Vatican City, November 12 - Pope Benedict XVI paid homage to the importance of the elderly on a visit to the Sant'Egidio rest home in Rome on Monday. The 85-year old pope said he came not only "as the bishop of Rome" but especially "as an elderly person visiting his coevals". "I know well the difficulties, the problems and the limits of this age, and I know that these difficulties, for many, are aggravated by the economic crisis," said the elderly pontiff, Joseph Ratzinger. The pope added that though the elderly are fragile and in need of care, they are capable of a social role, of giving affection and help to new generations and, through prayer, to the needs of the world. "There can not be true human growth and education without fertile contact with the elderly, because their very existence is like an open book in which younger generations can find precious indications for the journey of life," the pope said. Ratzinger also alluded to the bible, saying "longevity is a blessing," and added that even if sometimes "days seem long and empty" one needs to "never get discouraged". "Whoever embraces the elderly embraces life" the pope continued, and despite the fragility that comes with many years, life "never loses its dignity and value", he said. The pope visited the Sant'Egidio community in response to an informal invitation extended by its members.
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di Angelo Biscardi