Vatican City, 23 November 2013 (VIS) – Elderly persons have always been active in the life of the Church, which must set an example to society of how they are always important, indeed “indispensable” said Pope Francis, who this morning received in audience the participants in the 28th International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (Health Care Pastoral). The meeting took place from 21 to 23 November in the New Synod Hall and examined the theme “The Church at the service of sick elderly people: care for people with neurodegenerative pathologies”.

The elderly “carry with them the memory and the wisdom of life, which they transmit to others, and participate fully in the Church’s mission. Let us remember that human life always maintains its value in the eyes of God, far beyond any discriminatory view”, emphasised Pope Francis. He went on to mention how the increase in life expectancy throughout the twentieth century has also led a growing number of people to be affected by neurodegenerative pathologies, which are frequently accompanied by a deterioration in cognitive capacities. These pathologies have an impact on social and health care both in terms of research and in assistance in social and healthcare structures, as well as within the family, which is in need of help and adequate services to care for the elderly.

The Holy Father reiterated the importance of a form of healthcare which “alongside the traditional biomedical model, is enriched by allowing space for dignity and freedom, far from the reclusion and silence that too often surrounds those in the healthcare environment” and, from this perspective, he spoke also of the importance of the religious and spiritual aspect, insisting on the need “to put into practice a particular pastoral approach to accompany the religious life of elderly people with serious degenerative pathologies, with different forms and content, so as not to interrupt the dialogue and relationship of their minds and hearts with God”.

“Dear friends”, he concluded, addressing the elderly present, “you are not only the recipients of the evangelical message, but also, by virtue of your Baptism, its proclaimers in the fullest sense”.