The Holy Father has designated 25 July as the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. You can access the message of Pope Francis (both in text and video format) on the Vatican website and also some pastoral guidelines and ideas for the day below.
The Vatican suggests that it “would be especially meaningful if, as the Day approaches, the message could be delivered by every grandchild to their own grandparents, and by young people to the lonely elderly members of their communities.” It would also be appropriate for every parish to dedicate one of their Sunday Masses to grandparents and the elderly on Sunday 25 July, as the memorial of Ss Joachim and Ann, grandparents of Jesus approaches.”
To mark the day and to encourage acts of charity, the Holy Father has established a special Plenary Indulgence for those who on that day devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty (such as the sick, the abandoned, the disabled and other similar cases).
Visiting grandparents and older people who are alone
- The first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly will be celebrated in circumstances in which it will still not be possible in many countries for the elderly to physically attend Mass.
- In order for the message of closeness and consolation to reach everyone on this World Day − even those who are most isolated − we ask people to visit their grandparents and the elderly living alone in their community and to give them the Holy Father’s message.
- A visit is a tangible sign of a Church of outreach. At a time of social distancing because of the pandemic, a visit shows that there is a way of being close to older people while still observing safety measures.
- A visit is a personal choice to arise and go in haste to others (cf. Lk 1:39), just as Mary did when she visited her elderly cousin Elizabeth.
- A visit is an opportunity for a grandchild to say to his or her grandparent and for a young person to say to an elderly person they are visiting, “I am with you always”.
- A visit can be an opportunity to bring a gift, such as a flower, and to read the World Day prayer together.
- A visit can also be an occasion to offer the elderly, especially those who have not left their homes for a long time, an opportunity to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.
- A visit to an older person living alone is one of the ways of obtaining a Plenary Indulgence granted on the occasion of this World Day. In places where health emergency measures still make it impossible to visit in person, love can use imagination to find ways of reaching lonely elderly people by phone or social media.
- The World Day message can be shared by posting pictures of visits on social media with the hashtag #IamWithYouAlways.
Preparing the World Day with the Elderly
- The elderly are the main target group of the Day’s activities. The Holy Father’s message is addressed to them.
- It is important to ensure that as many older people as possible participate in person in the Sunday liturgy celebrated on the occasion of the World Day.
- Older people from the parish or church group can be invited for a moment of reflection on the Pope’s message for their World Day. A printed version can be distributed to all those present and the video message can be watched together.
- Anyone visiting elderly people living alone can give the text of the message to those who are unable to attend the meetings.
- All grandparents and all elderly people that have been reached on the occasion of their World Day can be commended with the Holy Father’s prayer intentions, together with the special intentions of their own community.
Preparing this World Day with Young People
- You can convene young people you know a few weeks before the World Day to explain it and to make sure that they reach as many older people as possible with their visits.
- Similarly, you can meet with the young people after the celebration so that they can share their feedback of the visits.
- Young people can organise social campaigns to spread information about the World Day by using the hashtag #IamWithYouAlways.
- Remembering the elderly who died because of Covid-19
- During the Eucharistic celebration for the World Day, or at a dedicated time, there can be a moment to recall the elderly people in the parish or community who died as a result of the pandemic, and in particular those for whom it had not been possible to hold a funeral service.
- One possible way is to read out the names of the elderly at the end of the prayers of the faithful, and to light a candle for each person remembered.
- On 13 May, the Apostolic Penitentiary promulgated a Decree granting a Plenary Indulgence on the occasion of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
- The elderly can obtain an Indulgence by participating in one of the Masses celebrated on the occasion of this World Day.
- In view of the continuing health emergency and the fact that some elderly people are unable to attend Mass in person for health reasons, the Indulgence is extended to those who participate via television, radio or the internet.
- The Indulgence is also granted to all those who perform a ‘work of mercy’ on this World Day by visiting an elderly person who is alone.
- In places where visiting in person is expressly forbidden by the public authorities in order to avoid contagion, it is also possible to obtain the Indulgence through a virtual meeting.