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, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, 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, January 31, 2020.

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 emphasized 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 favorite 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 recognized 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 organizes 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

Maire Printer was born in Glasgow, Scotland. She graduated as a primary school teacher in 1962 and was married in 1965. Maire is a mother of four and grandmother of six. In 1969 Maire and her husband moved out of Glasgow city and opened a small hotel on the road to Loch Lomond. They operated this business until 1983 when they moved to Westport in Co Mayo where Maire still lives. Her husband died very suddenly in 1988.  Maire was part of the parish team which set up the Renew program. She helps to prepare children for the Sacraments and is a member of the Diocesan Mission Team. Maire was the Diocesan Delegate for WMOF2018 and has been a member of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family for six years.  In 2013, she was invited to become the President of the Catholic Grandparents Association, a position she held for four years.

Gerry Mangan, a native of County Leitrim was based in Dublin for most of his working life, but now divides his time between the two counties. He is married with four children and nine grandchildren. He started his career as a secondary school teacher. He switched to the Civil service, mainly the then Department of Social Welfare, and worked largely in policy, including on pensions, benefits for carers, lone parents, migrants, poverty and social exclusion.  Gerry represented Ireland internationally on these policy areas including at the EU, Council of Europe, OECD and the UN.  He has had a life-long commitment to the Church. He has been a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society for much of his adult life, of his Parish Council, Teams of Our Lady and, for a period, Marriage Encounter. For the past ten years, he has been a member of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family.                                                       

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