ELDERLY, THE WORLD NEEDS YOU, IT "NEEDS US" JOHN PAUL II SAYS
| 40,000 Pilgrims Attend Third Age Jubilee
VATICAN CITY, SEP 18 (ZENIT.org).- "The Church needs you! Civil society also
needs you! This is what I said to young people a month ago and now I say it to you
today, elderly, to us, the elderly: the Church needs you!" John Paul II exhorted the
40,000 pilgrims who came to Rome yesterday to celebrate the Jubilee of the
The great majority of the faithful in St. Peter's Square were older than 60. However,
the noise they made and their rhythmic applause for the Pope made them seem
more like teenagers. Perhaps this was the reason the Holy Father put his papers to
one side and spontaneously spoke about the Youth Jubilee of last August.
"We, the Elderly"
John Paul II seemed especially moved. Correcting the written text he had for the
homily during the closing Mass of this special Jubilee, he spoke that phrase, "we,
the elderly," which expressed his solidarity and affection. This was not the first time
he used the phrase, however In his Letter to the Elderly he referred to himself as
an "elderly man."
Hours before the Mass, the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica became the silent witness
of life testimonies that the pilgrims heard in preparation for their meeting with the
Pope. They learned about the love between a husband and wife, which can remain
fresh and spontaneous in spite of ageing and curvature of the spine. These were
all normal, anonymous lives that reflected how faith can make ordinary life thrilling.
Suffering Has Meaning
For his part, from the very beginning John Paul II thanked those "who have faced
difficulties and inconveniences in order not to miss this appointment." At the same
time, he greeted "the elderly persons who are alone or sick," who stayed at home in
body, but not in spirit. The suffering that often knocks on the elderly's door finds its
reason in a transcendent dimension that must not be forgotten: "Suffering cannot
but produce fear! However, precisely in the redeeming suffering of Christ, is the
answer to the challenge of suffering that so weighs down our human condition. In
fact, Christ took our sufferings upon himself, and carried our pains, giving them,
thanks to his Cross and Resurrection, a new light of hope and life."
The strength of the elderly is precisely in their weakness, which is often
unappreciated. In face of a culture of superficiality, John Paul II exhorted his
listeners, "you have the mission to witness to the values that really count beyond
For a "Culture of Life"
"Precisely as persons of the third age you have a specific contribution to make to
the development of an authentic 'culture of life,' witnessing that each moment of
existence is a gift from God, and every stage of human life has its specific riches
that must be made available to all."
Therefore, from the Christian point of view, whether healthy or sick, the elderly
have a "precious task." The Church and society need you, the Pope exclaimed,
wringing long and loud applause from the pilgrims.
"Know how to use the time you have at your disposal and the talents that God has
given you, helping and supporting others. Contribute to the proclamation of the
Gospel as catechists, leaders of the liturgy, witnesses of Christian life. Give time
and energy to prayer, reading, and reflection on the Word of God," the Pontiff
The Pope's celebration with his contemporaries continued with the Marian prayer of
the "Angelus." Following the Mass, which was graced by a wonderful chorus of 100
elderly voices from Roman parishes, and the "Scholae Cantorum" of Italy, the Holy
Father could not longer contain his joy: "Your harmonious voices rising from this
Square to heaven have given our prayer singular intensity, which undoubtedly has
echoed in God's heart. Indeed, 'the one who sings prays twice.'"