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Issue Date:  November 23, 2007

Vatican studies challenges of care for the aged

VATICAN CITY -- The world’s rapidly aging population poses a whole new set of challenges, in particular the pastoral care of elderly sick people, Vatican officials said.

“This is the most important stage of life, because from here humanity opens itself to eternal life,” said Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan.

Lozano is president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, which sponsored a Nov. 15-17 conference on pastoral care of the elderly sick, with international participants from health, scientific and religious fields.

When “elderly” is defined as 60 or over, the global elderly population today is 650 million and will reach 2 billion by 2050, according to the World Health Organization.

While longer life is generally a good sign, the elderly are susceptible to physical and mental trials, not least of which is the loss of friends and a productive social role, said Roberto Bernabei, an aging specialist at Rome’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

The council invited experts from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism to discuss the way their religions care for the sick and aged.

-- Catholic News Service

National Catholic Reporter, November 23, 2007

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