By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 July, 2020
Pope Francis’ appeal to young people to reach out to the elderly with a message of encouragement as they may be feeling lonely in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prompted the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life to launch a new campaign titled, ‘The elderly are your grandparents’.
On Sunday, the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, the Pope invited young people to make a gesture of tenderness towards the elderly, “especially the most lonely ones in homes and residences, those who have not seen their loved ones for many months”.
Speaking after the Angelus, the Pope told young people, “each of these elderly people are your grandparents. Do not leave them alone. … They are your roots”.
The Pope said that the memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne is an opportunity to give grandparents “a big round of applause.” Connection with one’s roots is important, he said, quoting the Argentine poet Francisco Luis Bernárdez, who wrote: “The blossom of a tree comes from what it has underground.”
He suggested that they use the “inventiveness of love” to “send a hug” to an elderly person in their community by making a phone or video call, sending a card, or making a visit when safety measures allow.
This invitation inspired the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life to also invite young people “to do something that shows kindness and affection for older people who may feel lonely.”
In a communiqué released on Monday, the Vatican department said, “The pandemic has hit the elderly particularly hard and it has disconnected the already weak links between generations.”
It continued, “However, respecting social distancing rules does not mean accepting a destiny of loneliness and abandonment.”
With Covid-19 health regulations still in place, the Dicastery has urged young Catholics to send a hug to an older people of their parish or neighbourhood, who may be experiencing loneliness, by phone, video call, or by sending an image.
“Wherever possible − or whenever the health emergency will allow it − we invite young people to make the embrace even more concrete by visiting elderly in person.”
Young people are also encouraged to share their outreach efforts on social media by including #sendyourhug in their post.
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