Pope institutes Catholic day to honour the elderly

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Pope Francis holds weekly general audience

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday instituted a "World day for Grandparents and the Elderly" in the Roman Catholic Church to be marked once a year to honour them and to underscore their importance to society.

Francis, making the surprise announcement at his Sunday noon address, said it would be marked on the fourth Sunday of July each year in Catholic communities around the world.

The Catholic Church already has a World Day of Peace, which Pope Paul instituted in 1967, a World Day of Youth, which Pope John Paul II established in 1984, and a World Day of the Poor, which Francis started in 2017.

The worldwide Church holds special events and religious services on those days to draw attention to the needs and attributes of the groups.

Francis, 84, has often called on society to cherish the elderly as a source of wisdom and experience and he has lamented a "throwaway culture" that puts them aside because they are no longer productive.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)