The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life will host an international conference in Rome this week on the pastoral care of the elderly. The Irish Bishops’ Conference will be represented at the three-day conference by Bishop Denis Nulty, Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family and two lay members of that Council, Maire Printer and Gerry Mangan.

The conference entitled ‘The Richness of Many Years of Life’ is taking place from Wednesday 29 to Friday 31 January. It will focus on the role of older people within the family and their particular vocation within the Church. Pope Francis will meet conference participants at a special Papal Audience on Friday 31 January.

Speaking as he departed for the conference, Bishop Nulty said, “Pope Francis loves the elderly and, from the beginning of his pontificate, on numerous occasions, he has emphasised their indispensable role in dialogue with young people in the transmission of the faith and in the youth’s rediscovery of their own roots. The relationship between the generations is one of his favourite themes and it is highlighted again in this years’ message, just released, for the 54th World Communications Day. In that message Pope Francis highlights the value of storytelling. We all know the best storytellers are the elderly, our grandparents, who have lived life’s experience. Faced with the lengthening of the average life and the aging of the population, Pope Francis has asked the elderly to become protagonists and ‘not to pull back the oars into the boat’.

“I see this conference as an endorsement of the key role the elderly play in our Church and in society today. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recognised that critical role when he wrote a special Prayer for Grandparents in 2008. Many Irish dioceses have active branches of the Catholic Grandparents Association, which began in Ireland and has spread throughout the world. In September every year the Catholic Grandparents Association organise a pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Shrine in Knock.”

Bishop Nulty concluded by saying, “This conference in Rome coincides with the celebration of Catholic Schools Week in Ireland. One of the highlights of Catholic Schools Week over the years, as we all know, is the day grandparents are celebrated and feted in school by their young grandchildren. Grandparents have a huge influence on the lives of their grandchildren and I look forward to this topic and many others being explored over our few days in Rome”.

The conference will be live streamed on https://www.youtube.com/user/PcFamiglia/live