Pope Francis Tells Youth Not to Keep the Elderly ‘Locked Away in the Closet’

Pope Francis waves to faithfulls as he arrives for his weekly general audience at St Peter's square on August 30, 2017 in Vatican. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis urged young people not to keep the elderly hidden away “in the closet” but rather to talk with them and learn from their accumulated wisdom.

“For you young people,” Francis said in the Vatican Monday, “the elderly should not be kept locked away in the closet, nor should they be kept hidden. The elderly are waiting for a young person to make them speak, make them dream. And you young people need to receive from these men and women the hopes and dreams that enliven them.”

Francis addressed these words to some 3,000 members of the Brazilian-based Shalom Catholic Community, a charismatic association of the faithful founded in 1982.

Stressing the importance of inter-generational dialogue between the young and old, the Pope said that the world needs the witness of dialogue where the elderly can “pass on the torch, pass on the legacy, pass on the charism, and pass on your inner life.”

“Young people need to listen to the elderly and the elderly need to listen to the young,” Francis said, because each has something to teach the other.

Once they try it, he continued, young people don’t want to leave because they realize that “wisdom comes from the elders, a wisdom that touches the heart and drives them forward.”

“Talk to your grandfather or your grandmother,” he encouraged them, “that is, a generation beyond, because they have wisdom, and they need you to knock on their heart so they can pass on this wisdom. And this would be the recommendation I give you: be bold, encourage this dialogue, which is a promise for the future; it will help you move forward.”

During the 45-minute meeting with the Shalom members, the pope fielded four questions and spoke on a variety of topics, including that of sin and mercy.

“Our God has a special love for sinners, especially big sinners, those who are the worst. He’s there, waiting for us,” Francis said, urging his hearers to go out of themselves to tell others that “there is a God waiting to welcome us as soon as we take the first step.”

At the same time, the Pope warned against the dangers of selfishness and narcissism, noting that contemporary culture is consumeristic and “has a very strong dose of narcissism,” leading to self-absorption while ignoring others.

Narcissism, Francis said, “makes you sad, because you live worried about dressing up your soul every day to appear better than you are, admiring yourself to see if you are more beautiful than others.”

This is the “sickness of the mirror,” he said, while urging his hearers to “smash the mirror” and to stop staring at themselves.

“If one day you want to look at yourself in the mirror,” the pope said, do so in order “to laugh at yourselves.”

“Try it,” he said. “Look at yourself and start laughing at the one you see there. It will refresh your soul.”

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