People around the world are being encouraged to make extra efforts to visit and care for older people today as part of the Catholic Church’s first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
The theme chosen by the Pope for the day is “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)
Pope Francis has also granted Catholics the possibility of obtaining a plenary indulgence today if they devote enough time to actually or virtually visit elderly people in need.
Louise Morse from the Pilgrims Friend Society, told Premier she welcomes the opportunity to put the elderly centre-stage :
“I’m delighted by it because it honours grandparents and the elderly. And I hope it tells them that they are really important, because there's still an awful lot of ageism, that would put older people out of the general stream of the value of society.
“I think the Pope has a heart for older people. In March 2015, he told the faithful in St. Peter's Square, that if adult children didn't visit their ageing parents or relatives, it was a mortal sin.
“I think too, it says how important grandparents are. It makes me think of that scripture verse where Paul is writing to Timothy. And he says to Timothy - I'm mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelled in your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice, and I'm sure that it's in you as well.
“And I know so many grandparents, who cascade down their faith. And sometimes, if I'm talking to a younger person and there's an opportunity to introduce something about faith into it, they'll say, 'Well, you know, my grandmother used to say that.' So that generation, were the ones carrying, maybe the last strong push of faith, the way the world is going now."
Louise Morse, who is a cognitive behavioural therapist, says grandparents play an essential role in influencing behaviour :
“When I'm counselling people, very often I encounter the strong effect of a grandparent, for good or for bad, on the person in front of me.
“God has given this natural bond between older people and younger people, and where it's disrupted, both generations lose so much.
“So I hope this day says to grandparents and families, you are so central to our lives. Because it's true.”
The Pope announced earlier this year that the annual day will be celebrated each year on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.