Pope Francis on Wednesday emphasized the family’s need for healthy relationships and dialogue between the young and the elderly.
“The alliance — and I am saying alliance — the alliance between the elderly and children will save the human family,” the pope said at his weekly audience Aug. 17. “If this dialogue does not take place between the elderly and the young, the future cannot be clearly seen.”
Near the end of the pope’s general audience, which took place in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, a young boy approached Pope Francis while sitting on the stage.
Pope Francis spoke to him in Italian, greeting him and asking his name, though the little boy did not respond. “During the audience, we spoke of the dialogue between the elderly and the young,” the pope said to those watching, as he gestured to the boy. “He was courageous, this one.”
The sandy-haired child stood next to Pope Francis for the remainder of the audience, including the singing of the Our Father in Latin and the pope’s final blessing. Afterward, Francis traced a cross on the boy’s forehead.
The 85-year-old Pope Francis, who usually stands for the prayer and blessing, remained seated on Aug. 17. He has been suffering from a knee injury forcing him to use a wheelchair or walk with a cane for several months.
While the pope was greeting the different language groups toward the end of the audience, one of two Swiss Guards on stage with him appeared to lose his balance and fall toward the floor momentarily. The Swiss Guard immediately got back up, according to photographer Pablo Esparza, who witnessed the event.
In his address, the pope said “it is painful — and harmful — to see that the ages of life are conceived of as separate worlds, in competition among themselves, each one seeking to live at the expense of the other: this is not right.”
“Old age,” he said, “must bear witness — for me, this is the core, the most central aspect of old age — old age must bear witness to children that they are a blessing.”
“This witness consists in their initiation — beautiful and difficult — into the mystery of our destination in life that no one can annihilate, not even death. To bring the witness of faith before a child is to sow that life. To bear the witness of humanity too, and of faith, is the vocation of the elderly.”
According to the pope, “the witness of the elderly is credible to children,” and “young people and adults are not capable of bearing witness in such an authentic, tender, poignant way, as elderly people can.”
He praised when an old person can lay aside any resentment he or she feels at growing old in order to bless life as it comes.
“There is no bitterness because time is passing by, and he or she is about to move on. No. There is that joy of good wine, of wine that has aged well with the years. The witness of the elderly unites the generations of life,” he said.
“May the elderly have the joy of speaking, of expressing themselves with the young, and may the young seek out the elderly to receive the wisdom of life from them,” the pope wished.