Vatican to Study Care of Elderly

Conference to Gather Medical and Pastoral Experts

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican is asking how Catholics can offer better pastoral assistance to the world's 390 million people over the age 65, especially as that number continues to grow.



The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry presented today in the Vatican the annual international congress organized by that dicastery. The congress, "Pastoral Care in the Cure of Sick Elderly People," will take place Thursday through Saturday.

"In the world today," said Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, "there are 390 million people over the age of 65 and it is expected their numbers will increase to 800 million by the year 2025. Five hundred million people live in countries with a life expectancy that exceeds 60, while 50 million people live in countries where the expectancy does not exceed 45. Sierra Leone in Africa, for example, has an expectancy of 39 years."

Faced with statistics such as these, said the cardinal, "we asked ourselves: How can we offer better pastoral assistance to these people, given the great importance of life in its final stages?"

During the conference, experts will analyze the demographic situation, and the main illnesses, both old and new, in the context of globalization, as well as the origins of such illnesses from an individual, technological, scientific, sociopolitical and ecological viewpoint.

Another aspect that will be studied, Cardinal Lozano Barragán explained, is care for the sick in the light of sacred Scripture, the writings of early Christian theologians and the history of the Church.

The conference will also include reflections on this form of pastoral care from the standpoints of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and of postmodern culture.

Participants will also debate the steps that must be taken in the pastoral care of sick elderly people from the religious and biomedical perspectives

Finally, Cardinal Lozano Barragán indicated that the question will be considered from the point of view of families and the attitude they should assume toward their sick and elderly members, with particular emphasis on the spiritual attention that must be offered to them, especially through the sacraments, prayer and visits.