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Pope Francis greeted people holding a flag with the Ukrainian national colors and coat of arms at his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on March 16.
Pope Francis greeted people holding a flag with the Ukrainian national colors and coat of arms at his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on March 16.
Photo Credit: CNS photo/Vatican Media

POPE’S MESSAGE | Pope encourages ‘wisdom of the elderly’ to avoid self-destruction

Older people can easily ‘grasp the deception’ that often ensnares young people

VATICAN CITY — In a world still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and starting to feel the threat of nuclear war between Russia and Western nations, Pope Francis said that the symbol of Noah and the great flood that wiped out humanity “is gaining ground in our subconscious.”

The allure of technological progress to eradicate illness and prolong life is often mingled with the focus on the “final catastrophe that will extinguish us, such as would happen with an eventual atomic war,” he said March 16 at his weekly general audience.

“The ‘day after’ this — if we are still here, days and human beings — we will have to start from scratch. Destroy everything to start again from scratch,” the pope said.

“Now more than ever,” he said, “the wisdom of the elderly is needed to prevent the path of self-destruction by denouncing corruption and a relativistic lifestyle.”

Pope Francis was continuing his series of talks dedicated to the meaning and value of old age and reflected on the theme, “Seniority: a resource for a carefree youth.”

Elderly people, the pope said, can easily “grasp the deception” that often ensnares young people into obsessing over ephemeral pleasures that lead to a “life without thought, without sacrifice, without interiority, without beauty, without truth, without justice, without love; this is all corruption.”

Reflecting on the biblical account of the great flood and God’s decision to wipe out humanity after seeing “how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth,” the pope noted that, in His wisdom, God entrusted saving life on the earth to Noah, “the oldest of us all.”

Using symbolic language, he said, the Bible presents God’s actions as a “paradoxical twist of mercy,” since eliminating humanity would spare future victims from “corruption, violence and injustice.”

Recalling Jesus’ warning that the coming of the Son of Man would catch people unaware, just as they were before the flood, the pope explained that when people focus solely on enjoying life, they tend to not perceive corruption or ignore it.

With their life experience, older people are more adept at spotting corruption and at being “prophets against corruption as Noah was in his time.” However, he also warned of those elderly people who “have not matured and become old with the same corrupt habits of the young.”

“We, women and men of a certain age — not to say old, because some are offended — must not forget that we have the wisdom to say to others, ‘Look, this path of corruption leads nowhere,’” Pope Francis said.

“We must be like good wine that in the end, when aged, can give a good message and not a bad one,” he said.


>> Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine at his weekly general audience on March 16

Forgive us for the war, Lord.

Lord Jesus, son of God, have mercy on us sinners.

Lord Jesus, born under the bombs of Kyiv, have mercy on us.

Lord Jesus, dead in the arms of a mother in Kharkiv, have mercy on us.

Lord Jesus, in the 20-year-olds sent to the frontline, have mercy on us.

Lord Jesus, who continues to see hands armed with weapons under the shadow of the cross, forgive us, Lord.

Forgive us if, not content with the nails with which we pierced your hand, we continue to drink from the blood of the dead torn apart by weapons.

Forgive us if these hands that you had created to protect have been turned into instruments of death.

Forgive us, Lord, if we continue to kill our brother. Forgive us, Lord, if we continue to kill our brother, if we continue like Cain to take the stones from our field to kill Abel.

Forgive us if we go out of our way to justify cruelty, if, in our pain, we legitimize the cruelty of our actions. Forgive us the war, Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, we implore you to stop the hand of Cain, enlighten our conscience, let not our will be done, do not abandon us to our own doing. Stop us, Lord, stop us, and when you have stopped the hand of Cain, take care of him also. He is our brother.

O Lord, stop the violence. Stop us, Lord. Amen.

—Translated by Catholic News Service


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