Vatican official says Pope Francis serves as an example to all elderly

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ROME – A leading Vatican official says euthanasia is never the solution and that Pope Francis is proof that the elderly have lives worth living.

Father Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, was speaking on Tuesday after the presentation of the pontiff’s message for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

Mello emphasized the pope’s message that the elderly will continue to bear fruit and said it’s an important “message for all those who have had this idea of euthanasia cross their minds, because in reality, even in suffering, even in prayer, a sick person who is going through a very difficult situation, even terminal, can live a life that bears fruits and are a real contribution to the life of the church and of society.”

“The church will never silence her prophetic voice in these matters, because we truly believe in the inalienable gift of life,” he said. 

Schonstatt Father Alexandre Awi Mello, secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, speaks at a news conference at the Vatican May 18, 2021. (Credit: Paul Haring/CNS.)

Mello told Crux that the more the elderly can be with their families, the better.

“But if you need to take the extreme decision to take them to a home for the elderly, you should not abandon them, ‘park’ them there,” Mello said. “They cannot be discarded. I believe that, with his example, the pope is showing us the way: Euthanasia should not cross our minds, because it is neither a humane nor a Christian solution.”

Mello said that in his message, Pope Francis writes that during old age, “we have to be prepared to bear fruit and to continue working, believing and having hope, giving our contribution even when many times we lack physical strength.” He pointed out that in the pope’s case, he continues to work regardless of his knee pain.

“It is not only about being seen in a wheelchair, but actually continuing to deliver his message, even despite the pain we know he must be feeling,” said Mello.

An elderly person’s ability to build a better life, both for the church and society, is the core message of Pope Francis’s text for the World Day for Grandparents, on July 24. This applies to the many who have suffered “in a special way” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who are suffering due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Once more, the pope is putting his finger on the wound, meaning, where society is lacking, where society is giving a counter-witness,” Mello said. “It is there where the pope wants to pay most attention. From the beginning of his pontificate, the elderly have been a priority for Pope Francis, because they are the ones being discarded by society.”

At the presentation of the papal message, American Cardinal Kevin Farrell referred both to Pope Francis’s health and the impact the war in Ukraine is having on the elderly.

“The pope, perhaps more than most of us, sees and suffers in his heart” for the people of Ukraine, he said. “There are no words to describe the horrors and suffering that is going on. Eldelry people and young children are the ones who suffer more than anybody. They are the ones who suffer the consequences (of the) human tragedy that is this war.”

Farrell said that the “whole world” needs to come together and pray for an end to the war, and that until this happens, the Catholic Church will continue to do what it always does: pray for these people, help in any way possible, intervene and appeal to bring this terrible tragedy to an end.

As for Francis’s health, Farrell said that the pope “accepts his limitations at this moment with a great spirit, a great heart.”

“I think he’s an example to all of us,” he said. “We should not hide the fact that with age comes a lessening of our ability to play a part in the world.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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