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Pope Francis meeting a group of people with Alzheimer's and choir members from Belgium on April 3, 2019. Pope Francis meeting a group of people with Alzheimer's and choir members from Belgium on April 3, 2019.   (Vatican Media)

Pope greets Rainbow Choir: the elderly are humanity’s memory

Before his general audience on Wednesday in the Vatican, Pope Francis greeted representatives of a home for the elderly with Alzheimer’s from Bonheiden, Belgium. Among them was the Rainbow Choir that is attached to the home.

A group of elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease, on a pilgrimage to Rome, was welcomed by Pope Francis Wednesday morning in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall before he held his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. 

The group from a home in Bonheiden, Belgium, were accompanied by the Rainbow Choir that was born there.  The Pope was moved to see the elderly and the choir sing together for him.

A rainbow of imperfection pleasing to God

Alzheimer’s that affects the elderly is marked by dementia.  With its singing, the Rainbow Chorus of Bonheiden helps the elderly in the home to come together daily to pray and attend Mass.  Singing with the choir members, the elderly find a link that connects their past and present, a memory that their disease often erases.  Hence, their singing is a cure.  The Pope was moved to hear them sing together. 

Speaking to them off the cuff, the Pope said that their singing together was a “consolation, a support , that helps to move forward and to bear the burden of the disease that certainly makes itself felt.”  He said their singing is made more precious by their vulnerability.  “I think that sharing our frailties and accepting them reciprocally, is the most beautiful "song", a harmony most pleasing to God, a "rainbow" not of perfection but of imperfections!” the Pope said.

Tenderness makes us human

Addressing the choirmaster as the “baton of tenderness” the Pope explained how with gestures every conductor on the podium holds the voices or instruments together.  In this case, the Pope said, it is a very special gesture, "a gesture of tenderness that makes us all more human":

The Pope pointed out that with all their tenderness, they have fulfilled the fourth commandment – of honouring the elderly who are our memory.  Perhaps some of them have lost their memory, but they are the symbol of the memory of a people, they are the roots of their homeland, of our humanity. “They are the roots, and young people must come to them to have the sap from their roots to carry forward the civilization,” the Pope said.

03 April 2019, 15:23