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Honor thy father and mother, says Pope Francis

Pope Francis (Photo by Vatican News)

"This contempt, which dishonors the elderly, actually dishonors all of us. If I dishonor the elderly, I dishonor myself,” said Pope Francis. 

Pope Francis taught the catechesis on old Age to his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on, April 20, 2022.
His public audience at St. Peter Square resumed for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak over two years. 

Pope Francis said, “Honor is a good word to frame this aspect of returning the love that concerns old age. Dignity, here, is essentially equivalent to honor: honoring father and mother, honoring the elderly, and recognizing the dignity they possess.”

The fourth commandment, "Honor thy father and mother," is a solemn commitment and not just about one's parents but it is about their generation and the generations before.

The Holy Father reminded, “Honor is lacking when an excess of confidence, instead of being expressed as delicacy and affection, tenderness and respect, is transformed into roughness and abuse.” 

Francis explained the story of Noah. His sons, with great respect and looking aside, gently covered him without letting him wake up and be embarrassed.  

In addition, “This text is very beautiful and says everything about the honor due to an old man. To cover the weakness of the elderly, so they don’t feel ashamed.”

Pope Francis saw that special form of love as ‘honor’ still seemed fragile and immature. So, he said, “We must do all we can to support and encourage it, offering better social and cultural support to those who are sensitive to this decisive form of the civilization of love.” 

He invites parents to bring always their children, young children, closer to the elderly whether they are ill or a bit out of their mind. 

“… let them know that this is our flesh, that this is what has made it possible for us to be here. Please don't push the elderly away.”

Francis urged to visit the elderly person with the children at the nursing home due to no other option except to send them to the nursing home. 

He shared his personal experience about his visit to the nursing home in Buenos Aires, Argentina (South America). He asked a lady whether her four children and their children visit her or not. The lady said, “yes” although they did not visit her for six months. She might want to cover up her children. 

The Holy Father reminded us that the discarding of the old or the refusal of the elderly is “a grave sin.” 

He taught in the light of Sirach that honoring the parent will bring a blessing of long life. 

“Please cherish the elderly. And [even] if their mind goes, cherish the old. Because they are the presence of history, the presence of my family, and thanks to them I am here, we can all say: thanks to you, grandfather, and grandmother, I am alive. Please don't leave them alone.” 


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