“‘The prayer of the elderly can protect the world, helping it perhaps more effectively than the frenetic activity of many others.’ [Benedict] spoke those words in 2012, towards the end of his pontificate,” Francis said. “There is something beautiful here. Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the Church and the world urgently need.”
“I was called to become the Bishop of Rome when I had reached, so to speak, retirement age and thought I would not be doing anything new,” he noted. “The Lord is always -- always -- close to us. He is close to us with new possibilities, new ideas, new consolations, but always close to us. You know that the Lord is eternal; he never, ever goes into retirement.”
In January, Pope Francis established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to take place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of the grandparents of Jesus, Sts. Anne and Joachim.
This year the celebration will fall on Sunday, July 25, and Pope Francis will offer a Mass with the elderly in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the occasion.
The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life has assembled a “pastoral kit” for parishes and dioceses with suggestions for how to celebrate the first grandparents’ day.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the dicastery’s prefect, said during a press conference June 22 that the day “is meant to be a great celebration. And truly, we need it. After such a difficult year, we need to celebrate grandparents, grandchildren, young, and old.”
The theme of this year’s grandparents’ day is “I am with you always,” taken from Matthew 28:20.
“This is the promise the Lord made to his disciples before he ascended into heaven,” Francis explained in his message. “They are the words that he repeats to you today, dear grandfathers and grandmothers, dear elderly friends.”
“‘I am with you always’ are also the words that I, as Bishop of Rome and an elderly person like yourselves, would like to address to you on this first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly,” he wrote. “The whole Church is close to you -- to us -- and cares about you, loves you and does not want to leave you alone.”
Pope Francis noted that his message came after the difficult period of the coronavirus pandemic, which “swept down on us like an unexpected and furious storm,” and was a time of trial especially for the elderly.