"Dear brothers and sisters, during Lent, aided by the Word of God, let us reflect upon how important it is that each community accompany with loving understanding those who grow old," The Pope's message for Lent 2005 focuses on the elderly: a resource to be valued in society and in the Church, "It is necessary to raise the awareness in public opinion that the elderly represent, in any case, a resource to be valued. For this reason, economic support and legislative initiatives, which allow them not to be excluded from social life, must be strengthened." The following extracts are part of the annual Message for Lent issued by Pope John Paul II, and made public yesterday. "According to the Biblical understanding, reaching old age is a sign of the Most High's gracious benevolence" - the Pope writes. "Longevity appears, therefore, as a special divine gift. It is upon this theme that I would like to ask you to reflect! during this Lent, in order to deepen the awareness of the role that the elderly are called to play in society and in the Church, and thus to prepare your hearts for the loving welcome that should always be reserved for them." "One sees in society today a lengthening of the human life span and a subsequent increase in the number of elderly and this demands a more specific attention to the world of so-called 'old" age' . "The care of the elderly, above all when they pass through difficult moments, must be of great concern to all the faithful, especially in the ecclesial communities of Western societies, where the problem is particularly present." The Pope underlines that "human life is a precious gift to be loved and defended in each of its stages, at every stage. If growing old, with its inevitable conditions, is accepted serenely in the light of faith, it can become an invaluable opportunity for better comprehending the Mystery of the Cross, which gives full sense to human existence... . " "It is necessary to raise the awareness in public opinion that the elderly represent, in any case, a resource to be valued." "The greater amount of free time in this stage of life offers the elderly the opportunity to face the primary issues that perhaps had been previously set aside. Precisely because of this condition, the elderly person can carry out his or her role in society and illuminate the progress of younger generations. How important it is to rediscover this mutual enrichment between different generations!" "What would happen if the People of God yielded to a certain current mentality that considers these people, our brothers and sisters, as almost useless when they are reduced in their capacities due to the difficulties of age or sickness?" The Pope adds that the community, the family in the first place must accompany the elderly with loving understanding and "must become accustomed to thinking confidently about the mystery of death, so that the definitive encounter with God occur in a climate of interior peace." Source: Fides
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