POPE SAYS DIGNITY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS MUST BE PROTECTED: He emphasized this when addressing participants in the international conference “Women Building a Culture of Encounter Interreligiously,” organized by the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations and the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue at Rome’s Pontifical Urbaniana University, from January 25 to 27. “The fact that your Conference is devoted to listening to the experiences and perspectives of women is all the more valuable, since our quest for peace must increasingly involve…women. Because women bestow care and life upon the world: they are themselves a path towards peace.” The Holy Father encouraged their important work of sharing insight and best practices. “I am grateful to you for your commitment and effort to foster the dignity of women and girls in particular.” Pope: Dignity of women and girls must be protected – Vatican News

NEVER KEEP UP ON PEACE, POPE TELLS researchers and experts of the European Institute for International Studies in Salamanca.   The Institute’s work in education in international relations aims to prepare leaders to make a difference in the building of a better world. “Peace among men is an essential good for which we must work zealously and fervently beseech God,” Pope Francis said, reiterating his belief that “every war leaves the world worse off than it found it.” Reflecting on the concept of peace, the Pope said peace is a challenge “that it is not simply based on balances of power or on silencing the just demands of the less favoured”; but is instead an “essential good for which we must work zealously and fervently beseech God.” “War is a failure of politics and humanity, a shameful surrender, a defeat in the face of the forces of evil.” Pope Francis: Never give up the struggle for peace – Vatican News

POPE TO PHILANTHROPISTS: PROMOTE INTEGRAL GOOD OF THE PERSON – Greeting members of the Assifero Association, an Italian Association of Foundations and Philanthropic Bodies on its 20th anniversary, Pope Francis congratulated the members for the “clearly Christian-inspired approach with which you have structured your activities.” Francis noted that the Association brings together many private foundations in Italy and abroad that work in various fields “promoting the person and developing healthy and supportive social and economic models. …I would like to recommend that you pay particular attention in your programmes to three important values that, moreover, you already have in mind: the promotion of the integral good of the person; listening to local communities; and closeness to the least, never forgetting that one of God’s values is closeness.” Pope to philanthropists: Promote integral good of the person – Vatican News





Today, the weekly general audience was held in St. Peter’s Square for the first time in over two years. The Vatican gendarmerie estimated the faithful present to number about 20,000.

In powerful images and words, the Holy Father continued his catechesis on the elderly, focussing on “the fragility of old age, marked in a special way by the experiences of confusion and despondency, of loss and abandonment, of disillusionment and doubt.” (Vatican photo)

“Of course,” continued Francis, “the experiences of our frailty in the face of life’s dramatic – sometimes tragic – situations can occur at any stage of life. However, in old age they can produce less of an impression and induce in others a kind of habituation, even annoyance. How many times have we heard or thought: ‘Old people are a nuisance’’ – ‘But, these old people are always a nuisance’: don’t deny it, that’s the way it is… We’ve said it, we’ve thought it…”

But this is where love and honor and human dignity come into play.

“In the common human experience,” he explained, “love – as is said – descends…That is, we have received the love of parents, of grandparents, and now we return this love to them, to the elderly, to our grandparents. Today we have rediscovered the term ‘dignity’, to indicate the value of respecting and caring for the age [life] of everyone. Dignity, here, is essentially equivalent to honor: honoring father and mother, honoring the elderly, and recognizing the dignity they possess.”

“This special love that paves the way in the form of honor – that is, tenderness and respect at the same time – intended for the elderly is sealed by God’s commandment. ‘Honor thy father and mother’ is a solemn commitment, the first of the ‘second tablet’ of the Ten Commandments. It is not just about one’s own father and mother. It is about their generation and the generations before, whose leave-taking can also be slow and prolonged, creating a time and space of long-lasting coexistence with the other ages of life. In other words, it is about the old age of life, old age…”

Honor is lacking, however, exclaimed the Pope, when, for example, “young people are encouraged, even indirectly, to an attitude of condescension – and even contempt – for the elderly, for their weaknesses and their precariousness, this produces horrible things. It opens the way to unimaginable excesses. The young people who set fire to a ‘bum’s blanket – we’ve seen this, haven’t we? – because they see him as a human reject, and we often think that the old are the refuse, or we put them in the trash; … ‘Refuse’ is the word, isn’t it? To despise the elderly and cast them from life, to put them aside, to put them down.”

“This contempt that dishonors the elderly,” declared Francis, “actually dishonors all of us. If I dishonor the elderly, I dishonor myself.”

The Holy Father went on to say: “On this point, allow me to offer some advice to parents: please, bring your children, young children, closer to the elderly, always bring them closer. And when the elderly person is ill, a bit out of their mind, always approach them: let them know that this is our flesh, that this is what has made it possible for us to be here. Please don’t push the elderly away. And if there is no other option than to send them to a nursing home, please visit them and bring the children to see them: they are the honor of our civilisation, the old people who opened the doors. And many times, the children forget this.”

Pope Francis concluded the audience: “I’ll tell you something personal: I used to love visiting nursing homes in Buenos Aires. I went often. I went often, I visited each one… And I remember once I asked a lady: ‘And how many children do you have?’ – ‘I have four, all married, with grandchildren …,’ and she started talking to me about the family. ‘And do they come [to visit]?’ – ‘Yes, [she said,] ‘they always come!’ When I left the room, the nurse, who had heard, said to me: ‘Father, she told a lie to cover up for her children. Nobody has come for six months!’ This is discarding the old, it is thinking that the old are refuse. Please: it is a grave sin. This is the first great commandment, and the only one that says the reward: ‘Honor your father and your mother, and you will have long life on earth’.”