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Pope sets date to honor ‘forgotten’ grandparents and elders

FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 file photo, Pope Francis leaves after an audience with families in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. The Vatican is taking the unusual step of conducting a worldwide survey on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and gay marriage, seeking input ahead of a major meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans next year. The survey reflects the pope's pledges to move away from what he called a "Vatican-centric" approach toward one where local church leaders are more involved in decision-making. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has established an annual date to honor grandparents and other elders, lamenting that they are often forgotten despite the wisdom they have to offer society.

Francis on Sunday announced that every year, on the fourth Sunday of July, the Roman Catholic Church will pay tribute to older adults who have “thoughts and words of wisdom” to offer.

This year, Francis will celebrate a special Mass in honor of them on the evening of July 25, pandemic restrictions permitting, the Vatican said. In customary Sunday noon remarks, Francis noted that each year on July 26, the church honors Saints Anne and Joachim, the parents of Jesus’ mother, Mary.

Grandparents, Francis said, transmit “life and faith” experiences to the young.

The pope, who is 84 and a frequent booster of grandparents in his remarks for their value to society, cited the “thoughts and words of wisdom” of older adults.

“Their voice is precious because they sing the praises of God and preserve the roots of peoples,” Francis said from the Apostolic Palace Library instead of from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square to discourage crowds from gathering in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They remind us that old age is a gift, and that grandparents are the ring linking generations, to transmit to young people the experience of life and faith,” the pope said.

“Grandparents, so many times, are forgotten, and we forget this richness of safeguarding and transmitting roots,” Francis said.

“It’s important that grandparents encounter grandchildren and grandchildren encounter grandparents,” Francis said. He added that “grandparents will dream, will have great desires, in regards to grandchildren, and the young, taking strength from grandparents, will go forward.”

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