“And what about their role in the family?” he said. “How many grandparents care for grandchildren, simply by transmitting to children the experience of life, the spiritual and cultural values of a community and a people!”
It is important to promote the bond between generations, the Pope said. “The future of a people requires the encounter between young and old: the young people are the vitality of a people on the way and the elderly reinforce this vitality with memory and wisdom.”
The elderly show that it is possible to withstand even the greatest trials, never losing confidence in God or in a better future, Francis continued. The elderly are like trees that “continue to bear fruit” giving their contribution for a society “rich in values,” and affirming the “culture of life.”
He shamed the “throwaway” culture which considers old people unproductive and useless, instead of respecting and appreciating their personal dignity.
In a world that believes strength and appearance are the most important things, “you have the mission to witness to the values that really matter and which endure forever because they are engraved on the heart of every human being and guaranteed by the Word of God,” he told pilgrims.
“You, or rather we – because I too am one of them,” Francis noted, “are called to work for the development of the culture of life, witnessing that every season of life is a gift from God and it has its own beauty and its importance, although marked by fragility.”
In countries that have been under severe religious persecution, grandparents have had an important role of passing along the faith to the next generation, the Pope said. They have even lead children to be baptized, despite suffering or an underground church.
Pope Francis thanked the grandfathers and grandmothers present for their example of love, dedication and wisdom. “Continue with courage to bear witness to these values! Not lacking your smile in society and the beautiful brightness of your eyes!”
“The Church regards the elderly with affection, gratitude and high esteem. They are an essential part of the Christian community and society, in particular they represent the roots and the memory of a people.”
At the end of his speech, the Pope encouraged people to pray to St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus: “Everyone ask Anne to teach us to be good and wise grandparents,” he said.