30 September 2014, The Tablet

Pope Francis likens neglect of older people to ‘hidden euthanasia’

Pope Francis has condemned the practice of abandoning the elderly in institutions as a form of “hidden euthanasia”. 

He met 100 elderly people and grandparents gathered for a special Mass in Rome this weekend, and affirmed the importance of taking care of the growing number of older people around the globe.

He warned of a "poisonous" culture in which elderly people are effectively abandoned in institutions, where they may suffer physical neglect or loneliness. 

Francis told the group in St Peter's Square that older people and children were particularly at risk because they were not economically productive. But this culture of “discarding” human beings "hurts our world", he said. 

"How many times we discard older people with attitudes that are akin to a hidden form of euthanasia."

The Pope recognised that residential homes for older people were necessary for some those that have no family to care for them. But, he said, they must truly be "homes, not prisons", and they must truly serve the interests of older people.

"There must never be institutions where the elderly are forgotten, hidden or neglected," he emphasised.

Francis said that old age is "a time of grace" and reminded the group that grandparents have a lot of wisdom to impart to the next generation, handing down the history of their family and community.

"Blessed are those families who have grandparents nearby," he said.

In a way, he added, a grandfather is “twice a father” and the grandmother “twice a mother”.

A society that doesn’t care for grandparents “has no future”, he added.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI dressed in papal whites, made a rare public appearance at the meeting on Sunday although he left before the public Mass. 

Francis embraced him twice, at the beginning and before Benedict XVI left. The Pope Emeritus removed his white zucchetto, or skull cap, for the second embrace as a sign of his respect for his successor.

Francis said he was "very happy to have him living in the Vatican as it was like having a wise old granddad in the house".

He has previously admitted that he sometimes asks Benedict for advice. On the way back from his visit to Korea in August Francis told journalists: "He encourages me."

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