By Christopher Wells
Responding to Pope Francis’ call for the elderly to become “protagonists”, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has organized an International Conference on the pastoral care of the elderly, entitled “The Richness of Many Years of Life”. The meeting will focus on how to deal with the culture of “discarding” the elderly, as well as their role in the family, and their particular vocation in the Church.
In an interview with Vatican News ahead of the Conference, the Prefect of the Dicastery, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, said that our contemporary “throwaway” culture tends to set people aside; and he acknowledged that even in the Church, the elderly are sometimes forgotten. “Anybody that’s worked in a parish, especially in developed countries, knows that the elderly live a very lonely existence”, he said. “They need to become protagonists, because of the great experience that they have for the many years of life”.
The elderly as protagonists
Cardinal Farrell said that for the elderly to become protagonists means that “the Church needs to care for them, the Church needs to reach out”. That, he said, is one of the reasons for the seminar: “to reach out to the world, and see what exactly is happening in the Church”.
He said it’s very important for the Church to make use of the “many years of experience” the elderly bring with them. In particular, the Cardinal noted that in many families, grandparents play a huge role in raising and educating the younger generations. At the same time, he said, we must care for their needs. “We need to promote this, we need to promote a desire to care for the elderly, among everyone, and not to abandon… the elderly. They have a lot to offer.”
“We need to find out what is the best instrument to do all of this”, Cardinal Farrell said, “and that is why we are having this seminar”.
The International Conference on the pastoral care of the elderly is taking place in Rome from 29-31 January, and will include representatives of Episcopal Conferences, religious congregations, associations and lay movement from around the world involved in this pastoral work.