Photo of Pope Francis speaking at World Youth Day

Pope calls for “joyful and renewed encounter” across generations

Sunday 23rd July 2023

Today we celebrate the third World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly with a challenge from Pope Francis to open our hearts and minds to people of all generations as we work together to build up the Kingdom of God.

This year’s celebration takes place on Sunday 23rd July, just days before young adults from our diocese travel to Lisbon for World Youth Day 2023.

Pope Francis takes this opportunity in his message for today to link the two feasts through their shared theme of The Visitation, encouraging us to follow in the footsteps of Mary and Elizabeth in nurturing our intergenerational relationships.

He said: “This year, the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly takes place close to World Youth Day. Both celebrations remind us of the “haste” (cf. v. 39) with which Mary set out to visit Elizabeth.

“In this way, they invite us to reflect on the bond that unites young and old. The Lord trusts that young people, through their relationships with the elderly, will realise that they are called to cultivate memory and recognise the beauty of being part of a much larger history.

“Friendship with an older person can help the young to see life not only in terms of the present and realise that not everything depends on them and their abilities. For the elderly, the presence of a young person in their lives can give them hope that their experience will not be lost and that their dreams can find fulfilment.

“Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and their shared awareness that the Lord’s mercy is from generation to generation remind us that, alone, we cannot move forward, much less save ourselves, and that God’s presence and activity are always part of something greater, the history of a people. Mary herself said this in the Magnificat, as she rejoiced in God, who, in fidelity to the promise he had made to Abraham, had worked new and unexpected wonders” (cf. vv. 51-55).

Pope Francis continues his message by reminding us of the importance of time, 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 reminds us that today’s world of instant results is not compatible with the way God works, that “His loving plan spans past, present, and future; it embraces and connects the generations.”

This powerful message highlights that each of us has a valuable role to play in His plan to build up The Kingdom, a plan that is much greater than ourselves but requires each of us to play our part to entrust “to the present the past that is needed to build the future.”

Pope Francis explains that this plan – a plan that spans all the ages of the world – comes to fruition through the nurturing of relationships across all generations, by sharing our individual gifts, talents, dreams, testimonies, and traditions to shape the world of the future.

A drawing showing the scene of The Visitation. Mary, dressed in white, appears alongside the word "Magnificat" holding out her hands to her cousin Elizabeth

He said: “In the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, between young and old, God points us towards the future that he is opening up before us.

“Indeed, Mary’s visit and Elizabeth’s greeting open our eyes to the dawn of salvation: in their embrace, God’s mercy quietly breaks into human history amid abundant joy.

“I encourage everyone to reflect on that meeting, to picture, like a snapshot, that embrace between the young Mother of God and the elderly mother of Saint John the Baptist, and to frame it in their minds and hearts as a radiant icon.”

Pope Francis ends with a challenge to all of us to follow the example of Mary by making a “concrete gesture” to include the grandparents and the elderly.

He said: “The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is meant to be a small but precious sign of hope for them and for the whole Church. I renew my invitation to everyone – dioceses, parishes, associations and communities – to celebrate this day and to make it the occasion of a joyful and renewed encounter between young and old.

“To you, the young who are preparing to meet in Lisbon or to celebrate World Youth Day in your own countries, I would ask: before you set out on your journey, visit your grandparents or an elderly person who lives alone!

“Their prayers will protect you and you will carry in your heart the blessing of that encounter.”

As part of this call, Pope Francis has granted a Plenary Indulgence to the faithful who visit their grandparents, or elderly or housebound friends, relatives or neighbours.

In turn, the pope asks older generations to also keep younger friends and relatives in their prayers, particularly those pilgrims preparing to celebrate World Youth Day next week.

He said: “I ask you, the elderly among us, to accompany by your prayers the young people about to celebrate World Youth Day.

“Those young people are God’s answer to your prayers, the fruits of all that you have sown, the sign that God does not abandon his people, but always rejuvenates them with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.

“Dear grandparents, dear elderly brothers and sisters, may the blessing of the embrace between Mary and Elizabeth come upon you and fill your hearts with peace. With great affection, I give you my blessing. And I ask you, please, to pray for me.”

For further information and prayers to help you celebrate this day, please click here.

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