviary; I often read them and this does me good”.

“How I would like to see a Church that challenges the throwaway culture with the superabundant joy of a new embrace between the young and the elderly! And this is what I ask of the Lord today: this embrace”, concluded the Holy Father.

The relic of St. Teresa's “pilgrim staff” arrives in the Vatican

Vatican City, 11 March 2015 (VIS) – At the end of today's general audience, during his greetings in various languages, the Pope mentioned that this month will mark the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus in Avila, Spain. “May her spiritual vigour stimulate you, dear young people, to bear joyful witness to faith in your life; may her trust in Christ the Saviour sustain you, dear sick people, in the moments of greatest discouragement; and may her tireless apostolate invite you, dear newly-weds, to place Christ at the centre of your marital home”.

Later on Pope Francis received in the Vatican the relic of St. Teresa's famous “pilgrim staff”, as part of on a worldwide tour organised by the Order of Carmelites, to commemorate the anniversary of the Spanish mystic and doctor of the Church. The global pilgrimage, entitled “Way of Light”, began in Avila on 15 October 2014 with the aim of visiting the family of Mount Carmel in 30 countries across five continents, a journey of 117 thousand kilometres and lasting more than 160 days. It will return to Avila on 28 March, in time for the 500th anniversary of the saint's birth.

On the same day, the Teresian jubilee year will be inaugurated with a prayer for world peace. Throughout the year a series of celebrations will be held, including the European Youth Meeting, which is expected to be attended by more than 9,000 young people from across the continent, several pilgrimages and many conferences and exhibitions.

The Pope to visit the Roman Rebibbia prison on Holy Thursday

Vatican City, 11 March 2015 (VIS) – The Prefecture of the Papal Household has announced today that on 2 April, Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will visit the Rebibbia New Complex Prison to meet with detainees.

At 5.30 p.m. in the “Padre Nostro” Chapel he will celebrate Mass “in coena Domini”, during which he will wash the feet of some inmates, and of some detainees from the nearby women's penitentiary.

Cardinal Parolin explains the diplomatic activity of the Holy See in the service of peace

Vatican City, 11 March 2015 (VIS) – This morning Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin gave a Lectio Magistralis at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome, during the “Dies Academicus”, the annual study day dedicated to a theme that the different departments of the university analyse from the perspectives of various fields of study (theology, philosophy, history, culture, canon law, social sciences, missiology, psychology, spirituality, etc). This year's theme was “Peace: gift of God, human responsibility, Christian commitment”. The title of the Secretary of State's Lectio Magistralis was “The diplomatic activity of the Holy See in the service of peace”.

“The diplomatic activity of the Holy See is not content to observe events or evaluate their importance; nor can it remain merely a critical voice”, affirmed Cardinal Parolin. “It acts to facilitate the coexistence and cohabitation of various nations, to promote fraternity between peoples, where the term fraternity is a synonym for effective collaboration, true cooperation, harmonious and orderly, of a solidarity structured in favour of the common good and that of individuals. And the common good, as we know, has more than a link with peace. The Holy See works substantially on the international scene not to guarantee a generic security – made more difficult in this period of lasting instability – but to sustain an idea of peace as the fruit of just relations, of respect for international law, of the protection of fundamental human rights beginning with those of the least among us, the most vulnerable”.

“The diplomacy of the Holy See has a clear ecclesial function”, he added: “if it is the tool of communion that unites the Roman Pontiff with the Bishops at the head of the local Churches, or that guarantees the life of the local Churches in relation to the civil authorities, I dare say that it is also the vehicle of the Successor of Peter for reaching the peripheries, both ecclesiastically and in terms of the human family. … In the field of civil society, which forms of ethical guidance would be lacking were the Holy See not present in different intergovernmental contexts, in the areas of cooperation, disarmament, the struggle against poverty, the eradication of hunger, care for the sick, and promoting literacy?”.

Cardinal Parolin went on to explain that “papal diplomacy is entrusted the task of working in favour of peace following the methods and rules that are applicable to subjects of international law, therefore formulating practical answers in legal terms to prevent, resolve or regulate conflicts and to avoid their possible degeneration into the irrationality of armed force. But”, he concluded, “it is above all an activity that demonstrates how the aim pursued is primarily religious and as such is about being true 'workers for peace', and not 'workers for war or at least agents of misunderstanding', as Pope Francis reminds us”.
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