Vatican Offers Plenary Indulgence for Visiting the Elderly on Grandparents’ Day

The second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly will be celebrated July 24.

Pope Francis greets the elderly priest-residents of Casa San Gaetano in Rome on June 17, 2016.
Pope Francis greets the elderly priest-residents of Casa San Gaetano in Rome on June 17, 2016. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

The Vatican announced on Monday that Catholics can obtain a plenary  indulgence by visiting an elderly person on the second World Day for  Grandparents and the Elderly.

A decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary  on May 30 said that the indulgence is available “to the faithful who  devote adequate time to visit, in presence or virtually, through the  media, their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty” on July 24.

The indulgence can also be gained by Catholics present at a solemn  commemoration of the annual event by Pope Francis that day or at  celebrations around the world.

An indulgence — defined  by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been  forgiven” — will be available under the usual conditions of confession,  Holy Communion and prayer in accordance with the intentions of the  Supreme Pontiff.

 According to the Catechism, an indulgence can be either partial or  plenary, depending on whether it “removes either part or all of the  temporal punishment due to sin.”

The new decree signed by the major penitentiary, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, and regent Father Krzysztof Nykiel said: “The plenary indulgence may  also be granted, provided that they remove themselves from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling the three usual conditions as soon as possible, to the sick elderly and to all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite spiritually with the sacred services of the World Day, offering to the Merciful God their prayers, and the pains and sufferings of their lives, especially while the words of the Supreme Pontiff and the various celebrations are broadcast through the media.” 

A similar decree was issued for the World Day’s inaugural celebration on July 25, 2021.

Pope Francis established the commemoration in January 2021. The day falls annually on the fourth Sunday of July, on or close to the July 26 Feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus. 

The Vatican unveiled the theme for the second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in February, taken from Psalm 92:15: “In old age they will still bear fruit.”

In the Pope’s message for this year, released  on May 10, he urged seniors not to despair at their frailty but to  embrace “a new mission” of caring for others in a world torn apart by  conflict.       

 “Old age is no time to give up and lower the sails, but a season of  enduring fruitfulness: A new mission awaits us and bids us look to the  future,” he wrote in the 1,600-word message.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life released a pastoral kit on May 30 offering guidance on celebrating the day locally.

The 85-year-old pope, who has made public appearances in a wheelchair due to knee pain since May 5, has highlighted the importance of care and respect for the elderly throughout his pontificate. 

In February, he launched a new general audience catechetical cycle devoted to old age.

The Apostolic Penitentiary’s decree concluded with an appeal to priests: “In order, therefore, that this opportunity to attain divine grace through the power of the Keys of the Church may be more easily realized  through pastoral charity, this Penitentiary firmly requests priests,  equipped with the appropriate faculties to hear confessions, to make  themselves available with a ready and generous spirit for the  celebration of the Sacrament of Penance.” 

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández was appointed by Pope Francis on July 1, 2023, to become the next prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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