At the Sunday Angelus, January 31st of this year, Pope Francis announced the institution of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly to take place each year on the 4th Sunday in July, close to the July 26 feast of Sts Joachim and Anne, the parents of Our Blessed Mother and grandparents of Jesus.

Francis said he wanted a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on what the elderly have received.” He said it is important for grandparents and grandchildren to get to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents see their grandchildren dream, … while young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”

That day is now just over a month away and the Vatican this morning, in a press conference, presented a papal video about this new Church celebration and plans for the celebration in Rome and in dioceses throughout the world.

The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, prepared by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, will take place on Sunday, July 25 on the theme “I am with you always” (cf. Mt 28:20). Pope Francis will preside at a Mass together with the elderly in St Peter’s Basilica at 10am.

When I posted the news of the papal announcement on February 1st, I thought immediately of two people, now very dear friends, who were in no small way behind the idea for such a day – Catherine Wiley who founded the Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) in the UK and Marilyn Henry who founded the American branch of this association.

We spoke (and I interviewed them for Vatican Insider) when they were in Rome for the January 29-31, 2020 “The Richness of Many Years of Life” conference organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life that brought together 550 participants from 60 countries. Catherine told us how she came to found this Association and both women spoke about the work of CGA and how grandparents can join this unique, lively and loving association.

When the Holy Father held an audience for this group, Catherine was able to personally greet him and, taking advantage of that brief time with Pope Francis, asked him if he might consider the idea of a World Day for Grandparents!

It seems he listened to that proposal!

Here is a link to Pope Francis’ video message, made public today by the Vatican: Pope to the elderly: God sends his angels to console your loneliness – Vatican News

Lots of info and suggestions and good ideas here: Pastoral resources and other information: World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly (

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the dicastery for Laity, Family and Life said at tofay’s press conference, “The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is a celebration. We really needed it: after such a difficult year we truly need to celebrate, grandparents and grandchildren, young and old. We should celebrate and rejoice.” (vatican media)

Noting that tenderness is a key word of Pope Francis’ message, the cardinal said, “Tenderness towards the elderly is needed because, as the Holy Father recalls in the message we present to you today, the Virus ‘has been much harsher with them’. For this reason, the Pope hopes that an angel will visit, and will come down to console them in their solitude, and he imagines that this angel looks like a young person who visits an elderly person.2

“On the other hand,” he added, “the Day also speaks to us of the tenderness that grandparents show towards their grandchildren, of the solid guide that the elderly can be for many disoriented children, especially in a time like the one we are living in, in which personal interaction has become rare. Tenderness is not just a private feeling, one that soothes wounds, but a way of relating to others, which should also be experienced in public. We have become accustomed to living alone, to not hugging each other, to considering the other as a threat to our health.

Cardinal Farrell explained that, “In a frayed and hardened society emerging from the pandemic, not only is there a need for vaccines and economic recovery (albeit fundamental), but also for relearning the art of relationships. In this, grandparents and the elderly can be our teachers. This is also why they are so important.” (CNS photo)

Princess Leonore, held by Sweden’s Queen Silvia, gives a papal key chain to Pope Francis during her grandmother’s private audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican in this April 27, 2015, file photo. The pope has chosen the theme, “I am with you always,” for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which will be celebrated July 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I would like to focus on a theme dear to the Holy Father: the wisdom of the elderly,” said the cardinal. “Insisting on wisdom does not stem from the idea that elderly people are endowed with greater wisdom than others, rather they have an experiential wisdom – the wisdom of many years of life. The elderly are a great resource for getting out of a crisis, better and not worse. This is above all to help us understand that what we are experiencing is not the first crisis, nor will it be the last, and that the story of mankind is placed in a history that transcends them.”

He concluded: “I hope that the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly helps us to grow in our love for the elderly and to discover them as teachers of tenderness, guardians over our roots and dispensers of wisdom. For our part, the whole Church repeats to every grandparent and to every elder: “we will be with you always”, until the end of time. (vatican media)

The Apostolic Penitentiary grants a Plenary Indulgence for this day, “under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to grandparents, the elderly and all the faithful who, motivated by a true spirit of penance and charity, will participate on 25 July 2021, on the occasion of the First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, in the solemn celebration that the Most Holy Father Francis will preside over in the Vatican Papal Basilica or at the various functions that will be held throughout the world, who may also apply it as suffrage for the souls in Purgatory.”

“This Court of Mercy also grants the Plenary Indulgence on this same day to the faithful who devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty (such as the sick, the abandoned, the disabled and other similar cases).

“The Plenary Indulgence may also be granted to, provided that they detach themselves from any sins and intend to fulfill the three usual conditions as soon as possible, the elderly sick and all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite themselves spiritually to the sacred functions of the World Day, offering to the Merciful God their prayers, pains or sufferings of their lives, especially during the transmission, through the means of television and radio, but also through the new means of social communication the words of the Supreme Pontiff and the celebrations.”

The Penitentiary requested “priests, equipped with the appropriate faculties to hear confessions, to make themselves available, in a ready and generous spirit, for the celebration of Penance.”