29 January 2020
Elderly

The Prefect Card. Farrell: “The richness of many years is a gift to be welcomed”

The first international conference for the pastoral care of the elderly begins today at the Augustinianum

“The pastoral care of the elderly is something new. We must start a process and set up a dialogue which can only be but a rough draft,” in that “our task in these days is to ask ourselves what the outlines for the pastoral care of the elderly might look like.” And so Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of our Dicastery, opened the first international Conference for the pastoral care of the elderly, “The Richness of Many Years of Life,” today at the Augustinianum. The Prefect’s reflection took as its starting point the “demographic revolution” which is affecting the world, “one of the ‘signs of the times’,” he clarified, “that we also as a Church cannot fail to take into account: it seems that by the year 2100 61% of the world’s population will be made up of people over sixty-five years of age, and the elderly population will already double in over the next thirty years.” All this, he added, “not only has implications of a sociological, economic, anthropological, and political nature, but above all it raises questions and needs of a spiritual character, for which we are obligated to be proactive.”

“In particular, the pastoral accompaniment which is needed by the elderly,” he explained, “is an obvious need in light of lengthening lifespans. In our society, where the ‘throw-away’ culture and the marginalization of the vulnerable often dominates the collective imagination as well as family, political, and social choices, the ‘richness of many years’ is not always welcomed as the blessing of a long life—that is, as a gift.” Thus, putting into practice the “pastoral ministry of the ear,” the Prefect, addressing the almost six hundred participants from all over the world, concluded that the meeting “intends to be characterized by a triple form of listening: listening to the signs of the times, listening to the Magisterium, and listening to your experience, to work out together some general guidelines that can be of assistance to dioceses throughout the world.”

During the course of the first session of the conference, on the theme of “The Church alongside the elderly,” the president of Censis, Giuseppe De Rita, highlighted the erroneous perception of the elderly as “leftovers.” “In reality,” he said, “they are the richest part of society. But there are three dangers: loneliness, the loss of goals after retirement, and the awareness of one’s status as a mere creature.”

The urgency of “turning pastoral attention and care towards the elderly, on the part of the Christian community” was spoken of by the president of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo: “There is a need to affirm oneself in the art of aging well, for the sake of others. To give form to this new endeavor,” he continued, “one must ask oneself if there are new prophetic virtues tied to the condition of being elderly, which may be quite different from those of a now-outdated past. The elderly,” he added, “will potentially be a great treasure for the Church herself and for the whole of society if they can learn how to live these new horizons in the seriousness of a renewed commitment to others and of a new mission for a more human world.”

Dom. José Antônio Peruzzo, Archbishop of Curitiba and the head of the pastoral ministry to the elderly for the Brazilian episcopal conference, took part in the round table discussion, “The Church alongside the elderly.” “The pastoral care of the elderly is a full response to Pope Francis’ pressing appeal for a Church that goes out to meet people,” he said. “It is in the name of the Church that the pastoral care of the elderly is present in families. Moreover, the practice of the prayerful reading of the Word is part of the formation of volunteers. This is therefore what strengthens them and encourages them to dedicate themselves with perseverance as disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ.”

The Capuchin Fr. Moisés Lucondo, who directs a hospice for the elderly in Huambo, Angola, concluded his discourse by recalling the cry of Rosa Kornfeld-Matte on behalf of the United Nations in Mozambique years ago: “We defend the urgent intervention of the Church and of African governments, in the fight against violence against the elderly, so that there are concrete measures in their favor.”

 

 

 

 

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