‘On Sunday 28th September, Pope Francis presided over a large gathering in St Peter’s Square with elderly and grandparents from around the world. “ A society that ignores its elderly has no future because it has lost its memory and its roots.’ he said. He was referring to the materialism of Western society that tends to marginalize the elderly.
The gathering was a celebration of the gifts and contributions of the elderly while acknowledging the difficulties they often face. Famous Italian singers, like Andrea Bocelli, sang for the crowd between testimonies delivered by elderly people from diverse societies and circumstances.
One testimony was given by an 88-year old who spent her days providing emotional support and care for fellow residents in a nursing home. Another, aged 65, had retired from work a few weeks previously and was looking forward to using her time to care for those with disabilities.
Before commencing Mass, Pope Francis commented that one sharing was unique, that of grandparents who, with their family, were recent refugees from Iraq. In the midst of great difficulties, they were ‘like trees that continue to bear fruit’, he said, passing on their experience and their faith. This same process continues in the most ordinary circumstances of life, he added.
He also made frequent reference to the role of grandparents in passing on the faith, referring to them as ‘parents times two’. Ron and Mavis Pirola, of Sydney, who themselves have eight grandchildren, attended the gathering. They commented that one of the most touching moments was seeing the presence of the elderly Pope Benedict XVI and seeing the two popes embrace. Pope Francis commented that ‘having Pope Benedict living in the Vatican is like having a wise grandfather living in your home’.
The gathering was organised by the Pontifical Council for the Family. Its President, Archbishop Paglia, spoke of the ‘vocation of the elderly’. Everyone has a vocation to love and grandparents have to find the most effective ways of living out that vocation as they move into the third stage of their life.
Pope Francis ended the gathering by reminding everyone of the importance of praying for the Synod on the Family.