Pope Francis: Do not abandon grandparents and elderly; remain close to them

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CNA Staff, May 14, 2024 / 12:47 pm

Pope Francis on Tuesday urged families around the world to remain close to grandparents and elderly family members, imploring loved ones to spend time with older relatives who may be facing “solitude and abandonment.”

The Vatican released the message ahead of the fourth World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, which takes place on July 28 this year. The pope first announced the annual observance in 2021.

Francis noted that the Bible contains numerous examples of the “fear of abandonment, particularly in old age and in times of pain.” The theme for this year’s observance is “Do Not Cast Me Off in My Old Age,” a reference to Psalm 71. 

“All too often, loneliness is the bleak companion of our lives as elderly persons and grandparents,” the pope said. 

He noted that when serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires he “would visit rest homes and realize how rarely those people received visits. Some had not seen their family members for many months.”

War often leads to high rates of elderly abandonment, the pope said. “How many of the elderly are left alone because men — youths and adults — have been called to battle, and women, above all women with small children, have left the country in order to ensure safety for their children.”

Another prejudice against the old, the Holy Father argued, is the claim that they “rob the young of their future.”

“There is now a widespread conviction that the elderly are burdening the young with the high cost of the social services that they require, and in this way are diverting resources from the development of the community and thus from the young,” the pope wrote.

“This is a distorted perception of reality. It assumes that the survival of the elderly puts that of the young at risk, that to favor the young, it is necessary to neglect or even suppress the elderly.”

Citing the biblical example of Ruth remaining by Naomi’s side in the latter’s old age, the Holy Father urged families: “Let us show our tender love for the grandparents and the elderly members of our families.” 

“Let us spend time with those who are disheartened and no longer hope in the possibility of a different future,” he wrote. 

“In place of the self-centered attitude that leads to loneliness and abandonment, let us instead show the open heart and the joyful face of men and women who have the courage to say ‘I will not abandon you’ and to set out on a different path.”

In announcing the observance in 2021, Pope Francis said that grandparents and elderly family members “remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, to transmit to young people an experience of life and faith.”

“Grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving and passing on the roots,” the pope said at the time.

In 2023 the pope marked the day’s third observance by holding an intergenerational Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“How much we need a new bond between young and old,” Pope Francis said at the time, “so that the sap of those who have a long experience of life behind them will nourish the shoots of hope of those who are growing.”


Daniel Payne

Daniel Payne is a senior editor at Catholic News Agency. He previously worked at the College Fix and Just the News. He lives in Virginia with his family.

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