A Lent to Become Aware of Dangers Against Elderly

Says Archbishop Cordes About Pope's Message

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II has proposed that Lent offer believers the chance to understand the multifaceted "threat against the elderly."



Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," explained this aspect of the Pope's Lenten Message on Jan. 27 when the German prelate had presented it to the press.

In the text, the Holy Father highlights the greatness of the elderly person's dignity, and stresses that the Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" "does not lose its applicability in the face of illnesses, or when the weakening of forces reduces the human being's autonomy."

The Pontiff also encouraged "reciprocal enrichment between generations," a point to which Archbishop Cordes called attention, given that the intergenerational relationship is now being defined in a "radically new way."

The reason for this, is that "the number of elderly persons has multiplied rapidly in the recent past, while the young population has decreased," the archbishop said.

The archbishop pointed to Italy as an example. Fifteen years ago, 15.3% of the population was older than 65; by 2050 that figure will grow to 34.9%, or 14.4 million citizens. In France, those over 65 will number more than 15 million, and in Germany more than 20 million.

Amid these new imbalances, the social security expenses for the care of the elderly are a danger for the younger labor force, something which in turn "might cause tensions between the two groups," or a "generations war," he noted.

"However, an even greater danger threatens the elderly," warned Archbishop Cordes.

"The young increasingly believe that the elderly are a burden," that they "cost too much," that they "take up space" and "limit" free time, as well as remind the young "of their own future," the prelate said. "Why, then, not eliminate them from our sight? Or exile them behind walls? Or offer them a 'sweet death?'"

The German archbishop continued: "There are associations to promote the 'right,' as they say, 'to die with dignity.' In the world of science, concrete methods are offered to this end. The movies try to stir up emotional backlashes against existing laws. And politicians are pointing to a new culture: the culture of death. The topic of euthanasia has become inevitable."

In fact, he added, "the threat against the elderly has taken different forms. … For those who can discern, the urgency and importance of the Pope's Lenten Message needs no further reasons."