There is just something astounding about this photograph from the Vatican news service. So many young people, so enthusiastic. Before he landed in Brazil, Pope Francis offered a few extemporaneous comments to the press corps on the flight that speak to the heart of World Youth Day and its focus on young people. Additionally, the pope included his desire that focus not shift exclusively to young people — who indeed are often overlooked — but to include the other overlooked and marginalized in society. One example he offered was the elderly. Here is a translation of the comments from National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen:
This first trip is to reach out to young people, not in isolation but rather within the larger fabric of society. When we isolate them, we do them an injustice because young people already belong in several ways … they belong to a family, a country, a culture and a faith. We must not isolate them, and above all, we shouldn’t isolate them within the whole of the society.
It’s true, of course, that youth are the future of a people. They’re the future because they have the strength, as young people, to move forward. But those at the other extremity of life, the elderly, are also the future of a people. A people has a future if it moves forward with both these ends — young people with their strength to go forward and the elderly because they’re the ones who offer us the wisdom of life.
Many times, I think we do an injustice to the elderly by setting them aside, as if they don’t have anything to give us. But they can give us the wisdom of life, the wisdom of the past, the wisdom of our country and our family. We need this. So, I’m going [to Brazil] to meet the youth, yes, but within their social fabric, principally with the elderly.
The global [economic] crisis is taking its toll on young people. I read last week about the percentage of young people who are unemployed. Just think, we’re running the risk of having a whole generation without work. A person draws dignity from work, the ability to earn one’s bread.
Young people at the moment are in crisis. We’ve become a little accustomed to a throw-away culture, and with the elderly and we do it far too much. With all these young people out of work, the throw-away culture is reaching them too. We must get rid of this throw-away mentality. We need a culture of inclusion, of encounter, a culture with the strength to bring everyone along in society. That’s more or less the meaning I want to give to this visit to the young … [to understand] youth within the larger society.
I thank everyone and ask you to help me to work on this trip for the good, for the good of society and young people and the elderly, both together without being forgotten.