This morning the Holy Father visited the Sant Egidio Community's 'Viva gli Anziani' rest home for the elderly in Rome. In a brief address to the residents he said that he came among them "as Bishop of Rome, but also as an elderly person visiting his peers. I well know the difficulties and limitations of age, and am aware that for many people these difficulties are aggravated by the economic crisis".
"At times", he continued, "at a certain age, one turns to the past with regret for the loss of youth, its energy and plans for the future. At times our perspective is veiled with sadness, as we consider this phase as the twilight of life. This morning, ideally addressing all the elderly and aware of the difficulties that our age brings, I would like
to say to you with profound conviction: it is good to be elderly! At every age it is necessary to know how to discover the presence and the blessing of the Lord, and the richness that this brings. We must not allow ourselves to be imprisoned by sadness! We have received the gift of long life. To live is beautiful, even at our age and despite infirmities or limitations. Let our faces always reflect the joy of being loved by God, and never sadness".
The Holy Father recalled that in the Bible, "longevity is considered as a blessing from God; today this blessing is widespread and must be seen as a gift to appreciate and value. Yet often society, dominated by the logic of efficiency and profit, does not welcome it as such; on the contrary, it often rejects it, considering the elderly as unproductive and useless". However, the Pope observed, the elderly are a source of wisdom and "a great resource. The quality of a society, of a civilisation, may also be judged by how it treats its elderly and by the place reserved for them in communal life. To give space to the elderly
is to give space to life!"
Benedict XVI's visit forms a part of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Among Generations, and in this context 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".
"At our age", he observed, "we often experience the need for the assistance of others, and this also happens to the Pope. ... I would like to invite you to see in this too a gift from the Lord. It is a grace to be supported and accompanied, to receive the affection of others! This is important in every phase of life: no one can live alone and without help; humans are relational beings. Never be discouraged: you are valuable to society, even in suffering and sickness. And this phase of life is a gift that also allows us to deepen our relationship with God. The example of Blessed Pope John Paul II was and remains illuminating to all. Do not forget that, among the valuable resources you have, there is the essential gift of prayer".
"The prayer of the elderly can protect the world, helping it perhaps in a more incisive way than is achieved by the efforts of many. I would like, today, to entrust to your prayer the good of the Church and peace in the world. The Pope loves you and counts on you all! Know that you are loved by God, and bring to our society, often so individualistic and intent upon efficiency, a ray of God's love".