Kean Professor Christopher Bellitto, Ph.D., to Give Address at Vatican
Kean history Professor Christopher Bellitto, Ph.D., will step onto an international stage later this month at the World Meeting of Families in the Vatican, discussing the relationship between the elderly and the young in context of the Bible.
An expert on papal history who frequently appears in the media to discuss the Pope, the Vatican and related topics, Bellitto was invited to speak at the World Meeting in Rome after writing his book, Ageless Wisdom: Lifetime Lessons from the Bible.
“Because we are an aging population, the relationship between elders and young people is going to be ever more important inside and outside of religious circles,” said Bellitto, who was recently interviewed by NBC News, the Associated Press and Newsweek. He said he was humbled by the invitation to the international event. He will speak on June 23.
“It’s certainly humbling that someone would read what I wrote and think it has value on a global scale,” he said. “I’m feeling that burden and want to get it right.”
Bellitto’s book describes the portrayal of elders in the Bible and draws lessons on how to value older people and their experiences and wisdom. The topic of bridging the age gap has also been highlighted by recent Popes.
Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down in 2013, called the growing number of older people a “blessing for society.” Bellitto said Pope Francis, currently the leader of the Catholic Church, talks frequently about caring for the elderly and connecting them with young people. “He tells us that our elders are ‘a living part of our community,’” Bellitto said.
Held every three years, the World Meeting of Families in the past brought hundreds of thousands of attendees to Rome as the biggest gathering of Catholic families in the world. This year’s event was delayed a year due to COVID-19, and will feature several thousand in-person delegates, each representing Catholic dioceses from around the world. Smaller gatherings will also be held worldwide, and events will be livestreamed from Rome at romefamily2022.com.
While in Rome, Bellitto said he will also do scholarly research in the Vatican library and visit the Colosseum for new perspectives for his Kean class on Roman civilization.
As Kean works to raise its profile in research by pursuing designation as an R-2 research institution, Bellitto’s appearance demonstrates the University’s reach.
“It’s important to realize I am just one of dozens of faculty members who already have international reputations that can be used to raise our profile all the more,” he said.
Bellitto said his goal in his speech is to provide context that delegates can use, along with their own creativity and experiences, to impact their pastoral work in the area of marriage and families.
Worldwide statistics on the gap between the elderly and the young are eye-opening. In 2008, Beliltto said 7% of the world’s population was older than 65, while in 2040, 20% of people will be. In 2040, more people will be over the age of 65 than under 5—something that has never before happened.
Bellitto said the growing demand for health care, housing, pastoral care and other services due to the aging population are “not specifically Catholic or religious” issues, but as one of the largest institutions in the world, the Catholic church can play a role.
“Our elders are our elders, we have to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve,” Bellitto said.