Given the continuing very hot temperatures in Rome, this week’s Wednesday general audience was held inside the air-conditioned Paul VI Hall in the presence of thousands of faithful. (vatican photo)

Pope Francis announced that the day’s catechesis on old age would be the final one of 16 talks on this topic that he began in February. There were no general audiences in July, a quasi-vacation period and reduced work schedule for the Pope at the Santa Marta residence. When he resumed the weekly meeting last week, he spoke of his just-completed trip to Canada.

“Today” said the Pope, “we enter into the moving intimacy of Jesus’ farewell to his followers, amply recounted in the Gospel of John. The parting discourse begins with words of consolation and promise: ‘Let not your hearts be troubled’. ‘When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also’. They are beautiful, these words of the Lord.

He continued: “Shortly beforehand, Jesus had said to Peter, ‘You shall follow afterward’, reminding him of the passage through the fragility of his faith. The time of life that remains to the disciples will be, inevitably, a passage through the fragility of witness and through the challenges of brotherhood. But it will also be a passage through the exciting blessings of faith.”

The Holy Father explained that “old age is the fitting time for the moving and joyful witness of expectation. The elderly man and woman are waiting, waiting for an encounter. In old age, the works of faith, which bring us and others closer to the Kingdom of God, are by now beyond the power of the energy, words, and impulses of youth and maturity. But precisely in this way they make the promise of the true destination of life even more transparent. And what is the true destination of life? A place at the table with God, in the world of God.

“It would be interesting to see whether in the local Churches there is any specific reference intended to revitalize this special ministry of awaiting the Lord – it is a ministry, the ministry of awaiting the Lord – encouraging individual charisms and community qualities of the elderly person.”

“Our life is not made to be wrapped up in itself, in an imaginary earthly perfection,” said Francis. “It is destined to go beyond, through the passage of death – because death is a passage. Indeed, our stable place, our destination is not here, it is beside the Lord, where he dwells forever.”

The pontiff then emphasized that “the conceit of stopping time – of wanting eternal youth, unlimited well-being, absolute power – is not only impossible, it is delusional.”

“Old age,” he went on, “knows definitively, by now, the meaning of time and the limitations of the place in which we live our initiation. This is why old age is wise: the elderly are wise for this reason. This is why it is credible when it invites us to rejoice in the passing of time: it is not a threat, it is a promise. Old age is noble, it does not need to beautify itself to show its nobility. Perhaps the disguise comes when nobility is lacking.

“Old age is credible when it invites one to rejoice in the passing of time: but time passes . … Old age is the phase in life most suited to spreading the joyful news that life is the initiation to a final fulfilment. The elderly are a promise, a witness of promise. And the best is yet to come. The best is yet to come: it is like the message of elderly believers, the best is yet to come. May God grant us all an old age capable of this! Thank you.”

You may recall that Pope Francis began this series of catecheses on February 23, when he said: “We have finished the catecheses on Saint Joseph. Today we begin a catechetical journey that seeks inspiration in the Word of God on the meaning and value of old age. Let us reflect on old age. For some decades now, this stage of life has concerned a veritable “new people”, who are the elderly. There have never been so many of us in human history. The risk of being discarded is even more frequent: never as many as now, never as much risk of being discarded as now.”


Pope Francis conveyed his thoughts and prayers for the victims and families of the massive fire in Cuba that killed at least one person. Another 14 people are currently missing, and five others remain in critical condition.

“I want to express my closeness to those affected by the tragedy caused by the explosions of the Matanzas oil base in Cuba. Let us ask Mary our Queen of Heaven to watch over the victims and their families.”

Described as the worst fire in Cuba’s history, the blaze began on Friday night after lightning struck a fuel storage tank at the Matanzas oil depot, causing a massive explosion. The fire spread to a second tank on Saturday, triggering further explosions that caused the fire to spread.

Over 40% of the Cuban island’s main fuel storage facility was destroyed, and massive blackouts were reported. (source: vaticannews)