The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life is calling on young people to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation to show closeness to the elderly who are experiencing loneliness due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the elderly particularly hard and it has disconnected the already weak links between generations. However, respecting social distancing rules does not mean accepting the destiny of loneliness and abandonment.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has decided to heed the words spoken by Pope Francis after the Angelus on Sunday July 26 by launching a campaign called “The elderly are your grandparents”. It invites young people from all over the world to do something that shows kindness and affection for older people who may feel lonely.

In Christus Vivit, the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation from the Synod on young people, Pope Francis speaks passionately on the role of grandparents in the lives of young people. Quoting the Final Document, he says “Often, grandparents are a crucial aid in affection and religious education: with their wisdom, they are a vital link in the relationship between generations” [FD 145].

In recent months many Episcopal Conferences, associations and individuals have been using “the inventiveness of love” to find ways to bring the ecclesial community closer to the elderly. Contact has been made via telephone, internet and social networks, and even serenading residents outside of residential homes. Young people have been using creative ways to help alleviate the loneliness felt by many people who are shielding and confined to residential care facilities.

Adhering to social distancing measures, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life is inviting young people to reach out to the loneliest elderly people in their neighbourhood or parish by sending them a virtual hug, according to the request of the Pope, by means of a phone call, a video call or by sending an image. When it is possible to meet in person and appropriate to do so, young people and invited to make the embrace even more concrete by visiting the elderly in person.

We are encouraged to post the “hugs” on social media with the hashtag #sendyourhug. The most significant posts will be circulated on the social media of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life @laityfamilylife.

Pope Francis said “Here is what I would like: a world that experiences a renewed embrace between young and old (Preface of the book “The Wisdom of Time”)”.

On the memorial of the Saints Joachim and Anne, Jesus “grandparents”, I would like to invite the young to perform a gesture of tenderness towards the elderly, especially the loneliest, in their homes and residences, those who have not seen their loved ones for many months.

Dear young people, each one of these elderly people is your grandparent! Do not leave them by themselves. Use the inventiveness of love, make telephone calls, video calls, send messages, listen to them and, where possible, in compliance with the healthcare rules, go to visit them too. Send them a hug.

They are your roots. An uprooted tree cannot grow, it does not blossom or bear fruit. This is why the bond and connection with your roots is important. “The blossom of a tree comes from what it has underground”, says a poet from my homeland. Therefore I invite you to give a big round of applause for our grandparents, everyone!