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Australian bishops: treat old people with the dignity God gave them

by Hannah Tooley

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, a permanent assembly of bishops, told Christians to better appreciate the elderly and to treat them with the dignity and respect given to them by God.

They were speaking in a special statement, the Social Justice Statement 2016-17 'A Place at the Table, Social Justice in a Ageing Society' which told Catholics that they must do more to include the elderly in their lives.

"In the words of Pope Francis, old age is a vocation, not a time to 'pull in the oars', but 'our societies are not ready, spiritually and morally, to appreciate the true value of this stage of life'," it said.

Peter Williams, a Catholic commentator from Catholic Voices, told Premier that the bishops strong statement is needed.

He said: "I think the Catholic bishops have a responsibility, as do the Catholic bishops in any country, to say 'let's look at the problems that are really underlying society right now.'

"We' as Christians' should care about social justice, we should care about human dignity - these are values that proceed directly from Christian teaching."

The Social Justice Statement went on to say that "stereotypes of older people as doddering, out of touch or dependent are false and dehumanising."

It told Christians that people should be valued for who they are, not what they can provide.

John Stillwell/PA Wire

Peter Williams said the Western world is besotted by youth, but is not aware that this creates problems.

"It's not something that people necessarily recognise, they just sort of take it in by osmosis as part of the surrounding culture," he said.

"Because of that they don't critically examine it, they don't look at it very well - so hopefully the strength of this episcopal statement by these Australian bishops will make people say 'you know what, I did notice that. Lets really think about how we value individual human beings.'"

Peter Williams told Premier he hopes this can go some way towards creating change: "I hope that what would happen is a general change in society, the way that we look at [and] the way that we value people, as individuals, as human beings, as opposed to people to can do certain things.

"But the problem is I think that we're going to have to overcome the fact that this is being formed in a culture that's not directly informed any longer by the values of the Gospel."

The statement by thr Australian Catholic Bishops Conference urged Christians not to "forget that the older person before us is a spouse, a parent, a brother or sister, a friend, and most importantly, a son or daughter of God."

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak to Peter Williams here:

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