Pope Francis invited grandparents and the elderly on Tuesday to join a “spiritual and non-violent revolution.”
In his message for the second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, issued on May 10, the pope urged seniors not to despair at their frailty but to embrace “a new mission” of caring for others in a world torn apart by conflict.
“Old age is no time to give up and lower the sails, but a season of enduring fruitfulness: a new mission awaits us and bids us look to the future,” he wrote in the 1,600-word text, dated May 3.
“‘The special sensibility that those of us who are elderly have for the concerns, thoughts, and the affections that make us human should once again become the vocation of many. It would be a sign of our love for the younger generations.’”
“This would be our own contribution to the revolution of tenderness, a spiritual and non-violent revolution in which I encourage you, dear grandparents and elderly persons, to take an active role.”
Pope Francis established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021. The day takes place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, on or close to the July 26 Feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus. This year, it will be celebrated on July 24.
The Vatican unveiled in February the theme for the second celebration of the day, which is taken from Psalm 92:15: “In old age they will still bear fruit.”
The theme “intends to emphasize how grandparents and the elderly are a value and a gift both for society and for ecclesial communities,” the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life said.
The dicastery’s prefect, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, presented the pope’s message at a Vatican press conference on May 10.
The Irish-born American cardinal said: “The pope’s message for the upcoming World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is an alternative to the throwaway culture: it helps all of us, and the elderly themselves, to understand that — far from being something to be thrown away — they have a specific vocation within our communities.”
“In this time of yearning for peace, the Church has a great need for older people who have the ‘gift’ of tenderness, who are capable of caring for and interceding with others.”
In his message, Pope Francis described how the elderly could take part in the “revolution of tenderness.”
He said: “Let us hold in our hearts — like St. Joseph, who was a loving and attentive father — the little ones of Ukraine, of Afghanistan, of South Sudan…”
“Many of us have come to a sage and humble realization of what our world very much needs: the recognition that we are not saved alone, and that happiness is a bread we break together.”
“Let us bear witness to this before those who wrongly think that they can find personal fulfilment and success in conflict. Everyone, even the weakest among us, can do this.”
“The very fact that we allow ourselves to be cared for — often by people who come from other countries — is itself a way of saying that living together in peace is not only possible, but necessary.”
He went on: “Dear grandparents, dear elderly persons, we are called to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness in our world! Let us do so by learning to make ever more frequent and better use of the most valuable instrument at our disposal and, indeed, the one best suited to our age: prayer.”
Pope Francis has highlighted the importance of care and respect for the elderly since his election in 2013.
In February, he launched a new general audience catechetical cycle devoted to old age.
The 85-year-old pope has been making his public appearances in a wheelchair since May 5 due to a torn ligament in his right knee.
Concluding his message, Pope Francis said: “Let us ask Our Lady, Mother of Tender Love, to make all of us artisans of the revolution of tenderness, so that together we can set the world free from the spectre of loneliness and the demon of war.”
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