Pope Francis has decided to institute a Church-wide celebration of a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Starting this year, it will be held on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the liturgical memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

Recalling the recent feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – when the elderly Simeon and Anna encountered the child Jesus and recognized Him as the Messiah – Pope Francis said, “the Holy Spirit even today stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly.” The voice of the elderly “is precious,” he said, “because it sings the praises of God and preserves the roots of the peoples.”

The elderly, he continued, “remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between the different generation, to pass on to the young the experience of life.”

The elderly must not be forgotten

The Holy Father said he instituted the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on” what the elderly have received.

He emphasized the importance of grandparents and grandchildren getting to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents seeing their grandchildren dream,” while “young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”

First fruits of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year

In a press release following the announcement, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, the establishment of the Day of Grandparents and the Elderly “is the first fruits of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, a gift to the whole Church that is destined to continue into the future.”

He added, “The pastoral care of the elderly is a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community. In the encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Holy Father reminds us that no one is saved alone. With this in mind, we must treasure the spiritual and human wealth that has been handed down from generation to generation.”

The statement from the Dicastery notes that Pope Francis is expected to celebrate the first World Day by presiding at Mass on the evening of Sunday, 25 July, in St Peter’s, subject to health measures in place at the time. Closer to the Day, the Dicastery “will announce further initiatives that will mark the event.”

Archbishop Neary welcomes the announcement

As patron of the Catholic Grandparents Association, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam warmly welcomed the Holy Father’s announcement of his decision to establish a World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly. He said that this announcement came at the end of a long process of engagement and discussion between the Catholic Grandparents Association and the Holy See, and he thanked the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, for his support and assistance.

“The Catholic Grandparents Association exists to encourage and assist grandparents to pass on the Catholic faith to their grandchildren and to keep prayer at the heart of family life.  It does this by organising the annual Grandparents’ Pilgrimage to Knock, by organising grandchildren’s prayer appeals, by organising Grandparents’ Day in schools, and by promoting Pope Benedict XVI’s Universal Prayer for Grandparents.(http://www.catholicgrandparentsassociation.org/popes-prayer/ )”

“Through this most welcome initiative, Pope Francis is highlighting the very important role grandparents and elders play in passing the faith to upcoming generations of children.  Grandparents and others family members of their generation, proudly attend all the important sacramental milestones in the young person’s life – Baptism, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation.   It is always most edifying to meet the three generations on these occasions and to share in the family’s pride and joy.  Grandparents are often very generous with their time and wisdom, they gently and lovingly teach their grandchildren the well-known prayers, and share the gift of faith in a very edifying way.”