Pope urges support for elderly during pandemic

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis led pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Sunday blessing in a round of applause for elderly people suffering from loneliness during the pandemic.

Francis, on the feast day for Jesus’s maternal grandparents Saints Anne and Joachim, urged the faithful to consider every elderly person his or her own grandparent.

‘’Don’t leave them alone,’’ he implored, urging the faithful to reach out with a phone call, video chat or a visit where possible under distancing rules to impede the virus’ spread.

‘’I would like to invite young people to make a gesture of tenderness toward the elderly, especially those who are alone, at home and in residences, those who for many months have not seen loved ones,’’ the pope said.

‘’Send them a hug,’’ the pope said. ‘’They are your roots.’’

The elderly have been especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus, and outbreaks in nursing homes have proven particularly deadly. In many places, the elderly are not permitted visits from loved ones, and are restricted to periodic phone calls and video chats, or at most a wave through a window.