Pope Francis: Love children and the elderly, or expect the sadness of ‘demographic winter’

Pope Francis in the Paul VI hall Dec 13 2017 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 1 Pope Francis in the Paul VI hall Dec. 13, 2017. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

In his morning homily at the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse, Pope Francis said Monday that the vibrant presence of elderly and young people in communities demonstrates the presence of God.

"The abundance of elderly people and children. This is the sign that when a people care for the old and for the young, and consider them a treasure, there is the presence of God, a promise of future," the pope said Sept. 30.

When the elderly and young are together, "this is the sign that a people cherishes life," he said, "that there is a culture of hope: the care of the young and the elderly."

"The sign of life, the sign of respect for life, of love for life, the sign of making life grow, this is the sign of the presence of God in our communities," he added.

It is also a "sign of the presence of God that makes a people mature, when there are elderly" involved in the life of the community, the pope said.

Pope Francis noted that the young and the elderly are the "certainty of the survival of a country and of the Church."

Instead, the culture of waste – such as the culture that "sends children on their way back to the sender" or puts elderly people away in retirement homes simply "because they are not productive" – is ruinous, he stressed.

In his homily, the pope also reflected on one of his favorite moments from a recent papal trip to Romania, when a grandmother held up her nephew as he passed by, as if saying: "this is my triumph."

This is how to value children, he said, adding that instead, in many modern societies, there is a "demographic winter" taking place because of a lack of new life.

"When a country grows old and there are no children, when you don't see children's prams on the streets and you don't see pregnant women (…), when you read that in that country there are more pensioners than workers, it's tragic!" he said.

Francis explained that it is also tragic to lose the traditions handed down by one's elders, calling traditions "the lymph of the roots that make the tree grow and bear flowers and fruits."

"Therefore, the love of God is always sowing love and making people grow," he said.

"It comes to mind to say, excuse me, to you, parish priests, when in the evening you do an examination of conscience, ask this: how have I behaved today with children and with old people?" he concluded.

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