ROME—Pope Francis announced Sunday the establishment of a new annual Catholic feast day to underscore the importance of grandparents and the elderly in society.
“I have decided to establish World Grandparents’ and Elders’ Day, which will be held in all the Church every year on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ ‘grandparents,’” the pope said following his weekly prayer of the Angelus, delivered from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.
The pontiff also noted that on February 2, Christians celebrate “the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, when Simeon and Anna, both elderly, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, recognised Jesus as the Messiah.”
Francis went on to reflect on the crucial role played by the elderly by passing on wisdom to future generations while keeping history alive.
“The Holy Spirit still stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today: their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples,” he said. “They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young.
“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on,” he added.
Many countries celebrate a National Grandparents’ Day but their dates do not coincide with each other. Italy, for example, celebrates Grandparents’ Day on October 2. That date was chosen because it coincides with the Roman Catholic feast of the Guardian Angels.
On Sunday, the pope concluded his announcement by stressing the importance of intergenerational contact.
“It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents,” he said, “because — as the prophet Joel says — grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream, and have great desires, and young people, taking strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”
February 2 “is indeed the feast of the encounter between grandparents and their grandchildren,” he said.