10 May 2022
The Elderly are “artisans of the revolution of tenderness” to set the world free from loneliness and war
Presentation of the Message for the second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly
Today, May 10, Pope Francis' Message for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly 2022 was presented with the theme “In old age they will still bear fruit” (Ps 92:15). The Holy Father addresses his generation to remind them that those in old age have an important mission in life. They are called to be “artisans of the revolution of tenderness” and to “set the world free from the spectre of loneliness and the demon of war”. Furthermore, the Pope invites them to rediscover this stage as “the gift of a long life.”
This Day was established in 2021 and is celebrated every year throughout the Church on the fourth Sunday of July, around the feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the “grandparents” of Jesus. This year it will take place on July 24.
In his message, Pope Francis acknowledges the difficulties that old age entails in the lives of individuals and in society. However, he invites the elderly to “persevere in hope” and points out that a long life is also a gift for the whole of society: “Blessed is the house where an older person lives! Blessed is the family that honours the elderly!” Precisely in a world torn by the violence of war, it is necessary “a profound change, a conversion, that disarms hearts and leads us to see others as our brothers or sisters.” For this reason, the Pope recalls that the testimony of the elderly is of great importance and invites them to “be teachers of a way of life that is peaceful and attentive to those in greatest need.” This mission begins with everyone’s own family but does not end there and continues to embrace “the many frightened grandchildren whom we have not yet met and who may be fleeing from war or suffering its effects” in Ukraine, Afghanistan or South Sudan, among other places.
The Holy Father invites grandparents and the elderly to continue to bear fruit and proposes to them to live in a particular way the dimension of prayer. This –Francis points out– is “the most valuable instrument at our disposal and, indeed, the one best suited to our age”. A “trustful prayer can do a great deal: it can accompany the cry of pain of those who suffer, and it can help change hearts.”
The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life indicates two ways to live the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly: to celebrate in every parish a Mass dedicated to the elderly and to reach out those who are not visited. Moreover, in his Message, the Pope affirms that “visiting the elderly who live alone is a work of mercy in our time.”
During the press conference, the logo of the World Day was also presented, which shows an embrace in its core, a symbol of the encounter and dialogue between generations (a detailed explanation of its meaning can be downloaded here).
In addition to Card. Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and Dr. Vittorio Scelzo, in charge of the pastoral care of the elderly, Giancarla Panizza and Maria Francis explained how the ideas contained in the Message are paths that every community can live in its concrete reality. Giancarla Panizza is an elderly woman who collaborated with her town in northern Italy to welcome refugees from Ukraine. From Bangalore, Maria Francis recounted how, during the month of July 2021, she promoted and organized visits by young people to lonely elderly people in many places in India on the occasion of the first World Day.
During the presentation, it was also announced that the Day will have the hashtag #ElderlyAndGrandparents and that a series of pastoral indications will be sent to all the Episcopal Conferences before the end of May.
The number of people over the age of 65 in the world is growing at an ever-increasing rate. In the last 60 years, this age group has increased fourfold and is expected to continue to grow. In 2019, 1 out of every 11 inhabitants worldwide was in this age group, but it is estimated that in 30 years the proportion will have increased to 1 out of every 6. Moreover, for the first time in history, since four years ago, people over 65 years of age have outnumbered children under five years of age. Aging population particularly affects the most developed countries. More than 25% of the elderly in these regions live alone.