Pope Francis expressed concern that “direct, person-to-person storytelling” between generations was dying out because the elderly were considered “waste material.”
“An older person, one who has lived a long time, and receives the gift of a lucid and passionate testimony of his history, is an irreplaceable blessing,” he said.
“Are we capable of recognizing and honoring this gift of the elderly? Does the transmission of faith — and of the meaning of life — follow this path today, of listening to the elderly?”
The pope said that present-day culture, “which is so ‘politically correct,’” posed obstacles to the transmission of wisdom between generations.
He said this also affected the Christian community, which sometimes attempted to pass on the faith without “the passion of a ‘lived history.’”
“How is the faith handed on? ‘Ah, here’s a book, study it.’ No. Faith can’t be handed on like that,” he commented.
“The faith is passed on in dialect, that is, in familiar speech, between grandparents and grandchildren, between parents and their children.”
He went on: “Sometimes I reflect on this strange anomaly. Today, the catechism of Christian initiation generously draws on the Word of God and conveys accurate information on dogmas, the morals of the faith, and the sacraments.”
“What is often lacking, however, is a knowledge of the Church that comes from listening to and witnessing the real history of the faith and the life of the Church community, from the beginning to the present day.”
He added: “It would be a good thing if catechesis were to include, from the very beginning, the habit of listening, to the lived experience of the elderly; to the candid confession of the blessings received from God, which we must cherish; and to the faithful testimony of our own failures of fidelity, which we must repair and correct.”
After his catechesis, the pope invited pilgrims to say a Hail Mary together for the victims of war.
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Alluding to the conflict in Ukraine, he said: “The news of displaced persons, of people fleeing, of people killed, people wounded, of so many soldiers fallen on both sides, is news of death.”
“We ask the Lord of life to deliver us from this death of war: with war, everything is lost, everything. There is no victory in a war: everything is defeated.”
“May the Lord send His Spirit to make us understand that war is a defeat of humanity, which we need to defeat, all of us; that waging war is a need that destroys us, and to deliver us from this need for self-destruction.”
“We pray, too, for leaders to understand that buying weapons and making weapons is not the solution to the problem. The solution is to work together for peace and, as the Bible says, to turn weapons into instruments for peace.”
A summary of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages and he greeted members of each language group.
Addressing English-speaking Catholics, he said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from England, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United States of America.”