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Pope meets residents of St Peter’s Residence, Vauxhall

(Photo: PA)

Meeting with elderly residents of St Peter’s Residence in Vauxhall, London, the Pope emphasised the “unique gift” of life, “from conception to natural death”.

Arriving from meetings with victims of sexual abuse by priests just after five, roughly thirty minutes later than he was originally scheduled to arrive, the Holy Father was greeted by Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, and welcomed by Sr Marie Claire of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Pope then went and visited some residents individually, who were too sick to leave the rooms, and also accepted a donation from 10 Catholic residential homes for overseas missionary work.

Sr Marie Claire then spoke of St Jeanne Jugan in her speech, the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor who was canonised last year.

The Holy Father then gave an address in which he emphasised his community with the assembled residents, saying he came to them “not only as a father, but also as a brother who knows well the joys and the struggles that come with age.”

The Pope also encouraged the older people not to fear the difficulties of increasing old age, saying that while people “may enjoy good health in old age; but equally Christians should not be afraid to share in the suffering of Christ, if God wills that we struggle with infirmity”, also recalling the illness of Pope John Paul II in the last years of his papacy.

“His cheerfulness and forebearance as he faced his final days were a remarkable and moving example to all of us who have to carry the burden of advancing years.”, Pope Benedict said, in reference to his predecessor.

The Holy Father also said that great age grants “the opportunity to appreciate both the beauty of God’s greatest gift to us, the gift of life, as well as the fragility of the human spirit” and that the elderly “are given a marvellous chance to deepen our awareness of the mystery of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

“As the normal span of our lives increases… these years are an opportunity to remember in affectionate prayer all those whom we have cherished in this life, and to place all that we have personally been and done before the mercy and tenderness of God.”

The Holy Father then individually blessed and spoke to each of the residents of St Peter’s before he left.