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Pope: Love makes us better, richer, wiser

Pope Francis attends "The Caress and the Smile" event to meet with grandparents, the elderly, and grandchildren at the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall.

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 04/27/24

In a meeting with grandparents and grandchildren, Pope Francis urges families to make sure there are no rifts.

“Today we see, as the Psalm says, how good it is to be together,” the Pope said, citing Psalm 133, as he welcomed a crowd of grandparents and grandchildren to the Vatican.

The Pope went on to reflect about how “at any age,” love makes us better.

The Great Age Foundation sponsored the event on Saturday, April 27, with the theme “The Caress and the Smile.” It brought together more than 6,000 grandparents and grandchildren to highlight the rights of the elderly and society’s duty to them.

The Pope, whose advocacy for a strong elderly-youth relationship has been a hallmark of his pontificate, noted how the experience of having grandparents is “a beautiful thing.”

We make each other better by loving each other, he said, saying that he speaks as a spiritual “grandfather,” who as a boy learned from his own grandmother “about Jesus who loves us, who never leaves us alone, and who urges us too to be close to each other and never to exclude anyone.”

He recounted that it was his grandma who told him a story he’s shared on a few occasions, about a grandpa who was sent away to eat alone because he could no longer eat without getting dirty. The story continues that the young grandson, tinkering with his play hammer, explained to the dad that he was “building a table for you, so you can eat alone when you get old!”

Only by not excluding anyone, the Pope said, does one become better, and more humane.


The Pope also insisted that love makes us richer, because it is through love that we share our knowledge.

The selfish person thinks he is more important if he puts himself in the foreground and has more things … But the selfish person is the poorest, because selfishness impoverishes. Let us think, for example, of some expressions we use: When we talk about the “world of youth,” the “world of the elderly,” this world or another … But there is just one world! And it is made up of many realities that are different precisely in order to help and complement each other: the generations, the peoples, and all the differences, if harmonized, can reveal — like the faces of a big diamond — the wondrous splendor of humanity and creation.

The Holy Father affirmed that being together teaches us “not to let diversity create rifts between us!”

No, let there not be rifts … Not to pulverize the diamond of love, the most beautiful treasure God has given us: love.

In this context he lamented how the elderly are so often isolated in retirement homes.

The elderly must not be left by themselves, they must live within the family, in the community, with the affection of everyone,” he insisted. “And if they cannot live with their families, we must go to visit them and stay close to them.”

The Pope considered how beautiful it would be to have a world in which there were no fear of ending our days alone.

Our world is sad, he said, “clearly yes, it is sad. So let us build this world, together, not just by devising care programs, but by cultivating different projects of existence, in which the passing years are not considered a loss that diminishes someone, but an asset that grows and enriches everyone: and as such are appreciated and not feared.”

Wearing glasses, but seeing far …

Finally, the Pope reflected that love makes us wiser.

Dear grandchildren, your grandparents are the memory of a world without memory, and “when a community loses its memory, it’s over.” […] We must not lose our memory. Listen to your grandparents, especially when they teach you, with their love and with their witness, to cultivate the most important affections, which are not obtained by force, which do not appear through success, but which fill life.

The Pope added that he likes to think that Simeon and Anna were two grandparents, “who recognized Jesus when he was taken to the Temple by Mary and Joseph. […] It was these two grandparents who recognized Jesus, before everyone else. […] It was the elderly who understood the Mystery. Elderly people wear glasses – almost all of them – but they can see far. How come? They can see far, because they have lived for many years, and have many things to teach.”

The Pope said one example of the lesson the elderly teach is how bad war is. As he shared a song that World War I soldiers sang and that his grandfather had taught him, he said he learned of the evil of war from his grandparents.

A long time ago, I learned this precisely from my grandfather, who had lived in 1914, at the Piave, the first World War, and through his stories he made me understand that war is a horrible thing, never to be done.

Visit them for your own good

“Visit your grandparents and do not marginalize them, for your own good,” the Pope told the grandchildren.

Please, go to see your grandparents, do not marginalize them: It is for your own good. The marginalization of the elderly corrupts all the seasons of life, not just that of old age. I like to repeat this. Instead, you learn the wisdom of their strong love, and also of their frailty, which is a “magisterium” capable of teaching without the need for words, a true antidote to the hardening of the heart. […]

But not only that: when you, grandparents and grandchildren, old and young, are together, when you see and hear each other often, when you care for each other, your love is a breath of clean air that refreshes the world and society and makes us all stronger, beyond the bonds of kinship.

ElderlyFamilyPope FrancisYouth
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