Pope Francis kisses a baby as he arrives at the archbishop's palace in Rio de Janeiro July 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis kisses a baby as he arrives at the archbishop's palace in Rio de Janeiro July 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) — The 76-year-old Pope Francis went to World Youth Day with grandparents, or at least society's elders, on his mind, and he honored them in a special way July 26, the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne and Grandparents Day in many countries.

In dozens of homilies and speeches since becoming pope in March, Pope Francis has referred with great affection to his grandmother, Rosa, and her role in teaching him the faith.

Reciting the Angelus July 26 with tens of thousands of people gathered in the square outside the archbishop of Rio's residence, the pope highlighted the importance of grandparents “for family life (and) for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society.”

Even on the airplane heading to Rio de Janeiro and World Youth Day, Pope Francis had the older segment of society on his mind. He spoke to journalists about the danger of societies tossing aside the young just like they often do with the aged. And, again July 25, during a meeting with Argentine pilgrims in Rio, he spoke against a world so concerned with making money that it ignores the needs and wisdom of the elderly as well as the potential and energy of the young.

Talking about Jesus' grandparents in his Angelus address, Pope Francis said Sts. Joachim and Anne surrounded Mary with “their love and faith. In their home, she learned to listen to the Lord and to follow his will.”

Mary's parents, he said, “were part of a long chain of people who had transmitted their love for God, expressed in the warmth and love of family life, down to Mary, who received the Son of God in her womb and who gave him to the world, to us.”

“How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith,” the pope said. “How important grandparents are for family life.”

Pope Francis said every person, every family and every society needs a dialogue and exchange between the young and the old.

Quoting the document he was in charge of drafting during the Latin American bishops' meeting in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007, the pope said, “Children and the elderly build the future of peoples: children because they lead history forward, the elderly because they transmit the experience and wisdom of their lives.”

The pope said he hoped the crowd gathered for the midday prayer would “feel like one big family” as they turned to Mary to recite the Angelus and ask her to “protect our families and make them places of faith and love in which the presence of Jesus her son is felt.”

Pope Francis led the Angelus after a morning dedicated to several private events. He began the day celebrating Mass with a group of Jesuits, then went to Rio's Quinta da Boa Vista Park, which had been dotted with portable confessionals for World Youth Day. The pope administered the sacrament to three young men and two young women in Spanish, Portuguese or Italian.

When he arrived at the archbishop's residence, he held a private meeting with eight young prison inmates from four different youth detention facilities in Rio de Janeiro state.

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By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service.