The Vatican

Pope Francis wants to "imagine a different future for our elderly".

In his message for the 2024 World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis wants Catholics, following the example of Ruth, to be encouraged to build a better future for the elderly.

Paloma López Campos-May 14, 2024-Reading time: 3 minutes
Papa Grandparents

Pope Francis greets grandparents and their grandchildren during an audience (Photo CNS / Vatican Media).

In its message For the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis emphasizes God's fidelity to all his children, young and old. The Holy Father assures that God "does not discard any stone, on the contrary, the 'old' ones are the sure foundation on which the 'new' stones can rest to build together the spiritual edifice".

With his words, the Pontiff once again places the elderly at the center, something he does very often because he is convinced that "growing old is a sign of blessing. In the Bible, says Francis on the occasion of the day, we see that "God continues to show us his mercy, always, at every stage of life, and in whatever condition we find ourselves in".

However, in the face of God's fidelity, we find human abandonment. The Pope warns that "very often loneliness is the bitter companion of the lives of those who, like us, are older and grandparents". The Holy Father, recalling his time as bishop of Buenos Aires, mentions that when he visited homes for the elderly he could observe "how few visits these people received; some had not seen their loved ones for many months".

Confrontation between young and old

This loneliness is the consequence of many factors. The Pope mentions, among others, emigration, wars and false beliefs in some cultures, which accuse the elderly "of resorting to witchcraft to take vital energies away from the young". This, says the Holy Father, "is one of those unfounded prejudices, from which the Christian faith has freed us, that feed persistent generational conflicts between young and old".

But it is a mistake to think that this idea does not exist "in the most advanced and modern societies". Francis maintains that "today there is a widespread belief that the elderly burden the young with the cost of the assistance they need. However, the Pontiff warns that this "is a distorted perception of reality". The Pope states that "the contrast between the generations is a deception and a poisoned fruit of the culture of confrontation".

The problem, says the Bishop of Rome in his message, is that when we lose sight of the value of each person, "people become merely a burdensome burden". This belief is so widespread that the elderly end up accepting it "and come to regard themselves as a burden, wishing to be the first to step aside."

A culture that fits everyone

In this situation, the Pope warns of the trap of individualism, which is permeated by this confrontational mentality. Seeing oneself in old age, "in need of everything," one finds oneself alone, "without any help, without anyone to count on. It is a sad discovery that many people make when it is already too late.

In the face of the prevailing culture, the Holy Father proposes the biblical example of Ruth, who stays with her mother-in-law Naomi. She "teaches us that to the plea 'do not abandon me' it is possible to respond 'I will not abandon you'. Her story allows us to "walk a new path" and "imagine a different future for our elders".

The elderly, treasure of the Church

The Pope takes advantage of his message for the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly to thank "all those people who, even with many sacrifices, have effectively followed Ruth's example and are taking care of an elderly person, or simply show their closeness every day to relatives or acquaintances who have no one."

Francis concludes by encouraging Catholics to be close to the elderly and to recognize "the irreplaceable role they have in the family, in society and in the Church". He also gives his blessing to "dear grandparents and the elderly, and all those who accompany them," promising to pray for them and asking them to pray for him as well.

IV World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly

This year, 2024, the IV World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly will be celebrated on July 28. The theme chosen by Pope Francis is "In old age do not forsake me", taken from Psalm 71. The Pontiff has often focused on the elderly throughout his pontificate, assuring that old age "is a season for continuing to bear fruit".

Identifying himself as an older man on many occasions, the Holy Father celebrated the first such day in 2021, and each year he tries to encourage the entire Church to value the contribution of grandparents and the elderly to society and to the faith.

Theme of the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly 2024 (CNS photo / Courtesy of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life)
Read more
La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.