Grandparents and the Elderly

Promoting fraternity: A new challenge for pastoral care of the elderly

80 representatives of bishops’ conferences and international associations at the webinar organised ahead of the 4th World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly


The webinar on the pastoral care of the elderly – organised on the occasion of the publication of the Holy Father's message and pastoral kit for the 4th World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly – was a crucial moment of reflection and discussion. Gabriella Gambino, Under-secretary for Family and Life, opened the meeting with a warm welcome: “The Message of the Holy Father for the 4th World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly,” she said, “brings with it a strong breath of hope”.

The meeting, held on 16 May in the Aula Magna of the Dicastery, was attended by some 80 people representing 60 episcopal conferences and 10 international associations. A multi-faceted picture emerged from the questionnaires previously sent out: the family remains the first means of protection for the elderly, but the collapse of the family unit weighs most heavily on the weakest members. Migration, wars, urbanisation and individualism are factors that aggravate the situation of the elderly.

Testimonies and interventions

During the webinar, Msgr Harris, Bishop of Townsville in Australia, addressed the sensitive topic of euthanasia and how a sense of negative self-perception is developing amongst the elderly. Modern society often leads them to see themselves as a burden so much so that they themselves ask to be set aside.

A representative of the pastoral care of the elderly in Paraguay shared local initiatives to support the elderly, while the Secretary of the Indonesian Commission for the Family spoke about the importance of lay communities in reaching out to all elderly people in parishes. In addition, Catherine Wiley of the Catholic Grandparents Association emphasised the vocation of being grandparents and illustrated the importance of pastoral care of the elderly in the Philippines, where projects dedicated to this mission are emerging in almost every diocese.

The challenge of individualism

The discussion outlined how individualism and conflict – traits that increasingly characterise our societies – as far as the elderly are concerned, translate into an increase in loneliness and conflict between generations. Loneliness, in particular, is perceived as normal both when it is suffered and when it is chosen. Faced with this situation, Gleison De Paula Souza, Secretary of the Dicastery, recalled Pope Francis’ view that loneliness and conflict are neither normal nor acceptable. The Secretary noted that the Fratelli Tutti Foundation offers an alternative vision: to promote fraternity among all human beings.

Conclusion and future prospects

In the conclusion of the webinar, the Secretary of the Dicastery spoke of the need for continuous and synodal pastoral work: “it is,” he said, “a long and demanding task, but a necessary and urgent one. What we are called to do is to explore a piece of the future alongside this generation”.

The webinar closed with the prospect of continuing dialogue with the bishops' conferences and organising further online meetings in the second half of 2024.

27 May 2024