Rome (Italy). On 25 July 2021, the First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly is celebrated, which will be held every year on the fourth Sunday of July, near the anniversary of Saints Joachim and Anna, the grandparents of Jesus.
Pope Francis, at the Angelus of 31 January 2021, near the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (February 2), when the elders, Simeon and Anna, recognized in Jesus the Messiah, communicated the institution of the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, “The Holy Spirit still stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today: their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples. They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young … It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents, because, as the prophet Joel says, grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream, and have illusions [great desires], and young people, taking strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy”.
“I am with you until the end of the age” (cf. Mt 28:20) is the Message that the Holy Father addresses to grandparents assuring them that “the whole Church is close, let’s say better, it is close to us, it cares about you, loves you, and doesn’t want to leave you alone!” Recalling the time of trial of the pandemic in which the elderly first experienced the disease, the loss of their spouses or loved ones, isolation and loneliness, he says, “The Lord continues to send angels to console our solitude and to repeat to us. He says it to you, He says it to me, He says it to everyone. This is the meaning of this Day that I wanted to be celebrated for the first time this year, after a long isolation and a slow recovery of social life, that every grandfather, every grandmother, every elderly person , especially those among us who are more alone, receive a visit from an angel!”.
“In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says to the Apostles: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (28: 19-20 ). These words are also addressed to us today and help us to better understand that our vocation is to guard the roots, transmit the faith to young people, and take care of the little ones”.
In this perspective, the Pope invites grandparents to be protagonists in building, in fraternity, and in social friendship, the world of tomorrow in which we must “be an active part in the rehabilitation and support of wounded societies” (FT 77), through three pillars :
- dreams, according to the promise of the prophet Joel “Your elders will dream, your young people will have visions” (3: 1), “The future of the world is in this covenant between the young and the old. Who, if not the young, can take the dreams of the elderly and carry them forward? But for this it is necessary to continue dreaming: in our dreams of justice, peace, solidarity lies the possibility that our young people have new visions, and that we can build the future together. You too need to testify that it is possible to come out renewed from an experience of trial”.
- memory, painful events experienced by the elderly, such as war, can help the new generations to cultivate the value of peace: “Remembering is a real mission of every elderly person; memory, and to bring memory to others. … This memory can help build a more human, more welcoming world.… And the foundations of life are memories”.
- prayer, taking up the words of Pope Benedict XVI at the end of his pontificate “The prayer of the elderly can protect the world, perhaps helping it in a more incisive way than the worry of many,” Pope Francis reminds grandparents that their prayer is a “very precious resource” for the Church that is crossing, “in the same boat, the stormy sea of the pandemic.” Their intercession “is not in vain, but indicates to everyone the serene trust in a landing place”.
On the occasion of the First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, a plenary indulgence is granted “to grandparents, the elderly, and all the faithful who, motivated by the true spirit of penance and charity, will participate on 25 July 2021, in the solemn celebration that the Most Holy Father Francis will preside in the Vatican Papal Basilica, with the grandparents and the elders of his Diocese, or at the various functions that will take place all over the world … and the faithful who will dedicate adequate time to visit in presence or virtually the elderly brothers/sisters in need or in difficulty, such as the sick, the abandoned, the disabled, and the like”. (cf. DECREE)
The Day, underlined in the press conference of the presentation of the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, Dr. Vittorio Scelzo, in charge of the Pastoral Care of the Elderly of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, that it will be an opportunity to live the outgoing Church: “Let’s imagine that grandchildren deliver the Holy Father’s Message to their grandparents and that the children of our parishes and our ecclesial communities go out and look for the elderly alone in their neighborhood to tell them ‘I am with you every day’”.
The Dicastery launched a social campaign, inviting everyone, especially the youngest, to tell about the visits and initiatives that will arise using the hashtag #IamWithYouAlways.
A Pastoral Kit – the message of the Holy Father for the Day, both in video and in a version that is easy to print and give to the elderly, the prayer composed for the occasion, pastoral suggestions on how to celebrate the Day, a liturgical aid, and a collection of the words of the Holy Father on the elderly – is available on the Website of the Year of the Family Amoris Laetitia.