Old age “is a time of grace” and society needs to “move in step” with the elderly, Pope Francis told a group of his peers on Dec. 16, the day before his 83rd birthday.
“Grandparents, who have received the blessing of seeing their children’s children, are entrusted with a great task: transmitting the experience of life and the history of the family, the community, the people,” the pope said during an audience with members of the Italian National Association of Senior Workers, reported CNS.
The association represents workers with at least 20 years of service in a company and defends the rights of senior workers.
Pope Francis told association members that old age should be a “season of dialogue,” because “the future of a people naturally presupposes a dialogue and encounter between the old and young to build a society that is more just, more beautiful, has more solidarity and is more Christian.”
As we grow older, he said, “the Lord renews his call to us. He calls us to preserve and hand on the faith; he calls us to pray, especially to intercede; he calls us to be close to those in need.”
“The elderly, grandparents, have a unique and special ability to understand the most problematic situations,” Pope Francis said. “And when they pray for these situations, their prayer is strong, it’s potent.”
By treating one’s later years as a gift and a time for communication, elderly people show “the traditional stereotype of the elderly: ill, handicapped, dependent, isolated, besieged by fear, left out, having a weak identity after losing their social role” is a lie, he said.
Active seniors, according to the pope, also battle a system that focuses more on “costs and risks” than on “resources and potential.”
“The future … will be found in dialogue between the young and the old,” he said.
“We are all called upon to fight this poisonous throwaway culture. With tenacity we are called to build a more welcoming, more human, more inclusive society,” and one “which does not need to discard those who are weak in body and mind”, but that moves “in step” with them.
“Remember,” the pope told his peers, “talk to young people…. Listen to them to sow something. This dialogue is the future.”