29 July 2021
A new covenant between young and old
Liturgy in St. Peter's for the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly
For many of the 2,000 elderly people present in St. Peter's last Sunday, celebrating the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly was the first opportunity for them to leave the forced isolation they have been living in since March 2020.
The joy of being able to do this for such a special celebration was evident on their faces.
The liturgy, which the Pope was unable to personally attend because still recovering, was presided over by Msgr. Fisichella and concelebrated by Card. Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, and Card. De Donatis. It was a celebration of the covenant between young and old, as the Holy Father emphasized in the homily that he prepared for the occasion and that was read by Msgr. Fisichella: “Today, we need a new covenant between young and old. We need to share the treasure of life, to dream together, to overcome conflicts between generations and to prepare a future for everyone. Without such a covenantal sharing of life, dreams and future, we risk dying of hunger, as broken relationships, loneliness, selfishness and the forces of disintegration gradually increase. In our societies, we have frequently surrendered to the notion of “every man for himself”. But this is deadly!”
No one alone can save him/herself, neither the young, nor, even less so, the elderly, and this is why it is necessary to look at them with a new gaze, a contemplative one as the Pope defined it: “Grandparents and the elderly are not leftovers from life, scraps to be discarded. They are precious pieces of bread left on the table of life that can still nourish us with a fragrance that we have lost, “the fragrance […] of memory”.
Let us not lose the memory preserved by the elderly, for we are children of that history, and without roots, we will wither.
They protected us as we grew, and now it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and not feel alone. Let us ask ourselves: “Have I visited my grandparents, my elderly relatives, the older people in my neighbourhood? Have I listened to them? Have I spent time with them?” Let us protect them, so that nothing of their lives and dreams may be lost. May we never regret that we were insufficiently attentive to those who loved us and gave us life.”
In his message for the Day, Pope Francis had entrusted the elderly with the task of becoming intercessors and protecting the world with prayer and, for this reason, at the end of the celebration - symbolically - five elderly people, from the five continents, turned, together with the celebrants, in prayer to the Virgin.
Upon leaving the Basilica, as a further sign of the alliance between generations, some children and young people distributed a flower and the message that Card. Farrell had given to them on behalf of the Holy Father to the grandparents and elderly present.