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“A Caress and a Smile” is the name of the event that will take place Saturday, April 27, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall where elderly people, grandparents, and grandchildren from Italy will meet Pope Francis.

A total of 6,000 grandparents and their grandchildren will arrive this week at the Vatican for a special gathering with the Holy Father, an initiative presented by the Holy See’s Press Office today.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, noted that Italy has the second-highest number of elderly people in the world and that for the first time in history, four generations are living together, which “had never happened before.”

He also lamented that currently “we are afraid to use” the word “old” and that old age “is not only a very beautiful time, but can mean a change of direction, within the culture, society, economy, and also of religion.”

The prelate noted the special affection that Pope Francis has for older people and recalled the catechetical series that he dedicated to them, teaching “how to live the last 30 years” of life in a Christian way.

“This event will be held to give a new vision of old age. Old age is a great age, not to be wasted or a burden. Old age is not disconnected from other ages of life,” Paglia continued.

The prelate also noted the demographic winter that Italy is going through and highlighted the “particular harmony” and special ties that exist between grandparents and their grandchildren, two generations “that cannot live without each other.”

The event, organized by the Italian Old Age Foundation, will begin at 8:30 a.m. Rome time with a reflection on old age.

About 40 minutes later, Pope Francis will arrive at the Paul VI Hall to hear the testimony of two grandparents (among them a 91-year-old woman) and three grandchildren.

Also participating in this morning’s press conference was Lino Banfi, a well-known Italian actor who maintains a friendship with Pope Francis, whom he referred to as “the grandfather of the world.”

In addition, Pope Francis has also established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which this year will be celebrated on July 28.


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