By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
“You are living a season, old age, which is not an illness but a privilege.” These were the Pope’s words to the elderly and sick priests of the Italian region of Lombardy, gathered on Thursday at Caravaggio for a Day of Fraternity with the Bishops of the region.
In a letter, the Holy Father asked them to think of Simeon and Anna in the Bible, because it was only in their old age that the Gospel fully entered into their lives, and “taking Jesus in their arms, they announced to all the revolution of tenderness.”
The elderly: bearers of dreams
Pope Francis said that the sick and elderly, beyond being “the object of assistance,” are “protagonists in the community.”
“You are the bearers of dreams, dreams charged with memory, and therefore very important for the younger generations,” the Pope said. “From you comes the sap to flourish in Christian life and ministry.”
Even the sick priests, the Pope continued, “experience a privilege: that of resembling Jesus who suffers and carries the cross.”
Then turning his thoughts to the dioceses and parishes that care for sick and elderly priests, the Holy Father pointed out that a community that takes care of the sick is one that is “well-rooted in Jesus.”
Finally, the Pope invoked the Lord’s blessings and Our Lady’s protection on those gathered for the occasion, and requested prayers for himself, noting that he, too, is “a little old and a little sick — but not that sick.”
Day of Fraternity
Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan presided at the Holy Mass for the occasion, which was celebrated at the Shrine of Santa Maria del Fonte in Caravaggio. During Mass, prayers were offered for all the priests who have died due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the approximately 300 priests who died in Italy, 92 were from the Lombardy region.
The Day of Fraternity with the Bishops of the Lombardy region was promoted by Unitalsi Lombarda and Cel with the collaboration of Opera Aiuto Fraterno Foundation which also works to take care of sick and elderly priests.