By Jim Fair

Echoing the words of Pope Francis as the July 26 Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life today launched the #sendyourhug campaign to encourage people to reach out to the elderly.

In a public statement, the dicastery encouraged people to “use the inventiveness of love: make phone or video calls, listen to them!”

It is possible to reduce the isolation felt by elderly people while also strictly observing health guidelines for Covid-19, according to the dicastery.

The 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 a destiny of loneliness and abandonment.

That is why the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has decided to heed the words spoken by Pope Francis after the Angelus and to launch 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 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 who are lonely. We have received news of contacts being made via telephone, internet, and social networks, and even of serenades to the residents of retirement homes. Young people have been doing this to help alleviate the loneliness being felt by many people who are obliged by the pandemic to stay at home or remain confined in residential care facilities.

In this phase of the campaign, in order to respect the health regulations in force in different countries, our invitation to young people is to reach out to the loneliest elderly people in their neighborhood or parish and send them a hug, according to the request of the Pope, by means of a phone call, a video call or by sending an image. Wherever possible − or whenever the health emergency will allow it − we invite young people to make the embrace even more concrete by visiting the elderly in person.

The campaign is associated with the hashtag #sendyourhug in order to disseminate the initiative. The most significant posts will be circulated on the social media of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life @laityfamilylife.

The dicastery hopes that this campaign can help to achieve a dream expressed by Pope Francis when he wrote “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”)”.

As Pope Francis said on Sunday:

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!

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