During the coronavirus pandemic, saving the elderly must be just as important as saving others, the Vatican’s Laity, Family, and Life dicastery has said.

In an April 6 statement, the dicastery said “despite the complexity of the situation we live in, it is necessary to clarify that saving the lives of the elderly who live within residential homes or who are alone or sick, is a priority as much as saving any other person.”

“Faced with the scenario of a generation hit so severely, we have a common responsibility, which stems from the awareness of the invaluable value of every human life and from gratitude to our fathers and grandparents,” it continued.

The statement noted that in Italy, one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is estimated that 80% of the people who have so far lost their lives to the virus were over the age of 70.

As of Tuesday, over 17,000 people have died in Italy from the coronavirus, with victims having an average age of 78 and a median age of 80. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 78,000 people have died from COVID-19 worldwide.

The dicastery warned that loneliness is an added threat to the elderly; and said that loneliness could be the “previous pathology” which weakens an older person and makes the virus “more lethal” for him or her.

“It is no coincidence that we are witnessing the death, in terrible proportions and ways, of many people who live far from their families, and in truly debilitating and disheartening conditions of solitude,” the laity office underlined.

The dicastery said it is important for the Church to serve the elderly and find ways to combat loneliness in this difficult time, especially when in-person visits are not possible.

It praised those who are making calls and sending video messages and letters to those who are alone, as well as the parishes which are delivering food and necessities to those who cannot go out.

It also noted that “almost everywhere, priests continue to visit homes to dispense the sacraments.”

“But the gravity of the moment calls all of us to do more,” the statement urged.

The dicastery said “as individuals and as local churches, we can do much for the elderly: pray for them, cure the disease of loneliness, activate solidarity networks and much more.”

This generational impact calls the Church to “a common responsibility,” the laity office said, underlining that the coronavirus “affects the future of our ecclesial communities and our societies because, as Pope Francis recently said, 'the elderly are the present and tomorrow of the Church.’”

“So let us join in prayer for grandparents and the elderly around the world. Let us gather around them with our thoughts and hearts, and when possible, let’s act, so that they are not alone,” the statement concluded.