At the end of the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis issued a heartfelt appeal not to use food as a weapon of war.

He said, “the blocking of grain exports from Ukraine, on which the lives of millions of people depend, especially in the poorest countries, is of great concern. I make a heartfelt appeal that every effort be made to resolve this issue and to guarantee the universal human right to food. Please do not use wheat, a staple food, as a weapon of war!” (wikipedia photo – wheat fields in Ukraine)


Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in a sun-drenched, hot St. Peter’s Square, and continued his series of catecheses on the meaning and value of old age in the light of God’s word.

Meditating on Psalm 71’s opening lines – “You, O Lord, are my hope; my trust, O Lord, from my youth,” Francis said the “Psalmist implores God’s continued protection and care. In our own day, his anxious concern is shared by many of the elderly, who see their dignity and even their rights threatened by the spread of a “throwaway culture” that views them as useless and indeed a burden to society.”

The Pope explained that, “In this throwaway society, this throwaway culture, elderly people are cast aside and suffer these things. A form of cowardice in which we specialize in this society of ours. Indeed, there is no lack of those who take advantage of the elderly, to cheat them and to intimidate them in myriad ways. Often, we read in the newspapers or hear news of elderly people who are unscrupulously tricked out of their savings, or are left without protection or abandoned without care; or offended by forms of contempt and intimidated into renouncing their rights.”

The Holy Father noted with sadness that, “Such cruelty also occurs within families – and this is serious, but it happens in families too. The elderly who are rejected, abandoned in rest homes, without their children coming to visit them, or they go a few times a year. … We must reflect on this.”

Click here for video (at bottom of page): Pope at Audience: The elderly can inspire a more just and humane society – Vatican News



Today’s weekly general audience was again held in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, as Pope Francis, seated in a swivel chair in the open papal jeep, toured the square to greet the tens of thousands of faithful present. At times he stood to wave to the crowd, He was brought to the stage area and was assisted to his seat, given his very painful knee that recently has made walking so problematic. (EWTN photos Daniel Ibanez)

In fact yesterday, Francis, on doctor’s advice, cancelled his Tuesday appointments to rest the knee.

He began his catechesis saying, “today we will continue to reflect on the elderly, on grandparents, on old age – the word seems ugly but no, the elderly are great, they are beautiful! And today we will let ourselves be inspired by the splendid book of Ruth, a jewel of the Bible. The parable of Ruth sheds light on the beauty of family bonds: generated by the relationship of a couple, but which go beyond it. Bonds of love capable of being equally strong, in which the perfection of that polyhedron of fundamental affections that make up the family grammar of love shines.”

He explained that he wanted to “reflect on the figure of the widow Naomi as presented in the biblical Book of Ruth. This short yet beautiful story speaks of the relationship of love and mutual support between the elderly Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. Naomi, dwelling in a foreign land, is left alone when her two sons die. Despite her grief, she encourages her two daughters-in-law to remain among their own people as she returns to Bethlehem, her native town. Ruth chooses not to abandon her beloved mother-in-law, and accompanies her to Judah, telling her: ‘Your people shall be my people, and your God my God’.”

The Holy Father then notes how “Ruth’s love supports Naomi, and Naomi in turn helps Ruth to find a new husband, Boaz. God blesses this marriage with a son, Obed, who was the father of Jesse, the father of David. The story of these two faithful women shows us that, in God’s providential plan, the covenant of love and fidelity uniting the generations can prove immensely enriching for our families and for the growth of a society that respects the dignity and gifts of each of its members, however young or old.”

Pope Francis acknowledged “that clichés about the bonds of kinship created by marriage, especially that of the mother-in-law, the relationship between mother- and daughter-in-law, speak against this perspective. But, precisely for this reason, the word of God becomes precious. The inspiration of faith can open up a horizon of witness that counters the most common prejudices, a horizon that is precious for the entire human community. I invite you to rediscover the book of Ruth! Especially in the meditation on love and in catechesis on the family.”

The Pope closed with some words about grandparents and grandchildren:

“If the young open themselves to gratitude for what they have received, and the elderly take the initiative of relaunching their future, nothing can stop the flourishing of God’s blessings among peoples! Do not forget, may young people speak with their grandparents, may the young speak with the old, may the old speak with the young. This bridge must be rebuilt in a strong way – there is a current of salvation, of happiness there. May the Lord help us, doing this, to grow in harmony with families, that constructive harmony that goes from the oldest to the youngest, that beautiful bridge that we must protect and safeguard.

The Pope also recalled that today marks the 8th anniversary of the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.

For video of the audience with English translations: General Audience – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis | Vatican.va



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’.”



My guest in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is Irish writer, producer and director – and member of the EWTN Ireland family – Campbell Miller. Born in the North of Ireland, Campbell is known for Award-winning films such as Respite at Christmas, Poison Tree and Family. His debut feature documentary ‘Bravery Under Fire’ was the story of an Irish Jesuit Priest who was a much-loved chaplain in World War 1.

Campbell talks about his career and highlights his latest riveting docudrama produced with EWTN, “Hope, Our Lady of Knock.” As I wrote in this column after the January 27 Vatican premiere: “The film starts by looking at the dramatic years of the potato famine in Ireland when 1 million Irish died of hunger and 1 million emigrated, but it is above all a story of hope as it principally tells the story of the beloved Shrine of Knock. “Hope” weaves a beautiful tapestry that joins the two moments of Irish history – the 1840s famine and the appearance of the Virgin Mary at Knock August on 21, 1879 when yet another famine threatened the nation. Hope was always the main ingredient in the hearts of the Irish and was greatly aided by Our Lady’s 1879 appearance.

Campbell is shown here with three women of the Catholic Grandparents Association (who will be my guests in coming weeks on Vatican Insider) at the premiere of “Hope”:

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Participants at a conference on the pastoral care of the elderly were received in audience by Pope Francis on Friday. In his address, the Holy Father invited the Church to “change her pastoral attitudes in order to respond to the presence of so many elderly people in families and communities.”
By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

At an audience for participants in a conference on pastoral care of the elderly, Pope Francis said old-age is “a precious treasure that takes shape in the journey of every man and woman’s life, whatever their origins, background, or economic or social conditions.” He said, “Life is a gift, and when it is long it is a privilege, for oneself and for others. Always.” He called on the Church to care for the elderly, going to them with “a smile on your face and the Gospel in your hands”.

He noted that the world is facing a significant demographic change, with fewer young people and a large increase in the number of elderly. He said that issues facing the elderly – including social disorientation, and societal attitudes of indifference and rejection, are a call to the Church and to society “to serious reflection in order to learn to grasp and appreciate the value of old age”

The richness of people
Referring to the theme of the conference, Pope Francis said, “the richness of many years of life… is the richness of people, of every single person who has many years of life experience and history behind them”.

The Pope welcomed the conference, and asked that it not remain “an isolated initiative”, but might be the start “of a journey of pastoral deepening and discernment”. “We need to change our pastoral habits in order to respond to the presence of so many older people in our families and communities”, he said.

Old age is a blessing
He reminded us that, in the Bible “longevity is a blessing”, and that the elderly, too, have a place in God’s saving plan. “Aware of the irreplaceable role of the elderly”, the Pope said, “the Church becomes a place where generations are called to share God’s loving plan, in a relationship of a mutual exchange of the gifts of the Holy Spirit”. Both old and young, he said, are “the future of the Church”.

In particular, Pope Francis said that grandparents are “the indispensable link in educating children and young people in the faith”. The elderly, he insisted, should be not only the objects of the Church’s care, but also “actors in a pastoral evangelizing ministry, privileged witnesses of God’s faithful love”.

Do not be afraid!
Pope Francis concluded his address with words of encouragement, saying, “Do not be afraid. Take initiatives. Help your Bishops and Dioceses to promote pastoral service to and with the elderly. Do not be discouraged… Go forward!”

CLICK HERE FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH CARDINAL FARRELL, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-01/conference-at-vatican-focuses-on-pastoral-care-of-the-elderly.html