International News

Love Makes Individuals and the World Better, Pope Francis Says

Pope Francis shares a moment with children after his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 6, 2024. A portion of a new interview with Pope Francis will air April 24 on the “CBS Evening News” at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, according to a release from the CBS News Communications office. (Photo: CNS/Lola Gomez)

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting with thousands of Italian grandparents and their children and grandchildren, Pope Francis insisted repeatedly, “Love makes us better.”

“Love makes us better; it makes us richer, and it makes us wiser, at any age,” he said April 27 to the young and old who filled the Vatican audience hall. “Love makes us better.”

Joining people associated with the Età Grande Foundation, which lobbies for the rights of the elderly to stay in their homes with family, community and government support, Pope Francis spoke about his grandmother Rosa, who first taught him to pray, and he mimicked grandparents everywhere by handing out chocolates to the children.

The pope told the families, “You make each other better by loving each other. And I say this to you as a ‘grandfather’ with the desire to share the ever-youthful faith that unites all generations” and which “I received from my grandmother, from whom I first learned about Jesus who loves us, who never leaves us alone, and who urges us too to be close to each other and never to exclude anyone.”

And in a world that so often focuses on the individual and his or her accomplishments and possessions, love actually is what makes people richer, he said.

Sometimes, he said, people speak of the “world of youth” or the “world of the elderly,” but “there is just one world! And it is made up of many realities that are different precisely to help and complement each other.”

People of different generations, different nationalities and different talents “if harmonized, can reveal, like the faces of a big diamond, the wondrous splendor of humanity and creation,” the pope said. “This, too, is what your being together teaches us: not to let diversity create rifts between us! No, let there not be rifts — don’t pulverize the diamond of love, the most beautiful treasure God has given us: love.”

Too often, the pope said, people are told to be self-reliant and that the strong do not need anyone.

But that is a sad way to live, he said, especially as one gets older.

“The elderly must not be left alone, they must live within the family, in the community, with the affection of everyone,” he said. “And if they cannot live with their families, we must go to visit them and stay close to them.”

“Isn’t a world in which no one has to be afraid to end their days alone much better?” he asked.

Pope Francis told the grandchildren that their elders are not the only ones who benefit from frequent visits because from them they can learn “the wisdom of their strong love, and also of their frailty, which is a ‘magisterium’ capable of teaching without the need for words, a true antidote to the hardening of the heart: it will help you not to remain stuck in the present, and to savor life as a relationship.”

“But not only that,” he said. “When you, grandparents and grandchildren, old and young, are together, when you see and hear each other often, when you care for each other, your love is a breath of clean air that refreshes the world and society and makes us all stronger, beyond the bonds of kinship.”