It is ‘wonderful to be old,’ Pope says
Publication Date: 2012-11-16
Pope Benedict XVI champions both quality and value of life for the elderly while addressing peers
It is ‘wonderful to be old’ Pope Benedict XVI revealed during a visit to a care home for seniors in Rome.
The 85-year-old Holy Father urged Catholics to see old age as a sign of God’s blessing—and he called for society to value the presence and wisdom of the old—on his Monday visit to the residence run by the lay Community of Saint Egidio.
“Though I know the difficulties that come with being our age, I want to say, it’s wonderful being old,” he told residents who came from around the world and included an elderly couple from Haiti whose home was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.
The Pope told those gathered at the residence that in the Bible a long life is considered a blessing from God, but often today’s society, which is ‘dominated by the logic of efficiency and profit, doesn’t welcome it as such.’
“I think we need a greater commitment, beginning with families and public institutions, to ensure the elderly can stay in their homes,” the Pope said so they can ‘pass on their wisdom to younger generations.’
“The quality of a society or civilisation can be judged by how it treats the elderly,” he added.
Dignity of human life
Pope Benedict also insisted on recognition of the dignity and value of all human life, even when ‘it becomes fragile in the years of old age.’
“One who makes room for the elderly, makes room for life,” he said. “One who welcomes the elderly, welcomes life.”
The Holy Father told the residents that he knows the aged face difficulties, especially in countries where the global economic crisis has hit hard. And, he said, the elderly can be tempted to long for the past when they had more energy and were full of plans for the future.
However, the Pope said: “Life is wonderful even at our age, despite the aches and pains and some limitations.”
“At our age, we often have the experience of needing other’s help, and this happens to the Pope as well,” he told the residents.
Pope Benedict (above) said they need to see the help they require as a gift of God, ‘because it is a grace to be supported and accompanied and to feel the affection of others.’
Walking with his white-handled black cane, the Pope visited several of the residents in their rooms and apartments before addressing them and members of Saint Egidio in the garden.
One of the residents, 91-year-old Enrichetta Vitali, told the Pope: “I don’t eat so much anymore, but prayer is my nourishment.”
She asked the Holy Father to ‘pray that I don’t lose my memory so I can keep remembering people in my prayers.’
Solidarity and Scotland
The Pope’s visit forms a part of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Among Generations.
He affirmed that the elderly ‘are of value to society, above all for the young.’
“There can be no true human education and growth without fruitful contact with the elderly, because their very existence is like an open book in which younger generations may find valuable guidance for their own journey through life,” he said.
The Pope’s words on the elderly have resonance around the world but particularly in Scotland, where proposed assisted suicide legislation has struck fear in the hearts of the elderly and the ill. Linda O’Neill, the general manager of Nazareth House, a residential facility for elderly in Glasgow run by the Sisters of Nazareth, said she thought the Pope’s message had great ‘truth to it.’
She agreed with the Holy Father that the generation she was working with still had much to teach the youth of today.
“Just look at their life stories,” she said. “The generation we’re working with here lived through a World War. We may have Afghanistan but it’s not real to us, they lived it. I think we need to think about how lucky we are compared to them.”
She also stressed the Pope’s message about the importance of spiritual care.
“Here the spiritual aspect is very important, as it is to many people towards the end of their lives,” she said. “I think that’s something that the old people here find of great comfort being with the nuns here.”