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Pope Francis, Long-Time Supporter of Seniors

Some 40,000 seniors hailed in Vatican City

Pope Francis has long implored people to respect and honor aging members of society. Francis, 77, identifies old age as a “time of grace” as he continues to acknowledge the significant role of seniors throughout the world.

Francis has held numerous Vatican ceremonies and Masses for the aging to honor grandparents and their contributions to society. During the most recent gathering in September 2014, he recognized and warmly embraced his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 87, who arrived to the ceremony with a cane. “I have said many times that it gives me great pleasure that he lives here in the Vatican, because it is like having a wise grandfather at home,” said Pope Francis about the former pope living in papal retirement at the Vatican Covent.

Even before elected as Pope, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio acknowledged the elderly in his book On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century, originally published in 2010. In the book, he highlights how the elderly are often forgotten despite being at an age where it is vital to preserve memories by passing them onto the next generation.

Francis revisited this point at the Vatican ceremony in September when he recognized one of the greatest contributions an individual, especially grandchildren, can make is “transmitting the experience of life, the history of a family, of a community, of a people, sharing, with simplicity, wisdom, and faith itself -- the most precious inheritance.”

In 2002, Cardinal Bergoglio presented a Letter On the Year of Faith asserting that a starting point of faith is “when we act as caregivers for an elderly person we perform an act of justice and cherish our roots.”

During Mass at Cassa Santa Marta last November, Pope Francis noted that "we live in a time when the elderly do not count" and much of humanity treats them as a nuisance. He called on the faithful to care for grandparents, the treasures of a society who has no future without them.

Francis has also recognized the necessity of group homes for the aging without family but denounces abandoning seniors as they are often forgotten and neglected. “How many times are old people just discarded, victims of an abandonment that is tantamount to hidden euthanasia,” said Francis during the Vatican ceremony in September. Francis asked that retirement homes serve as true homes and “not prisons” for its residents.

It wasn’t the first time Pope Francis has compared the neglect of seniors to veiled euthanasia. This April during an interview with five young Catholics from Belgium, he identified that “Young people no longer want children. Families are becoming smaller. The elderly are pushed away, many elderly die because of a sort of hidden euthanasia, because no one cares for them and they die."

On Holy Thursday 2014, Pope Francis was seen washing the feet of 12 elderly and disabled patients of St. Mary of Providence Center.  During his homily, he asked others to provide the same warm and selfless service.

In October 2014, a synod will be led by Francis to discuss the subject of family, including the prominence of grandparents.

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