Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Pope hails role of grandparents

Pope Francis speaks and MC Guido Marini holds an umbrella at the World Youth Day event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (AP)
A gust of wind lifts the cape of Pope Francis as he speaks on the Copacabana beachfront in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (AP)

Pope Francis praised the elderly during the Catholic Church's festival of youth, saying grandparents are critical for passing on wisdom and religious heritage and are a "treasure to be preserved and strengthened".

Francis has made a point of not just focusing on the next generation of Catholics during World Youth Day, but on the older generation as well. It is part of his longstanding work caring for the elderly in Argentina, the crucial role his own grandmother played in his spiritual development and the gentle deference he shows his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Speaking from the balcony of the residence of Rio de Janeiro's archbishop, Francis noted that today is celebrated as Grandparent's Day in much of the world and that young people should take the occasion to honour and thank their grandparents for the wisdom they share.

"How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society," he said.

Francis spoke about the important "bridge" between young and old in his brief remarks to journalists en route to Rio, saying young Catholics have the strength to bring the church forward while older Catholics have the "wisdom of life" to share that should not be discarded.

"This relationship and this dialogue between generations is treasure to be preserved and strengthened," he said.

Francis started off the day, his fifth in Rio, by hearing confessions from a half a dozen young pilgrims in a Rio park and met privately with a group of juvenile detainees, a priority of his ever since his days as archbishop of Buenos Aires and an expression of his belief that the church must reach out to the most marginalised and forgotten of society. Even now as pope, he calls a group of youths in a Buenos Aires detention centre every two weeks just to keep in touch.

In the park, a white tent was set up to receive the faithful for confession, with small makeshift confessionals off to the side. Five youths, chosen through a raffle, were selected for confession, a sacrament in which Catholics confess their sins and are forgiven.

"It was just five minutes, it followed the regular ritual of confession, but then Francis stayed and talked with us," said one of the five, Estefani Lescano, 21, a student from La Guaira, Venezuela. "It was all very personal. He told us that young people have the responsibility of keeping the church alive and spreading the word of Christ."

The sun finally came out on Friday, ending four days of rain that soaked pilgrims and forced the relocation of the festival's culminating Mass on Sunday. Instead, the Mass and the Saturday night vigil that precedes it will take place at Copacabana Beach rather than the mud pit covering the original site in Guaratiba, some 30 miles west of central Rio.

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