Like a parade float ushering in a new seasonal celebration, the popemobile was back in action on Wednesday, April 20. Pope Francis rode the iconic papal vehicle into his weekly general audience, the first to be held in-person since the pandemic began in 2020.
Thousands of pilgrims and faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the occasion, as the Vatican resumed its weekly functions. For the last two years Pope Francis has given his weekly speeches via video from the Apostolic Library.
Along with resuming in-person general audiences, the Vatican also reopened the Vatican Museums, one of the largest art collections in the world, on Friday, April 22. The pandemic restrictions, such as social distancing, have largely been dropped, but visitors will still need to provide proof of vaccination to enter.
Daily Mail reports that the pope received a warm welcome by those in attendance. His procession was met with cheers of “Long live the pope!” The pontiff, who has been suffering through knee pain of late, took time to walk the crowd and shake hands before his address.
In his speech, Pope Francis instructed the faithful on care and respect for the elderly. He noted that the Fourth Commandment “Honor your father and mother” is not just a direction to respect our parents, but all those who came before us.
According to NetNY, Pope Francis discussed a recent incident when Italian kids lit a homeless man on fire. He said:
“These kids who burned the covers of a homeless person are the tip of the iceberg,” Pope Francis said, “of the contempt for one’s life that is far from the ways of youth and seems like a waste of life, waste is the key word here. To disregard the elderly is to discard their lives, to put them apart, throw them down.”
The pope went on to urge parents to bring their kids “close to the elderly,” a tactic that can normalize a child’s opinion of older generations and encourage respectful behavior. The Dialog reports that Pope Francis called contempt for the elderly a “dishonor” to all Catholics.
“Love for the human person that is common to us, including honoring a life lived, is not just a matter for the elderly. Rather it is an ambition that will bring radiance to young people who inherit its best qualities,” the pope said.
When his address had ended, the pope expressed his gratitude to the people of Poland, who have accepted the lion’s share of refugees from Ukraine. Many Polish families have gone so far as to open their homes to Ukrainian refugees, giving them shelter in whatever free room is available.