VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis’ willingness to work despite knee pain that has made walking nearly impossible shows other older adults they have wisdom and experience to offer younger generations, said a Vatican cardinal on Tuesday.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell offered the evaluation presenting Francis’ message for the World Day of Grandparents and Older Persons. In the message released on Tuesday, the 85-year-old pope urged older people to view old age as a blessing.
Francis is struggling to cope with strained ligaments in his right knee which have severely limited his mobility. Last week he was seen in public for the first time in a wheelchair. He recently said he couldn’t walk and had to rest his knee on doctors’ orders.
Farrell, 74, head of the Vatican’s lay office and trusted papal adviser, said Francis’s willingness to recognize and display his limitations while continuing to hold audiences could encourage others to continue contributing as that they are getting old.
“We must not hide the fact that with age comes a decrease in our ability to play an active role in the life of the world today,” the Irish-born American cardinal said. “He sends the message to all of us that we all need to keep going. We may have limits in old age, but we carry on and do our best.
In addition to heading the lay office, Farrell serves as a camerlengo, the pope-appointed official who leads the Vatican when a pope dies or retires until a conclave elects a new pontiff.
Francis’ mobility issues have raised questions about his ability to handle upcoming travel. He is due to travel to Congo and South Sudan in early July and to Canada later that month.
The Lebanese government confirmed this week that a papal visit scheduled for next month has been postponed due to Francis’ health.
Francis instituted the day honoring the elderly to convey his belief that younger generations should value the elderly as a resource and not treat them as part of modern “throwaway culture”.
In his message, the pope noted that old age is a period of life that is not understood even “by those of us who are already living it.”
“Even though it eventually comes with time, no one prepares us for old age, and sometimes it seems to take us by surprise,” he wrote.
But Francis urged all of his contemporaries to accept their advanced age as a gift and not lament the diminishing strength or sense of purpose.
“In addition to old age and white hair, God continues to give us the gift of life and to keep us from being overcome by evil,” he said. “Getting old is not a condemnation, but a blessing!”
Francis concluded the message by noting that the war in Ukraine has brought another conflict to Europe as the generation that lived through World War II is dying out.
He prayed that all older people would be transformed into “craftsmen of the revolution of tenderness, so that together we can liberate the world from the specter of loneliness and the demon of war”.