Asia’s Catholic bishops have issued “suggestions” to celebrate the first “World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly” in a special newsletter released by the Office of Laity and Family of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC-OLF).
Pope Francis announced in January that beginning this year, the Catholic Church will be celebrating the “World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly” on the fourth Sunday of July.
“Grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving and passing on the roots. For this reason, I have decided to establish the ‘World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly,’” said the pontiff.
The Holy Father chose the theme “I am with you always (Mt 20:28)” for the first-ever celebration on Sunday, July 25, ahead of the feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of Mary, Grandparents of Jesus, on July 26.
To prepare for the “World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly,” Archbishop Gilbert Garcera of Lipa in the Philippines, chairman of the FABC-OLF, collected information from the region’s bishops’ conferences about pastoral care for the grandparents and the elderly.
The FABC-OLF sent out three questions to the bishops’ conferences to find out the current pastoral response of the Church toward grandparents and the elderly in Asia. The survey also requested for the promotion plan for the pastoral care of grandparents and the elderly for 2021.
Based on the responses, the FABC-OLF offered six suggestions to celebrate the “World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly” in the midst of the health restrictions due to the pandemic.
The FABC-OLF suggestions include:
- hosting a thanksgiving mass for the Grandparents and Elderly
- joining the online celebration with Pope Francis in Rome
- acknowledging their presence and wisdom in the family and parish community with expressions of gratitude (flowers, greetings, and gifts)
- holding a vigil service or holy hour on July 24 evening
- sharing with family members the importance of the day and the ministry to care for them
- spend time with grandparents and elderly after Mass or eat a meal with them in the family
Archbishop Garcera expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for “inspiring us all to recognize the gift of presence, the ministry and the missionary contribution of our elderly and our grandparents.”
The prelate dedicated the latest FABC-OLF issue of its newsletter to all bishops, religious sisters and brothers, families and life lay collaborators “who have been gifted with the spirit of always keeping Jesus’ words and gestures in their heart, in order to love and serve the elderly and grandparents.”
Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, has issued a Pastoral Statement on the launching of the “World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly” in the country on June 4.
“As a country blessed by 500 years of Christianity, let us make sure that grandparents remain – and feel – that elders are cherished members of our families, communities and nation,” he said.
Catherine Wiley, founder of the International Catholic Grandparents Association, moved beyond the notion that the role of grandparents “is to pass on the faith and keep prayer at the heart of family life.”
In her message that appeared on the FABC-OLF newsletter, Wiley said she prefers to think of the role of grandparents and elderly as “being agents of grace and love for their grandchildren.”
On May 13, the Apostolic Penitentiary promulgated a decree granting a Plenary Indulgence on the occasion of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. The elderly can obtain an indulgence by participating in one of the masses celebrated on July 25.
The indulgence is extended to those who participate via television, radio or the internet due to health reasons or Covid-19 restrictions. The indulgence is also granted to all those who perform a ‘work of mercy’ on July 25 by visiting an elderly person who is alone. It is also possible to obtain the indulgence through a virtual meeting like a phone call because visiting in person is expressly forbidden by the public authorities to avoid contagion.
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI composed a universal prayer for Grandparents for the Catholic Grandparents Association.