“It is precisely the Christian community that must take care of the elderly: relatives and friends, but the community. Visiting the elderly must be done by many, together and often,” he said.
“We should never forget these three lines of the Gospel [Mark 1:29-31], especially now that the number of elderly people has grown considerably, also in relation to the young, since we are in this demographic winter, we have fewer children, and there are many old people and few young ones.”
“We must feel a responsibility to visit the elderly who are often alone, and present them to the Lord with our prayers. Jesus himself will teach us how to love them.”
The pope then underlined a consistent theme of his reflections on old age: that society’s “throwaway culture” seeks to “cancel out” the elderly.
“Yes, it does not kill them, but socially it eliminates them, as if they were a burden to carry: it is better to conceal them,” he said.
“This is a betrayal of our own humanity, this is the worst thing, this is choosing life according to utility, according to young and not with life as it is, with the wisdom of the elderly, with the limits of the elderly.”
He went on: “The elderly have much to give us: there is the wisdom of life. There is much to teach us: this is why we must teach children that their grandparents are to be cared for and visited.”
“The dialogue between young people and grandparents, children and grandparents, is fundamental for society, it is fundamental for the Church, it is fundamental for the health of life.”
“Where there is no dialogue between the young and the old, something is lacking and a generation grows up without past, that is, without roots.”
Pope Francis said that the healed woman offered the disciples a lesson by rising from her sickbed and serving them.
“Even in old age one can, or rather one must, serve the community,” he commented.
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“It is good for the elderly to cultivate the responsibility to serve, overcoming the temptation to stand aside. The Lord does not reject them; on the contrary, he restores to them the strength to serve.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis said: “Please, let us make sure that the elderly, grandparents, are close to children, to the young, to hand down this memory of life, to pass on this experience of life, this wisdom of life.”
“To the extent to which we ensure that the young and the old are connected, to this extent there will be more hope for the future of our society.”
A summary of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in seven languages.
Addressing English-speaking Catholics, he said: “I greet the English-speaking visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially the various pilgrimage groups from the United States of America.
“Upon you and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you.”