22 June 2021
The Elderly

A great need to celebrate

Press conference for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly and the Holy Father’s Message

"After such a difficult year there is a great need to celebrate, together, grandparents and grandchildren, young and old." With these words, Card. Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, opened the press conference presenting the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, which will be celebrated this year, for the first time, on July 25.

In celebrating the Day, the Prefect uses the key word tenderness: towards the elderly – as the Holy Father wrote in his message – whom the pandemic put through “a time of trial for everyone, but especially for us elderly persons”, but also the tenderness of grandparents towards their grandchildren. Besides, at a time when “we have become accustomed to living alone, to not hugging each other, to considering the other as a threat to our health. […] Tenderness can become a way of life”.

One of the most significant aspects of the Holy Father's message is the fact that it is addressed directly and personally to every grandparent and every elderly person. Card. Farrell called it "loving and demanding", since it indicates "a renewed vocation in a crucial time in history" for the elderly. "In the Church, with Pope Francis, grandparents and the elderly have a place of honor."

Vittorio Scelzo, in charge of the pastoral care of the elderly at the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, illustrated the ways in which the Day will be celebrated. While the Holy Father presides at a Mass in St. Peter's on July 25 at 10 a.m. in Rome, the Dicastery invites each diocese and parish to dedicate one of their Sunday liturgies to grandparents and the elderly. Vittorio Scelzo then asked that as many elderly people as possible receive the Pope's message through visits to them. “The Day – he said - will be an opportunity to experience a Church that goes forth." Let's imagine grandchildren delivering the Holy Father's message to their grandparents and the youth of our parishes and church communities going out and finding the lonely elderly people in their neighborhoods and telling them "I am with you always".

Monique Bodhuin, President of Vie Montante Internationale emphasized the connection between the Day and the First International Congress on the Pastoral Care of the Elderly that the Dicastery organized in 2020 and she then stated that "this first celebration of grandparents and the elderly is a starting point as it carries with it a dimension of openness to the future."

Maria Sofia Soli, an 87-year old woman of Viva gli Anziani of the Community of Sant'Egidio, explained how the Holy Father’s Message is a call even for those who are getting on in years: "This invitation – and I say this with conviction − demands a change from us older people who often believe, sometimes stubbornly, that we can no longer change, that we are now what we are, and that we are no longer useful to anyone".

The last speech, by Elena Liotta, also from the Community of Sant'Egidio, focused on the dialog between generations. “We walk at different speeds as we feel we are at the beginning and they feel they are at the end. And yet, in my friendship with them I have found a treasure”.