A group of elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease was welcomed by Pope Francis on Wednesday morning before he held his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The pilgrims are from a home in Bonheiden, Belgium, and accompanied by the “Rainbow Choir” that developed around the home.
Here is the report from Vatican News:
With its singing, the Rainbow Chorus of Bonheiden helps the elderly in the home to come together daily to pray and attend Mass. Singing with the choir members, the elderly find a link that connects their past and present, a memory that their disease often erases. Hence, their singing is a “cure.” The pope was moved to hear them sing together.
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Speaking to them off the cuff, the pope said that their singing together was a “consolation, a support, that helps to move forward, and to bear the burden of the disease that certainly makes itself felt.”
He said their singing is made more precious by their vulnerability. “I think that sharing our frailties and accepting them reciprocally is the most beautiful ‘song,’ a harmony most pleasing to God, a ‘rainbow’ not of perfection but of imperfections!” the pope said.
Addressing the choirmaster as the “baton of tenderness,” the pope explained how with gestures every conductor holds the voices or instruments together. In this case, the pope said, it is a very special gesture, “a gesture of tenderness that makes us all more human.”
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The pope pointed out that with all their tenderness, they have fulfilled the fourth commandment – of honoring the elderly who are our memory. Perhaps some of them have lost their memory, but they are the symbol of the memory of a people, they are the roots of their homeland, of our humanity.
“They are the roots, and young people must come to them to have the sap from their roots to carry forward the civilization,” the pope said.
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UPDATE: Here is a Vatican translation of his brief off-the-cuff greetings:
Thank you, thank you brothers and sisters, many thanks. My secretary here says to me: this is the most beautiful thing he has seen with the Pope.
When I saw that in your house, that cares for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease, there is a choir called “Rainbow”, I thanked the Lord. Because I think that for you, to sing together is a consolation, a support, that helps to carry on and to bear the burden of the disease, that must certainly weigh upon you. Rather, I think that your song is made more precious by your vulnerability. I think that the fact of putting together our frailties and mutually accepting them, this is the most beautiful “hymn”, the harmony most pleasing to God, a “rainbow” not of perfections, but of imperfections!
Then, when I saw the conductor, I thought: he has forgotten the baton! But then I saw that his baton is tenderness. Thank you, Mr. Conductor, because you perform gestures of tenderness that make us all more human. And with your tenderness, all your tenderness, of all of you, today we have fulfilled the fourth commandment: to honour the elderly who are our memory. Perhaps some of them have lost their memory, but they are the symbol of the memory of a people, they are the roots of our homeland, of our humanity. They are the roots, and the young must go there to take the sap from the roots, to carry civilization onwards.
Many thanks, thank you from the heart. And now I will give you my blessing and then I will pass by to greet you all. I ask you to pray for me. Le Seigneur vous bénisse tous, le Père, le Fils, et le Saint Esprit.