28 January 2020
The Richness of Many Years of Life
“Meeting Point” in the Sala stampa
The first International Conference on the pastoral care of the elderly begins tomorrow
“The conference of the next few days is only the first step in a journey which we imagine will not be a short one; it shows that within the Church there is quite a great number of people who wish the best for the elderly and are concerned for them; and that there are elderly who are creating their own experience of old age by putting their time and their heart at the service of their communities and of those who are the most poor. It is a merciful face of the Church, and we are happy to show it forth.” And so Vittorio Scelzo, from the Office for the pastoral care of the elderly of our Dicastery, addressed the journalists this morning in the Sala stampa of the Holy See at the “Meeting Point” on the eve of the first International Conference on the pastoral care of the elderly, which begins tomorrow at the “Augustinianum” conference center.
To date, the official continued, “we have the sense that the pastoral care of the elderly is a widespread but uneven concern among various local Churches. Nor does it seem that this concern is more present in places where the number of elderly—as is the case in Europe—is already greater than twenty percent of the population.”
As such, he explained, “the choice to create an office dedicated to the pastoral care of the elderly and to convene this conference was born from a desire to promote a new pastoral culture, made up of love and respect for the elderly. To this end, we are committed to beginning a dialogue with our natural interlocutors, i.e. the national episcopal conferences. We are encouraged that—after a single contact—many have decided to send their representatives here to Rome and that, for example, the episcopal conference of South Korea has also decided to open an office dedicated to the pastoral care of the elderly in response to our invitation.”
Daniela Drei, of the Pope John XXIII Community Association, which manages the “Casa dei nonni” (“Grandparents’ home”), recalled two sayings of Don Oreste Benzi: “The refuge of the elderly is the hearts of sons and daughters,” and “We make each elderly person into a grandparent.” These are “the two phrases, the pillars of our work, oriented to support families who keep their elderly relatives at home and to encourage interconnectedness across generations. The elderly need to feel useful and that they are able to give something more. In our opinion,” she clarified, “creating the opportunity for different generations to interact is an added value.”
Sister Terezinha Tortelli, who works for the pastoral care of the elderly in Brazil, highlighted how this sort of event is “useful for becoming acquainted with how other offices for the pastoral care of the elderly throughout the world operate. Pope Francis places enormous importance on the elderly, and this is deeply touching to all of us who are involved in the pastoral ministry dedicated to them.”
For Fr. Josè Ignacio Figueroa of “Vida Ascendente,” “The elderly are part of the Church, and therefore they are protagonists in the Church’s pastoral care. The elderly not only evangelize and transmit the faith to the family, but they collaborate in a multitude of activities… The elderly are—as Pope Francis has often emphasized—an inexhaustible well of experience and wisdom that we cannot discard.”
The conference, which will have about 550 participants from all over the world, will also be transmitted via livestream.