19 December 2019
Elderly

The elderly and the future

The message of the Holy Father to the National Association of Elderly Workers

“When the Pope speaks of the elderly, he speaks of the future and of their valuable role in the Church and in society. This affirms us in our choice to organize the first international conference on the pastoral care of the elderly.” And so Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello, Secretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, commented on the words of the Holy Father during the meeting with the Italian National Association of Elderly Workers (“l’associazione nazionale italiana dei Lavoratori Anziani”).

“The future, said the Pope—and this is not an exaggeration—will be in the dialogue between the young and the old. If grandparents do not dialogue with grandchildren, there will be no future.” 

During the audience, the Holy Father spoke on the theme of “gratuity,” emphasizing how “the elderly who are in good health can offer a few hours of their time to care for those in need, thereby also enriching themselves.” This belies the idea—or the prejudice—that the elderly are those who only have needs, and demonstrates how valuable their contribution is in terms of memory, solidarity, and—as Scripture says—in terms of dreams. (cf. Joel 3:1)

The first international conference on the pastoral care of the elderly, “The Richness of Many Years of Life”—which the Dicastery is organizing at the Vatican on 29 – 31 January 2020—aims to contribute to a deepening of some of the reflections on the elderly proposed by the Holy Father on numerous occasions, including the one yesterday.

How to “counteract this toxic culture of waste [and] tenaciously build a different society, one that is more welcoming, more human, more inclusive, which does not need to discard those who are weak in body and mind; indeed, a society that moderates its own “pace” according to these persons?”

Does there exist a vocation specific to the time of old age? What is the contribution of the elderly within the family?

These and other questions will try to be answered by the almost five hundred people—coming from all five continents—who will meet in Rome at the end of January. The Dicastery’s website and social media channels will make it possible to follow the work of the conference.