By Vatican News staff reporter
“As a society we have learned a lot from their stoicism and pragmatism in the face of so many challenges.”
Those were the words of Bishop Denis Nulty, chair of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family as he described grandparents and the elderly, including older priests and religious, as among the “unsung heroes of the pandemic.”
The first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly will be celebrated on the 25 July on the theme I am with you always (Mt 28:20).
Welcoming Pope Francis’ message to mark this World Day, Bishop Nulty says that in it, the Pope “reminds us of the need for the whole Church to be close to all the elderly and grandparents at this time of pandemic.”
Mission to encourage
The Bishop points out that throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has urged people to value their many gifts.
In his theme chosen for this inaugural event, “the Holy Father is highlighting that promise of closeness that generations share with each other,” says Bishop Nulty.
He goes on to say that “Not only are our young people called to be present in the lives of older people, but so too grandparents and elders have a mission to encourage young people on their faith journey.”
He is with us always
Referring to the text of the Pope’s message, issued on Tuesday, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin notes that Pope Francis gives his assurance that he has been “close to all those who have felt isolated and alone in recent months and that, even at the darkest of moments, the Lord continues to send angels to console our loneliness and to remind us that ‘He is with us always’.”
Angels to console us
“Pope Francis tells us,” says the Bishop, “that these angels sent to console us will at times have the face of our grandchildren, while at other times, the face of family members, lifelong friends or those we have come to know during these trying times, when we have learned how important hugs and visits are for each of us.”
Encouragement to parishes
Concluding his message, Bishop Nulty highlights that “The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is being celebrated for the first time this year as part of a special Year on the Family to mark the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia).
The Bishop invites parishes in every diocese across the country to celebrate grandparents and the elderly, not forgetting older priests and religious, who have given lives of dedicated service to their families and communities.
He also encourages parishes “to ensure that their local nursing care home is included in this annual celebration.”