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Speaking at a conference entitled “Grandparents: Their Witness and Presence in the Family” the Holy father referred to grandparents as “a treasure that we cannot take away from new generations.”

VATICAN CITY (Zenit) - Benedict XVI urged grandparents to return to being an active presence in the family, adding that they are a valuable resource for facing the growing crisis of family values.

The Pope said this Saturday upon receiving participants from the April 3-5 conference held in the Vatican on the theme “Grandparents: Their Witness and Presence in the Family.” The conference, organized by the Pontifical Council of the Family, sought to highlight the role grandparents in fostering family unity, and as mediators in the relationship between the married couple and between the parents and their children.

During the study sessions the role and the positive contribution of grandparents in various cultures and societies in which families are continually threatened was brought to light.

Above all, the importance of grandparents in faith education and in the conservation and safeguarding of the culture of a country was emphasized.

Speaking on behalf of the participants in the congress, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, Philippines, and member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, told Benedict XVI that during the conference “there emerged feelings of gratitude with regard to grandparents, persons rich with affection, delicacy, authority and goodness, who lovingly hand on religious and moral values.”

In speaking to the participants of the conference, the Pope began by first expressing his wishes for the speedy recovery of Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Vatican council, who was not able to attend the plenary meeting and papal audience for health reasons.

Treasure

The Holy Father then turned to the theme of the conference and spoke about grandparents as “a treasure that we cannot take away from new generations.” In fact, he explained, “it is not possible to plan the future without relating to a past rich with significant experiences and spiritual and moral points of reference.”

Benedict XVI followed this with a plea that grandparents “return […] to being a living presence in the family, in the Church and in society” and that they “continue to be witnesses of unity, values founded on fidelity to a single love that generates faith and joy in living.”

The emergence of “new models of the family” and “widespread relativism” which threaten the nuclear family make this call all the more urgent, he said.
“Unfortunately, the culture of death seems to be advancing,” the Pope observed, pointing out that it threatens even the older generations. “With growing insistence one arrives at proposing euthanasia as a solution for resolving certain difficult situations.”

“Today economic and social evolution has caused profound transformations in the life of families,” the Pontiff added. “The elderly, among whom there are many grandparents, find themselves in a kind of ‘parking lot’: Some feel themselves as a burden on the family and prefer to live alone or in nursing homes, with all the consequences that these choices have.”

Marginalization

Because of this, continued the Pope, “old age, with its problems that are also linked to new familial and social contexts on account of modern developments, must be evaluated with care and always in light of the truth about man, the family and the community.”

“We must join together to defeat together every marginalization," he said, "because not only are grandfathers, grandmothers, and the elderly in general overwhelmed by the individualistic mentality but everyone. If grandparents constitute a precious resource, as is often said and from many quarters, then consistent choices must be made that permit this resource to be properly valued."

“One must always respond vigorously to that which dehumanizes society," Benedict XVI said, calling on parish and diocesan communities “to meet the modern needs of the elderly.”

The Pope concluded with a thought about the 4th World Meeting of Families that will be celebrated Jan. 13-18, 2009, in Mexico City. “All the Christian families of the world look to this nation ‘always faithful’ to the Church, which will open the doors to all the families of the world.”

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