Pope Francis says "Thank you because you are a living memory to draw on to build the future of the Church." to Elderly


 [Sanctuary "Santa Maria del Fonte" of Caravaggio (Bergamo), 17 September 2020]

Dear brother priests,
I am delighted that this year too, despite the limitations necessary to combat the pandemic, you have found yourselves together with your Bishops in the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Caravaggio.
I thank the Lombard Episcopal Conference, which for six years has been organizing this day of prayer and fraternity with the elderly and sick clergy. This attention of the pastors to the physically more fragile part of their presbytery is beautiful. In reality, you are priests who, in prayer, in listening, in the offering of suffering, carry out a non-secondary ministry in your Churches.
I thank UNITALSI and all those who work for the success of this meeting. With their concrete commitment and the spirit that animates them, the volunteers express the gratitude of all God's people towards their ministers.
And it is especially to you, dear confreres who live the time of old age or the bitter hour of illness, that I feel the need to say thank you. Thank you for the witness of faithful love to God and to the Church. Thank you for the silent announcement of the gospel of life. Thank you because you are a living memory to draw on to build the future of the Church.
In the past few months, we've all experienced restrictions. The days, spent in a limited space, seemed interminable and always the same. We missed the dearest affections and friends; the fear of contagion reminded us of our precariousness. Basically, we have known what some of you, as well as many other elderly people, experience every day. I really hope that this period will help us to understand that, much more than occupying space, it is necessary not to waste the time that is given to us; that it helps us to taste the beauty of the encounter with the other, to heal the virus of self-sufficiency. Let's not forget this lesson!
In the hardest period, full of "a deafening silence and a desolating emptiness" ( Moment of prayer , 27 March 2020), many, almost spontaneously, raised their gaze to Heaven. With God's grace, it can be a purifying experience. Also for our priestly life frailty can be "like the fire of the smelter and like the lye of the laundromats" ( Mal 3: 2) which, raising us towards God, refines and sanctifies us. We are not afraid of suffering: the Lord carries the cross with us!
Dear brothers, I entrust each of you to the Virgin Mary. To her, Mother of priests, I remember in prayer the many priests who died of this virus and how many are facing the rehabilitation process.
I send you my blessing from the heart And you, please, don't forget to pray for me.
Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano, 13 August 2020