By Christopher Wells
The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life is calling on everyone to do more to help the elderly, especially during the coronavirus emergency. In a letter released on their website on Tuesday, the Dicastery says, “Our concerns and grateful thoughts go out to [the elderly] today, to return at least a little of that tenderness with which each of us has been accompanied in life, and that the maternal caress of the Church reach each of them”.
While noting that the elderly have been particularly hard hit by Covid-19, the Dicastery also focuses on the loneliness faced by many older people. Quoting Pope Francis, it says that “loneliness can be a disease, but with charity, closeness, and spiritual comfort we can heal it”. Loneliness can be an underlying condition that complicates the physical issues that arise from the coronavirus, and for this reason, the Dicastery says, “it is important to do everything possible to remedy this condition of abandonment”. In the current crisis, it continues, “this could mean saving lives”.
Although social distancing norms sadly make home visits impossible, the Dicastery recognizes how people are finding “new and creative forms of presence” in order to be close to their loved ones. But, it continues, “the gravity of the moment calls all of us to do more”, including praying for the elderly, curing the disease of loneliness, and activating solidarity networks, among other things. “We must devote new energies to defend the elderly from this storm, just as each of us has been protected and cared for in the small and large storms of our lives”.
The Dicastery calls for “special attention” for those in residential facilities, who “face very difficult situations” despite the devotion and sacrifices of the staff dedicated to their care, including at times the ultimate sacrifice. “Despite the complexity of the situation we live in, it is necessary to clarify that saving the lives of the elderly who live within residential homes or who are alone or sick, is a priority as much as saving any other person”. Quoting Pope Francis, the letter says that “the elderly are the present and the tomorrow of the Church”.
Be not afraid
In “the love of many children and grandchildren”, as well as that of assistants and volunteers, the Dicastery says, we can see revived, so to speak, “the compassion of the women who went to the tomb to care for the body of Jesus”. Like the women at the tomb we may be scared; but, while maintaining necessary safety precautions, we know that we can do no less than continue to live the compassion Jesus taught us. And “like these women”, the Dicastery says, “we will soon understand that it was essential to remain close to those in need, even when it seemed dangerous or useless, confident of the words spoken by the angel, inviting us not to be afraid”.
A call to prayer
The Dicastery concludes its letter with a call “to join in prayer for grandparents and elderly around the world”, inviting everyone “to gather around them with our thoughts and prayers, and when possible, let’s act, so that they are not alone”.