WILKES-BARRE, PA (June 29, 2021) – Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre will reopen its dining room to guests on a daily basis beginning Monday, July 5, 2021.

With a decreasing number of COVID-19 cases locally and the availability of vaccines, kitchen staff will once again welcome clients into the dining room at 39 East Jackson Street for a warm, nutritious daily meal between 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Additionally, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen will also be resuming evening meals as well. Evening meals take place in the dining room every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Evening meals will resume at the kitchen Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

“We are excited to reopen our dining room to our neighbors and friends. While we have continued to provide meals every day since the beginning of the pandemic, it is clear the in- person experience of being in our dining room has been missed by many,” Mike Cianciotta, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen Director, said. “A lot of people use Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen for socialization, to see friends and enjoy time together.”

Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen has continued to serve clients throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing meals in take-out containers since March 2020. In addition to the pre-packaged meals, kitchen staff has also provided extra food for families to take home if needed.

Guests who are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 will not have to wear a mask or facial covering when returning to the dining room. Masks will still be strongly recommended, but not required, for any guests that have not received a vaccine or are partially vaccinated.

In addition to welcoming back guests to the dining room, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen will also resume utilizing community volunteers beginning on Monday, July 5, 2021.

In addition to providing its daily meals to the community, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen also continues to provide the following services to the community:

    Saint Vincent de Paul Food Pantry is open to the public every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

    Saint Vincent de Paul Clothing Room is open to the public every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.


Pope Francis raises the Book of the Gospels during Mass on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 29, 2021. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Sts. Peter and Paul were great not just because of their zeal for the Gospel, but because they allowed Christ to enter their hearts and change their lives, Pope Francis said.

“The church looks to these two giants of faith and sees two apostles who set free the power of the Gospel in our world, but only because first they themselves had been set free by their encounter with Christ,” the pope said during his homily at Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29.

The feast day celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica included the traditional blessing of the pallium, the woolen band that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders over their Mass vestments.

The pallium symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him. The pope blessed the palliums after they were brought up from the crypt above the tomb of St. Peter.

According to the Vatican, 34 archbishops from 18 countries who were named over the past 12 months were to receive the palliums, including: Canadian Archbishops Brian J. Dunn of Halifax-Yarmouth and Marcel Damphousse of Ottawa-Cornwall; Filipino Cardinal José Advincula of Manila and Irish Archbishop Dermot P. Farrell of Dublin.

“This sign of unity with Peter recalls the mission of the shepherd who gives his life for the flock,” the pope told the archbishops before concluding his homily. “It is in giving his life that the shepherd, himself set free, becomes a means of bringing freedom to his brothers and sisters.”

Keeping with a long tradition, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was present for the Mass and, afterward, went with Pope Francis down the stairs below the main altar to pray at St. Peter’s tomb.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul, the “two pillars of the church” who, after experiencing God’s love in their lives, “became apostles and ministers of freedom for others.”

Because of Jesus’ unconditional love, Peter was set free “from his sense of inadequacy and his bitter experience of failure,” the pope explained. While Peter “often yielded to fear,” Jesus “was willing to take a risk on him” and encouraged him to not give up.

“In this way, Jesus set Peter free from fear, from calculations based solely on worldly concerns,” the pope said. “He gave him the courage to risk everything and the joy of becoming a fisher of men. It was Peter whom Jesus called to strengthen his brothers in faith.”

On the other hand, the pope continued, Paul experienced a different kind of freedom “from the most oppressive form of slavery, which is slavery to self.”

Christ also freed Paul “from the religious fervor that had made him a zealous defender of his ancestral traditions and a cruel persecutor of Christians,” he added.

“Formal religious observance and the intransigent defense of tradition, rather than making him open to the love of God and of his brothers and sisters, had hardened him,” the pope said.

God, however, did not spare Paul from “frailties and hardships,” such as illness, violence and persecution during his missions, thus revealing to the apostle that “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged Christians to be free from fear like Peter and, like Paul, to be free “from the temptation to present ourselves with worldly power rather than with the weakness that makes space for God” and “free from a religiosity that makes us rigid and inflexible.”

“Peter and Paul bequeath to us the image of a church entrusted to our hands, yet guided by the Lord with fidelity and tender love,” the pope said.

“A church that is weak, yet finds strength in the presence of God. A church set free and capable of offering the world the freedom that the world by itself cannot give: freedom from sin and death, from resignation, and from the sense of injustice and the loss of hope that dehumanizes the lives of the women and men of our time,” he said.


June 29, 2021

Since the conclusion of the Spring General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), there has been significant attention (and in some cases misinformation) on the vote taken to draft a document on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

A great deal of media coverage has focused on the question of whether to deny an individual or groups of people Holy Communion. In reality, this question was not up for a vote or debate at the meeting. Bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion.

The vote taken by the full body of bishops tasked the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine to begin the drafting of a teaching document on the Eucharist. For the last several years, helping all people understand the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist has been an important goal for bishops – especially after a 2019 Pew Study found that many Catholics do not understand or believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

As indicated to all bishops at the recent USCCB meeting, the document would include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate – but the document would not be disciplinary in nature.

The Eucharist is an amazing gift from the Lord that He has given to us as nourishment for our souls. Each Catholic is called to continual conversion and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, along with his brother bishops, have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

In addition to the proposed document, the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis has detailed plans for a three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which would aim to share the love of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with the world. This revival has the opportunity to have a tremendous impact – as it would be designed to affect every level of the church, from the home and parish to the national stage.

To learn more about the proposed document on the Eucharist, the Bishops’ vote to approve the drafting of the document or the planned “Eucharistic Revival,” please click here.

His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointments, effective as follows:

Clergy Assignments: 

Reverend Mark J. DeCelles, to Assistant Pastor, St. Nicholas Parish and Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Wilkes-Barre, effective July 20, 2021.

Reverend J. Duane Gavitt, from Pastor, Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Wilkes Barre to Pastor St. Elizabeth’s Parish, Bear Creek, and St. Rita Parish, Gouldsboro, effective July 20, 2021.

Reverend Thomas J. Maloney, from Sacramental Minister, St. Elizabeth’s Parish, Bear Creek, effective July 20, 2021.

Reverend Patrick D. McDowell, from Pastor, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Weston, to Pastor Emeritus, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Weston, effective June 30, 2021.

Reverend James R. Nash, from Pastor, St. Faustina Kowalska Parish, Nanticoke and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Lake Silkworth, to Pastor Emeritus, St. Faustina Kowalska Parish, Nanticoke and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Lake Silkworth, effective August 11, 2021

Reverend Carmen J. Perry, from Pastor, St. Luke Parish, Stroudsburg, to Chaplain, Mercy Center, Dallas, effective July 20, 2021.

Monsignor Joseph G. Quinn, J.D., J.C.L., from Pastor Our Lady of the Snows Parish, Clarks Summit, to Pastor, St. John Neumann Parish, Scranton and St. Paul of the Cross Parish, Scranton, effective July 20, 2021.

Reverend Brian F. Van Fossen, from Pastor, St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Williamsport, to Pastor, St. Faustina Kowalska Parish, Nanticoke and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Lake Silkworth, effective August 11, 2021.

Reverend Joseph D. Verespy, to Pastor, Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Wilkes Barre, effective July 20, 2021.  Father Verespy will continue to serve as Pastor, St. Nicholas Parish, Wilkes Barre.

Reverend John J. Victoria, from Chaplain, Mercy Center, Dallas, to retirement for reasons of health, effective July 20, 2021.

Parish Life Coordinator Assignment:

Mr. Anthony Butel,  from Parish Life Coordinator, St. Elizabeth’s Parish, Bear Creek and St. Rita Parish, Gouldsboro, effective July 20, 2021.


 June 25, 2021                                                                  

HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference today praised the PA Senate for passing HB 184 by Rep. Dawn Keefer (R-Cumberland, York). The bill increases criminal penalties for those convicted of aiding or encouraging a minor or someone with an intellectual disability to commit suicide.

The measure has already passed the House and will head to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

“This has been a growing problem throughout all of society, due in large part to the popularity of social media,” said Eric Failing, the Executive Director of the PCC. “There are people who will prey upon those who are thinking of taking their own lives by trying to actually convince them to do it. These victims should be getting professional help instead of listening to hateful people on-line who only want to harm others. We must send a message to them that this will not be tolerated.”

Failing noted the hard work and leadership of Rep. Keefer in pushing the bill through both chambers. Keefer called the bill “Shawn’s Law” in honor of Shawn Shatto, a young woman in her district who took her own life after she was given a step-by-step guide on how to poison herself by a suicide website.

Failing also praised the courage and determination of Shawn’s mother, Jacqueline Bieber, who has advocated for the bill, even in the face of attacks from those who defend the kind of guidance that was given to her daughter.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is based in Harrisburg and is the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops.



UPDATE: Governor Tom Wolf signed all three bills – HB 246, HB 843 and HB 1147 – into law on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

June 25, 2021                 

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference commended PA Senate members for today’s passage of three bills designed to fight human trafficking. The PCC supports these measures in its on-going efforts to tackle the problem.

“Human trafficking is a scourge that not only still exists, but thrives all around us,” said Eric Failing, the Executive Director of the PCC. “These bills combine to form a strong package of penalties, treatment and youth protection that we believe will help to stop human traffickers and their recruiters.”

The three bills that passed today will now go to the Governor’s desk for his signature. They are:

  • HB 246 by Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny, Washington), which would offer protections for victims of human trafficking in criminal proceedings against alleged perpetrators
  • HB 843 by Rep. David Rowe (R-Snyder, Union), which would require that human trafficking offenses be considered in a parent’s bid for child custody
  • HB 1147 by Rep. Valerie Gaydos (R-Allegheny), which would require sex offender training for those convicted of human trafficking

“Human trafficking is a growing problem, but legislation like this will certainly help in many aspects of the problem,” Failing said. “It was encouraging to see near-unanimous support for these bills in both the House and Senate.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is based in Harrisburg and is the public affairs arm of PA’s Catholic bishops. 


DUNMORE – Nearly 30 young men from across the Diocese of Scranton spent several days this week deepening their faith and learning more about various vocations as part of Quo Vadis Days 2021 at Marywood University.

Participants got a chance to spend time in prayer, listen to several talks and presentations and participate in games, sports and other activities.

Quo Vadis Days began on Sunday, June 20, and ended on the evening of Tuesday, June 22, 2021.

Juan Lugo, a parishioner of Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg, attended Quo Vadis for the second time this summer.

“Quo Vadis is a really amazing experience. It’s something you get to cherish,” Lugo said. “It’s something that will strengthen your relationship with God and make everything more possible in His sight and everything He has planned.”

Participants also got the opportunity to meet Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, along with several priests and seminarians from the Diocese. While young men could learn more about the process of becoming a priest – they also learned about the vocation of marriage and much more.

“It’s a chance for the young men of the Diocese to really open their minds,” Dominic Tavani, a parishioner of Saints Peter & Paul Parish in Towanda, said.

As this year’s Quo Vadis experience ended, Tavani said he – and the other participants – would take the energy and inspiration back to their home parishes.

“You don’t stop. You keep praying. You keep your mind open. You keep saying ‘yes’ to God. You keep in contact with the friends you made. This is the start of something that helps them change their lives and helps them become the person they’re called to be.”

That is something that Lugo agrees with.

“The main message of ‘where are you going’ is something you can constantly ask yourself on a daily basis. You can put that in any situation. Only God knows where you’re headed,” Lugo added.



A priest prepares to distribute Communion during Mass in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked the nation’s Catholics to pray for him and his brother bishops “as we continue our dialogues and reflections” in the process of drafting a document on the “meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church.”

“I pray that this will be a time for all of us in the church to reflect on our own faith and readiness to receive our Lord in the holy Eucharist,” Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said in a statement released late June 21.

During their virtual spring general assembly June 16-18, the bishops approved in a 168-55 vote, with six abstentions, the drafting of this document. The vote followed a lengthy debate June 17 and the results were announced the following day.

The USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine will draft it and present the document for discussion when the bishops reconvene in person in November for their fall general assembly.

“My brother bishops and I voted overwhelmingly to issue a teaching document on the beauty and power of the Eucharist,” Archbishop Gomez said.

As the committee begins drafting it, “in the months ahead the bishops will continue our prayer and discernment through a series of regional meetings and consultations,” he said, noting they’ll discuss the draft at their fall meeting.

“The Eucharist is the heart of the church and the heart of our lives as Catholics,” he said. “In the holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ himself draws near to each one of us personally and gathers us together as one family of God and one body of Christ.”

“As bishops, our desire is to deepen our people’s awareness of this great mystery of faith, and to awaken their amazement at this divine gift, in which we have communion with the living God,” Archbishop Gomez added. “That is our pastoral purpose in writing this document.”

Before they voted, debate lasted for over two hours, and 43 bishops expressed differing views about drafting such a document. Some stressed the document was necessary to provide clarity about the significance of the Eucharist, while others questioned its timing and if it could be perceived as fracturing the unity of a church already faced with numerous challenges.

Although the bishops reached no consensus during the discussion, most of those who spoke during the comments’ session welcomed the idea of strengthening teaching about the Eucharist.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the doctrine committee, presented a proposed outline to the bishops June 17 in a prerecorded message. It would include three parts, subtitled “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed,” “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated” and “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Lived.”

As proposed, each part includes three topics that would be addressed including, respectively, the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in Communion; unity, beauty and identity as the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life”; and moral transformation, eucharistic consistency and missionary discipleship.

Bishop Rhoades said this was developed in light of the decline in Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist as well as the long absences from regular Mass attendance, which may have led to people placing less significance on the Eucharist in their lives.

He also said the document was never intended to present national norms for the reception of the Eucharist, but to serve as a teaching tool for Catholics about the reception of holy Communion as a grace-filled gift.


Abortion demonstrators are seen near the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 4, 2020. The Hyde Amendment would prevent federal funding for abortion as a permanent part of the law. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and several other Republican leaders in the House asked their Democratic counterparts June 22 to take up a measure introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., that would make the long-standing Hyde Amendment permanent.

Smith’s bill is called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2021, or H.R. 18. It has 166 co-sponsors.

The Hyde Amendment, which first became law in 1976, prohibits use of federal Medicaid dollars for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered. Named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican, the amendment is renewed every year as part of spending measures.

It was excluded, however, in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act signed into law March 11 by President Joe Biden, a Catholic. It also was not part of the proposed federal budget Biden released May 28.

A day before the House GOP leaders issued their call for Democrats to make Hyde permanent, a coalition of 22 state attorneys general, led by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, asked Congress to keep the Hyde Amendment in the federal budget “after it was conspicuously removed by the Biden administration.”

Joining McCarthy in calling for unanimous consent for H.R. 18 to go forward were House Whip Steve Scalise R-La.; Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., chair of the GOP House Conference; and Smith and the other three co-chairs of the House Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, Reps. Andy Harris, R-Md., Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., and Kat Cammack, R-Fla.

“Lives have been saved by the Hyde Amendment,” said Smith, a Catholic, who has supported the measure for over four decades. “Over 2.4 million people who would have been aborted instead survived and their mothers benefited from prenatal health care and support.

“Furthermore, polling consistently shows that a majority of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion — early 6 in 10 according to a Marist poll released earlier this year.”

In a statement June 22 and in comments on the House floor June 23, Smith pointed out that years ago, then-Sen. Biden “wrote to constituents explaining his support for the Hyde Amendment and said it would ‘protect both the woman and her unborn child.’ He said: ‘I have consistently — on no fewer than 50 occasions — voted against federal funding of abortions … those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.’ I totally agree.”

Ahead of the November 2020 election, Biden said he no longer supported the Hyde Amendment. He and his running mate, now-Vice President Kamala Harris, also vowed to support congressional efforts to codify Roe in the event that Roe is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Growing numbers of Americans continue to be shocked to learn that the methods of abortion include dismemberment of a child’s fragile body including decapitation, and that drugs like RU-486 starve the baby to death before he or she is forcibly expelled from the womb,” Smith said on the House floor.

“The multibillion-dollar abortion industry cleverly markets the sophistry of choice while going to extraordinary lengths to ignore, trivialize and cover-up the battered baby-victim,” he continued.

“By reason of their age, dependency, immaturity, inconvenience, fragility and/or unwantedness, unborn children have been denied justice — and the most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life,” Smith said.

“The right to life is for everyone,” he added, “not just the planned, the privileged or the perfect.”

Harris, who also is Catholic, said in a June 22 statement: “At a time when this commonsense and historically bipartisan amendment faces serious threats from congressional pro-abortion Democrats — with the support of the Biden administration — it is more important than ever to stand up and push back on the radical pro-abortion agenda.”

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee and co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus, he said he strongly opposes using “taxpayer funding for abortion” and that he “will continue to advocate for protecting the Hyde Amendment.”

Like Smith and Harris, Scalise, Stefanik and Fischbach also are Catholic.

In addition to making the Hyde Amendment permanent, H.R. 18’s provisions also would, among other things:

— Permanently prevent the federal government from funding abortions.

— Ensure the Affordable Care Act conforms with the Hyde Amendment.

— Codify the Smith Amendment, which prohibits federal employee health care plans from funding abortion.

— Prohibit federal funding of abortion in several other federal programs throughout government agencies.

In the June 21 letter addressed to House and Senate leaders and signed by 22 attorneys general, Alabama’s Marshall wrote: “The decision by President Biden to reject the Hyde Amendment and attempt to force states to fund activity that is violative of their own laws and policies is an affront to state sovereignty. … Congress should resist following President Biden down this path and should instead maintain the Hyde Amendment language in the budget it ultimately passes.”

“Fighting for the freedom of conscience has been a hallmark of state attorneys general. We have a unique interest in the Hyde Amendment as an important protection for the consciences of the millions of Americans who oppose public funding of abortion,” he said.

The letter was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said June 23 that supporting the Hyde Amendment “is not only the right thing to do, but the majority of Americans also support such pro-life protections.”

“We applaud Rep. Chris Smith, Rep. Kat Cammack, Rep. Michelle Fischbach and so many others, who are seeking to make these protections permanent,” he said.

In separate statements issued the day Biden released his budget without the Hyde Amendment, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, acknowledged the president’s budget proposal included several provisions to help vulnerable Americans.

But, they said, it was remiss in leaving out Hyde, which protects the most vulnerable — the unborn.

In March, when Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act into law, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the chairmen of six USCCB committees in a joint statement praised its “positive provisions” to help people in “extremely desperate situations” because of the pandemic.

However, they called it “unconscionable” that Congress passed the bill without the Hyde Amendment.

Diocesan Respect Life coordinators in Catholic dioceses and the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops are encouraging Catholics to speak out in support of the Hyde Amendment and to sign a petition at telling Congress to keep the amendment intact. The petition can be found at https://bit.ly/3qnupu8



An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this March 22, 2017, file photo. The pope has chosen the theme “I am with you always,” for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to be celebrated July 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Writing to his peers, Catholics who have reached a venerable age like he has, Pope Francis told older Catholics that God is close to them and still has plans for their lives.

“I was called to become the bishop of Rome when I had reached, so to speak, retirement age, and thought I would not be doing anything new,” said the pope, who is 84 now and was elected when he was 76.

“The Lord is always – always – close to us. He is close to us with new possibilities, new ideas, new consolations, but always close to us. You know that the Lord is eternal; he never, ever goes into retirement,” the pope wrote in his message for the Catholic Church’s first celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

The message was released at the Vatican June 22 in anticipation of the celebration July 25, the Sunday closest to the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents.

The Vatican also announced that people who attend a Mass or other celebration for the day, “devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty” or join in prayers for the elderly July 25 can receive a plenary indulgence as long as they fulfill the usual requirements of also going to confession, receiving the Eucharist and praying for the intentions of the pope.

The indulgence also is available to “the elderly sick and all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite themselves spiritually to the sacred functions of the world day, offering to the merciful God their prayers, pains or sufferings of their lives,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis’ message, which was distributed in writing and on video, acknowledged how much many older people around the world suffered and continue to suffer physically, emotionally and spiritually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he also insisted that the Christian call to share the Gospel is as pertinent now for all of them as it ever was.

“Think about it: what is our vocation today, at our age? To preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young and to care for the little ones,” he wrote. “Never forget this.”

“It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance,” he said. “There is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.”

Pope Francis said he knew many older people might wonder how they could be called to something new when their “energy is running out” or they cannot even leave the residence where they live. They may even ask, “Isn’t my solitude already a sufficiently heavy burden?”

“You are needed in order to help build, in fraternity and social friendship, the world of tomorrow: the world in which we, together with our children and grandchildren, will live once the storm has subsided,” the pope insisted.

A better future, he said, must be built on the pillars of “dreams, memory and prayer,” pillars that “even the frailest among us” can help erect with God’s help.

While it is true that the energy and enthusiasm of the young is needed to help set the global society on a new path, “our dreams of justice, of peace, of solidarity can make it possible for our young people to have new visions,” the pope wrote. “You need to show that it is possible to emerge renewed from an experience of hardship. I am sure that you have had more than one such experience: in your life you have faced any number of troubles and yet were able to pull through. Use those experiences to learn how to pull through now.”

While many people, young and old, act as if the reminiscences of the elderly are boring, Pope Francis said that “without memory, however, we will never be able to build; without a foundation, we can never build a house. Never. And the foundation of life is memory.”

As examples, the pope cited the experience many older people have had of war or of needing to emigrate.

Sharing “the painful memory of war,” he said, is important “for helping the young to learn the value of peace.”

“I also think of my own grandparents, and those among you who had to emigrate and know how hard it is to leave everything behind, as so many people continue to do today, in hope of a future,” he said. “Some of those people may even now be at our side, caring for us. These kinds of memory can help to build a more humane and welcoming world.”

Turning to the importance of prayer, Pope Francis cited “my predecessor, Pope Benedict, himself a saintly elderly person who continues to pray and work for the church” at the age of 94.

“The prayer of the elderly can protect the world, helping it perhaps more effectively than the frenetic activity of many others,” the pope quoted his predecessor as saying. “He spoke those words in 2012, toward the end of his pontificate. There is something beautiful here.”

“Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the church and the world urgently need,” Pope Francis told the elderly. “Especially in these difficult times for our human family, as we continue to sail in the same boat across the stormy sea of the pandemic, your intercession for the world and for the church has great value: it inspires in everyone the serene trust that we will soon come to shore.”

The text of the pope’s message in English is at: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/nonni/documents/20210531-messaggio-nonni-anziani.html

The text of the message in Spanish: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/messages/nonni/documents/20210531-messaggio-nonni-anziani.html