Elderly Catholics must not be treated as mere burdens to the faith community, as the future of the Church belongs to both the young and old, Pope Francis said.
The pope called on believers to not view old age as a “disease,” but a “privilege”, The Catholic News Service reports.
“In the Bible, longevity is a blessing. It is a time to face one’s fragility and to recognize how reciprocal love and care within a family really are,” the pope said on Jan. 31 during a three-day conference on the pastoral care of the elderly sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, the Family, and Life.
”Giving long life, God the father gives time to deepen one’s awareness of him and to deepen intimacy with him, to draw closer to his heart and abandon oneself to him,” he said.
“It is a time to prepare to consign our spirit into his hands, definitively, with the trust of children. But it also is a time of renewed fruitfulness.”
Pope Francis said that pastoral routines likewise need to be updated to reflect the changing demographics and longer life-expectancies around the world.
He added the Church could not simply treat the elderly as if their lives are “musty archives” only containing a past, as God “can and wants to write new pages with them, pages of holiness, service and prayer.”
It is therefore necessary for the church to both embrace the wisdom, gifts, and energy of older members who are physically and mentally sharp and still have a lot to contribute, as well as provide support to those who are in decline, the pope said.
“Today I want to tell you that the elderly are the present and tomorrow of the church,” Pope Francis said.
“Yes, they are also the future of a Church, which, together with young people, prophesies and dreams,” he said.
“That is why it is so important that the old and the young talk to each other. It is so important.”