Let us not aban­don the elderly

Malta Independent - - LETTERS -

The elderly are greatly trea­sured by Pope Fran­cis. Suf­fice to say that he men­tions them many times in his in­nu­mer­able speeches. The Ar­gen­tinean Pon­tiff is con­cerned that the elderly to­day risk be­ing crushed by the throw­away cul­ture of our times.

The bottom line mes­sage of his ad­dress to mem­bers of the Pon­tif­i­cal Academy for Life, who met in Rome for their Gen­eral Assem­bly in March, was sim­ply this: We must not aban­don the elderly! In his ob­ser­va­tions to the Assem­bly which cen­tred on the theme “As­sist­ing the elderly and pal­lia­tive care”, Pope Fran­cis said that pal­lia­tive care “is an ex­pres­sion of the prop­erly human at­ti­tude of tak­ing care of one an­other, es­pe­cially of those who suf­fer. It bears wit­ness that the human per­son is al­ways pre­cious, even if marked by age and sick­ness”.

Fur­ther­more, the Holy Fa­ther spoke of the obli­ga­tion of honour­ing the elderly, which he linked with the bi­b­li­cal com­mand­ment to hon­our one’s par­ents. He said the Word of God has a harsh warn­ing for those peo­ple who ne­glect or treat their par­ents badly. Pope Fran­cis stated that this con­dem­na­tion is in force even to­day when par­ents, “having be­come older and less use­ful, are marginal­ized to the point of aban­don­ment”. The Holy Fa­ther clar­i­fied that “to hon­our” can be com­pre­hended in our times “as the duty to have ex­treme re­spect and to take care of those who, be­cause of their phys­i­cal or so­cial con­di­tion, could be left to die, or ‘made to die’.”

The Pon­tiff ex­plained that pal­lia­tive care ac­knowl­edges, at the con­clu­sion of life, the in­trin­sic value of each and ev­ery human per­son. He ex­horted those who are re­spon­si­ble for pal­lia­tive care to main­tain this spirit of service and to al­ways re­mem­ber that “all med­i­cal knowl­edge is truly sci­ence, in its most noble sense” if and only if it es­pouses the vi­sion of the true good of the human be­ing, a good that can never be at­tained when it goes against human life and dig­nity. Hence, as the Pope said, “it is this ca­pac­ity for service to the life and dig­nity of the sick, even when they are old, that is the mea­sure of the true progress of medicine, and of all so­ci­ety.”

In his ad­dress to the par­tic­i­pants in the Ju­bilee of Vol­un­teers and Agents of Mercy in Septem­ber in Rome, Pope Fran­cis told them: “Human mercy also does not be­come such – namely human and mercy – un­til it has reached con­crete­ness in daily ac­tion. The Apos­tle John’s ad­mo­ni­tion is al­ways valid: ‘Lit­tle chil­dren, let us not love in words or speech but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18). The truth of mercy is ver­i­fied, in fact in our daily ges­tures, which ren­der vis­i­ble God’s ac­tion in our midst.”

Pope Fran­cis truly lives what he preaches. In fact, in Jan­uary of this year the Pope vis­ited the Bruno Buozzi nurs­ing home on the out­skirts of Rome be­fore head­ing to the Casa Iride, which pro­vides care for per­sons who are in a con­tin­ual veg­e­ta­tive state and also sup­ports their fam­i­lies. This sur­prise visit was an­nounced on the of­fi­cial Ju­bilee of Mercy twit­ter feed. The pho­tos taken show Pope Fran­cis meet­ing 30 res­i­dents in the nurs­ing home and shar­ing a drink with them. The of­fi­cial web­site of the Ju­bilee of Mercy re­ported that “this im­pro­vised visit took ev­ery­one by sur­prise, and helped peo­ple un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the words spo­ken by Pope Fran­cis against a cul­ture of waste, and the great value the elderly and grand­par­ents have in the Church and so­ci­ety.”

The sec­ond fa­cil­ity which Pope Fran­cis vis­ited houses seven pa­tients who are in a per­pet­ual veg­e­ta­tive state. The com­mu­niqué claimed that this ges­ture by the Holy Fa­ther “demon­strates the great value of human life, and the dig­nity with which it must al­ways be re­spected.”

If, in our so­ci­ety, the elderly and sick, risk be­ing ne­glected, what can we do to be close to them? Are we hu­manly smart enough to as­sume our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and start car­ing for them? Bear­ing in mind, as Pope Fran­cis once said, that the elderly are a trea­sure to our so­ci­ety?

Fr Mario At­tard OFM Cap Marsa

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