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World Day for Grandparents highlights mercy

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ENCOUNTER: Pope Francis greeted Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, an Australian Aboriginal elder, educator and artist, after his general audience May 31, 2023, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Looking on is Chiara Porro, Australian ambassador to the Holy See. (Credit: CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has chosen “His mercy is from age to age,” a passage from the Gospel of Luke, as the theme for the 2023 celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

On the world day, which will be observed July 23, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.

Catholic parishes, dioceses, movements and associations are asked to organize local celebrations as well, the dicastery said.

Pope Francis chose the theme — which is a line from Mary’s Magnificat in the first chapter of Luke — to tie the celebration of the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly to World Youth Day, which will be celebrated just over a week later, in Lisbon, Portugal, the dicastery said.

The theme for the youth gathering Aug. 1 to 6 is “Mary arose and went with haste” from Luke 1:39, the dicastery said, and it describes how Mary sets out to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth and “proclaims, in the Magnificat, the strength of the alliance between young and old.”

Pope Francis celebrated the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021 and decreed that it be observed each year on the Sunday closest to the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents.

God wants young people to bring joy to the hearts of the elderly and to learn from their experiences, Pope Francis said.

“Yet, above all, the Lord wants us not to abandon the elderly or to push them to the margins of life, as tragically happens all too often in our time,” the 86-year-old pope wrote in his message for the Catholic Church’s celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

The message was released at the Vatican on June 15 in anticipation of the celebration of the world day.

The Holy Spirit “blesses and accompanies every fruitful encounter between different generations: between grandparents and grandchildren, between young and old,” the pope wrote in his message.

“To better appreciate God’s way of acting, let us remember that our life is meant to be lived to the full, and that our greatest hopes and dreams are not achieved instantly but through a process of growth and maturation, in dialogue and in relationship with others,” he wrote.

“Those who focus only on the here and now, on money and possessions, on ‘having it all now,’ are blind to the way God works,” the pope said. “His loving plan spans past, present and future; it embraces and connects the generations.”

God calls on everyone each day to look to the future and “keep pressing forward,” he wrote.

For young people, that means being able to “break free from the fleeting present in which virtual reality can entrap us, preventing us from doing something productive,” he wrote. “For the elderly, it means not dwelling on the loss of physical strength and thinking with regret about missed opportunities” and dwelling on the past.

Pope Francis invited the faithful to “make a concrete gesture that would include grandparents and the elderly” and to honor them, “neither depriving ourselves of their company nor depriving them of ours. May we never allow the elderly to be cast aside!”

Pastoral tools useful in the preparation of the world day were available on the Vatican website, laityfamilylife.va.

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