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Elderly are to be valued, not discarded, pope says

First World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly was held July 25

VATICAN CITY — Older people are not “leftovers” to be discarded; rather, they continue to be precious nourishment for families, young people and communities, Pope Francis said in the homily he wrote for the Mass marking the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

“Let us ask ourselves, ‘Have I visited my grandparents, my elderly relatives, the older people in my neighborhood? Have I listened to them? Have I spent time with them?’” the pope wrote in his homily, which was read aloud at the Mass by Archbishop Rino Fisichella.

“Let us protect them, so that nothing of their lives and dreams may be lost. May we never regret that we were insufficiently attentive to those who loved us and gave us life,” according to the homily.

The Mass was celebrated July 25 in St. Peter’s Basilica with about 2,000 people in attendance, including multi-generational families, older people and their caregivers. Large-print Mass booklets also were available.

Pope Francis, who had colon surgery July 4, did not preside over the Mass as he was still undergoing “normal convalescence,” according to the Vatican press office.

The pope, however, did give his Angelus address and lead prayer at noon the same day.

“Grandparents and the elderly are not leftovers from life, scraps to be discarded,” the pope wrote in the homily. “They are a precious source of nourishment.”

“They protected us as we grew, and now it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and not feel alone,” he wrote.

The pope asked people to reconnect with older people, to visit or call and “listen to them and never discard them. Let us cherish them and spend time with them. We will be the better for it,” young and old alike, he wrote.

“I worry when I see a society full of people in constant motion, too caught up in their own affairs to have time for a glance, a greeting or a hug,” he wrote.

At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Fisichella and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, which was promoting the world day, blessed baskets of bright yellow, red and orange flowers, that were then distributed with the pope’s message by young people to the older people attending the Mass.

The pope appeared at the window of his studio in the apostolic palace to greet and bless those gathered in St. Peter’s Square and to deliver his address before praying the Angelus.

He invited everyone to visit the elderly and to give them a copy of this year’s world day message. Young and old must spend time together, talking and sharing their memories, hopes and dreams, he said.

Rome diocese reports on elderly volunteers helping peers

ROME — In 13 parishes in the Diocese of Rome, 280 volunteers over the age of 65 dedicate part of their week to visiting their older peers, helping them with shopping and getting them to doctors’ appointments as well as helping with the liturgies and religious education classes at the parish.

In preparation for the celebration July 25 of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, the Diocese of Rome and Rome Caritas published a 64-page report on their “Solidarity Neighborhoods” project, which began in 2011 to recruit and train older volunteers to identify the needs of elder neighbors and to respond.

The vast majority of the volunteers, 81%, are women; 66% of them are over the age of 75; and 49% of them live alone. The report noted that more than 7 million Italians, 11% of the population, are over the age of 75. In Rome, there are 5.2 people over the age of 65 for every child under the age of 6, and in the city center the ratio climbs to 7:1.

The project was designed not simply to help the elderly in need of care, the diocese said, but also to rally the resources of the city’s older citizens, get them involved in civic and parish service and build social ties.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

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