Thousands of grandparents and elderly people participated in a meeting with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square. There was also one very special guest: Benedict XVI, who was affectionately greeted by Pope Francis.
"I'm especially grateful for the presence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I have said many times I am so happy that he lives here at the Vatican because it is like having the wise grandfather at home. Thank you”.
The Pope heard the testimonies of various elderly people. Among them was a couple from Qaraqosh, Iraq, an area where Christians were massacred by militants from the Islamic State.
Mubarak and Aneesa, grandparents of 12 grandchildren, brought the sound of churchs bells, which can no longer be heard in Iraq.
"In the name of all of us, persecuted fugitives, from those places, we greet you with the sound of the bells from the Church of Alqosh.”
Br. Sebastiano, an 87 year old Capuchin friar gave an emotional testimony on his work in caring for the elderly, especially those suffering with Alzheimers.
"It is important to be close to the sick where, as we know very well in our hospitals, there are many elderly people. Like Raffaele, who walks around the rooms of his house that he doesn't recognize anymore, lost. And he never sleeps...”
Eighty-two year old Antonia explained to the Pope that she felt herself a victim of the "throwaway culture”.
"I felt useless. What helped me to go forward, to not destroy myself, was prayer.”
In his address, Pope Francis explained that elderly people can transmit their history and life experiences. He also denounced the neglect and violence against them.
"Violence against the elderly is inhuman. Just like it is against children. God does not abandon you, He is with you!”
Pope Francis asked Christians to work towards a more inclusive society, that does not throw away the weak. He also reminded them of the good the elderly do in society.
"A people that does not care for its grandparents, that does not treat them well, are people that have no future! Why do they not have a future? Because they lose their memory and tear from their roots.”
For the Pope, to be with an elderly person does much good to society and brings joy. They also bring one of the most beautiful things to life.
"One of he most beautiful things in the life of a family, of our lives, is to caress a child and tolet them be caressed by a grandfather or grandmother.”
Lastly, the Pope reminded them that there are elderly people who have no family and live in retirement homes. He asked that these institutions be true homes and not "prisons”.