The Holy Father has sent a message to the participants in the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of its institution. The Academy, whose aim is to study, inform and educate on the main problems of biomedicine and law, relating to the promotion and defence of life, especially with regard to Christian morality and the Magisterium of the Church, dedicated its assembly to the theme of “ageing and disability”.
The Pope commented in his message that it was a very current theme, dear to the Church. “In our society there is a tyrannical dominance of an economic logic that excludes and at times kills, and of which nowadays we find many victims, starting with the elderly”. He affirmed that we see the existence of a “throwaway” culture, in which those who are excluded are not only exploited but also rejected and cast aside.
In the face of this discrimination, Pope Francis considered the anthropological question of the value of man and of what may be the basis of this value. “Health is without doubt an important value, but it does not determine the value of a person. Furthermore, health is not by itself a guarantee of happiness, which may indeed by experienced even by those in a precarious state of health”. Therefore, he added, “poor health and disability are never a good reason to exclude or, worse, eliminate a person; and the most serious deprivation that the elderly suffer is not the weakening of the body or the consequent disability, but rather abandonment, exclusion, and a lack of love”.
“The teacher of welcome and solidarity is, instead, the family: it is in the bosom of the family that education draws in a substantial fashion upon relationships of solidarity; in the family it is possible to learn that the loss of health is not a reason to discriminate against certain human lives; the family teaches us not to fall prey to individualism and to balance 'I' with 'we'. It is there that 'taking care' of one another becomes the foundation of human existence and a moral attitude to promote, through the values of commitment and solidarity”.
The Pope emphasised the importance of listening to the young and the old whenever we wish to understand the signs of the times, and commented that “a society is truly welcoming to life when it recognises its value also in old age, in disability, in serious illness, and even when it at its close; when it teaches that the call to human realisation does not exclude suffering but instead teaches to see in the sick and suffering a gift to the entire community, a presence that calls for solidarity and responsibility”. Pope Francis concluded by blessing the work the Academy performs, which he described as the diffusion of the “Gospel of Life” - a task that is “often tiresome as it means going against the grain, but always precious”.