The Congress was organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and had, for motivation, the following:
Pope Francis loves the elderly and, from the beginning of his pontificate, and on numerous occasions, he has emphasized their indispensable role in dialogue with young people, in the transmission of the faith and in the youths’ rediscovery of their own roots.
Faced with the lengthening of the average life and the aging of the population, Pope Francis affirmed that “even Christian spirituality was caught a little by surprise” and hoped for a renewed ecclesial reflection on what he called the blessing of a long life.
The Holy Father has asked the elderly to become protagonists and “‘not to pull back the oars into the boat’. This period of life is different from the previous ones…we must therefore, also ‘invent it’ a little”.
The first International Conference on the pastoral care of the elderly “The richness of many years of life” is the response of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life to this calling of the Holy Father.
The meeting will focus on how to deal with the culture of discarding the elderly, their role in the family and their particular vocation in the Church. The Holy Father will receive the participants at a Special Audience.
Representatives of Episcopal Conferences, religious congregations, associations and lay movements from around the world involved in the pastoral care of the elderly are invited to the congress.
(retrieved from: http://www.laityfamilylife.va … la-ricchezza-degli-anni.html)
The Congress took place at the“Augustinianum” Congress Center in Rome and was attended by 550 participants from 60 countries. Brazil sent the largest delegation with 165 persons; there could have been more had it not been for the limited number of places offered. The Brazilians represented the 25,000 volunteers who serve in the Pastoral Care of the Elderly and who accompany an average of 150,000 older persons. Their service include monthly home visits, especially to the most vulnerable.
Below are excerpts from Pope Francis’ speech when he received in audience the participants:
Dear brothers and sisters!
The “richness of many years” is a richness of people, of each individual person who has many years of life, experience and history behind them.
In the Bible, longevity is a blessing.
The Lord can and wants to write with them also new pages, pages of holiness, of service, of prayer…
The prophecy of the elderly is fulfilled when the light of the Gospel enters fully into their lives; when, like Simeon and Anne, they take Jesus in their arms and announce the revolution of tenderness, the Good News of He Who came into the world to bring the light of the Father. That is why I ask you not to spare yourselves in proclaiming the Gospel to grandparents and elders. Go to them with a smile on your face and the Gospel in your hands. Go out into the streets of your parishes and seek out the elderly who live alone. Old age is not an illness, it is a privilege! Loneliness can be an illness, but with charity, closeness and spiritual comfort we can heal it.
I thank you all who dedicate your pastoral energies to grandparents and the elderly.
I hope that what is today the sensitivity of the few will become the patrimony of every ecclesial community. Do not be afraid, take initiatives, help your bishops and your dioceses to promote pastoral service to and with older people. Do not be discouraged, keep going! The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life will continue to accompany you in this task.
I too accompany you with my prayer and my blessing.
(Pope Francis, Rome, 31 January 2020)
(retrieved from: https://press.vatican.va…bollettino…2020/01/31/)
Sr. Terezinha Tortelli, DC