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Papal Messages

Angelus message of Pope Benedict XVI on the commemoration of All Souls

(November 2, 2008) 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday the feast of All Saints brought us to contemplate “your holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother” (Preface, All Saints). Today, with our heart still turned toward this ultimate reality, we commemorate all of the faithful departed, who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith and… who sleep in Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer I). It is very important that we Christians live a relationship of the truth of the faith with the deceased and that we view death and the afterlife in the light of Revelation. Already the Apostle Paul, writing to the first communities, exhorted the faithful to “not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since”, he wrote, “we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thes 4: 13-14). Today too, it is necessary to evangelize about the reality of death and eternal life, realities particularly subject to superstitious beliefs and syncretisms, so that the Christian truth does not risk mixing itself with myths of various types.

In my Encyclical on Christian hope, I questioned myself about the mystery of eternal life (cf.Spe salvi, 10-12). I asked myself: “Is the Christian faith a hope that transforms and sustains the lives of people still today?” (cf. ibid., n. 10). And more radically: “Do men and women of our time still long for eternal life? Or has earthly existence perhaps become their only horizon?” In reality, as St Augustine had already observed, all of us want a “blessed life”, happiness. We rarely know what it is like or how it will be, but we feel attracted to it. This is a universal hope, common to men and women of all times and all places. The expression “eternal life” aims to give a name to this irrepressible longing; it is not an unending succession of days, but an immersion of oneself in the ocean of infinite love, in which time, before and after, no longer exists. A fullness of life and of joy: it is this that we hope and await from our being with Christ (cf. ibid, 12).

Today we renew the hope in eternal life, truly founded on Christ’s death and Resurrection. “I am risen and I am with you always”, the Lord tells us, and my hand supports you. Wherever you may fall, you will fall into my hands and I will be there even to the gates of death. Where no one can accompany you any longer and where you can take nothing with you, there I will wait for you to transform for you the darkness into light. Christian hope, however, is not solely individual, it is also always a hope for others. Our lives are profoundly linked, one to the other, and the good and the bad that each of us does always effects others too. Hence, the prayer of a pilgrim soul in the world can help another soul that is being purified after death. This is why the Church invites us today to pray for our beloved deceased and to pause at their tombs in the cemeteries. Mary, Star of Hope, renders our faith in eternal life stronger and more authentic, and supports our prayer of suffrage for our deceased brethren.

 

Angelus message of Pope Benedict XVI on the Solemnity of All Saints

(November 1, 2007) 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On today’s Solemnity of All Saints, our hearts are dilated to the dimensions of Heaven, exceeding the limits of time and space. At the beginning of Christianity, the members of the Church were also called “saints”. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul addresses “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor 1: 2). Indeed, Christians are already saints because Baptism unites them to Jesus and to his Paschal Mystery, but at the same time they must become so by conforming themselves every more closely to him. Sometimes, people think that holiness is a privileged condition reserved for the few elect. Actually, becoming holy is every Christian’s task, indeed, we could say, every person’s! The Apostle writes that God has always blessed us and has chosen us in Christ “that we should be holy and blameless before him… in love” (Eph 1: 3-5). All human beings are therefore called to holiness, which ultimately consists in living as children of God, in that “likeness” with him in accordance with which they were created. All human beings are children of God and all must become what they are by means of the demanding process of freedom. God invites everyone to belong to his holy people. The “Way” is Christ, the Son, the Holy One of God: “no one comes to the Father but by me [Jesus]” (cf. Jn 14: 6).

The Church has wisely placed in close succession the Feast of All Saints and All Souls’ Day. Our prayer of praise to God and veneration of the blessed spirits which today’s liturgy presents to us as “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rv 7: 9), is united with prayers of suffrage for all who have preceded us in passing from this world to eternal life. Tomorrow, we shall be dedicating our prayers to them in a special way and we will celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice for them. To tell the truth, the Church invites us to pray for them every day, also offering our daily sufferings and efforts so that, completely purified, they may be admitted to the eternal joy of light and peace in the Lord.

The Virgin Mary is resplendent at the centre of the Assembly of Saints, “created beings all in lowliness surpassing, as in height, above them all” (Dante, Paradise, Canto XXXIII, 2). By putting our hand in hers, we feel encouraged to walk more enthusiastically on the path of holiness. Let us entrust to her our daily work and pray to her today for our dear departed, in the intimate hope of meeting one another all together one day in the glorious Communion of Saints.

  

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI on the Solemnity of All Saints

(November 1, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our Eucharistic celebration began with the exhortation: “Let us all rejoice in the Lord”. The liturgy invites us to share in the heavenly jubilation of the Saints, to taste their joy. The Saints are not a small caste of chosen souls but an innumerable crowd to which the liturgy urges us to raise our eyes. This multitude not only includes the officially recognized Saints, but the baptized of every epoch and nation who sought to carry out the divine will faithfully and lovingly. We are unacquainted with the faces and even the names of many of them, but with the eyes of faith we see them shine in God’s firmament like glorious stars.

Today, the Church is celebrating her dignity as “Mother of the Saints, an image of the Eternal City” (A. Manzoni), and displays her beauty as the immaculate Bride of Christ, source and model of all holiness. She certainly does not lack contentious or even rebellious children, but it is in the Saints that she recognizes her characteristic features and precisely in them savours her deepest joy.

In the first reading, the author of the Book of Revelation describes them as “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rv 7: 9).

This people includes the Saints of the Old Testament, starting with the righteous Abel and the faithful Patriarch, Abraham, those of the New Testament, the numerous early Christian Martyrs and the Blesseds and Saints of later centuries, to the witnesses of Christ in this epoch of ours.

They are all brought together by the common desire to incarnate the Gospel in their lives under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the life-giving spirit of the People of God.

But “why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this Solemnity, mean anything to the Saints?”. A famous homily of St Bernard for All Saints’ Day begins with this question. It could equally well be asked today. And the response the Saint offers us is also timely: “The Saints”, he says, “have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs…. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning” (Disc. 2, Opera Omnia Cisterc. 5, 364ff.).

This, then, is the meaning of today’s Solemnity: looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and solemnly proposed today for our attention.

But how can we become holy, friends of God? We can first give a negative answer to this question: to be a Saint requires neither extraordinary actions or works nor the possession of exceptional charisms. Then comes the positive reply: it is necessary first of all to listen to Jesus and then to follow him without losing heart when faced by difficulties. “If anyone serves me”, he warns us, “he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honour him” (Jn 12: 26).

Like the grain of wheat buried in the earth, those who trust him and love him sincerely accept dying to themselves. Indeed, he knows that whoever seeks to keep his life for himself loses it, and whoever gives himself, loses himself, and in this very way finds life (cf. Jn 12: 24-25).

The Church’s experience shows that every form of holiness, even if it follows different paths, always passes through the Way of the Cross, the way of self-denial. The Saints’ biographies describe men and women who, docile to the divine plan, sometimes faced unspeakable trials and suffering, persecution and martyrdom. They persevered in their commitment: “they… have come out of the great tribulation”, one reads in Revelation, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rv 7: 14). Their names are written in the book of life (cf. Rv 20: 12) and Heaven is their eternal dwelling-place.

The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him.

Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy (cf. Is 6: 3). In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I Jn 3: 1).

It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us his adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love: how can we be indifferent before such a great mystery? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father’s love by living as grateful children? In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him.

Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to him the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that he loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, “losing ourselves”, and it is precisely this that makes us happy.

Thus, we have come to the Gospel of this feast, the proclamation of the Beatitudes which we have just heard resound in this Basilica.

Jesus says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed those who mourn, the meek; blessed those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful; blessed the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted for the sake of justice (cf. Mt 5: 3-10).

In truth, the blessed par excellence is only Jesus. He is, in fact, the true poor in spirit, the one afflicted, the meek one, the one hungering and thirsting for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker. He is the one persecuted for the sake of justice.

The Beatitudes show us the spiritual features of Jesus and thus express his mystery, the mystery of his death and Resurrection, of his passion and of the joy of his Resurrection. This mystery, which is the mystery of true blessedness, invites us to follow Jesus and thus to walk toward it.

To the extent that we accept his proposal and set out to follow him – each one in his own circumstances—we too can participate in his blessedness. With him, the impossible becomes possible and even a camel can pass through the eye of a needle (cf. Mk 10: 25); with his help, only with his help, can we become perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5: 48).

Dear brothers and sisters, we are now entering the heart of the Eucharistic celebration that encourages and nourishes holiness. In a little while, Christ will make himself present in the most exalted way, Christ the true Vine to whom the faithful on earth and the Saints in Heaven are united like branches.

Thus, the communion of the pilgrim Church in the world with the Church triumphant in glory will increase.

In the Preface we will proclaim that the Saints are friends and models of life for us. Let us invoke them so that they may help us to imitate them and strive to respond generously, as they did, to the divine call.

In particular, let us invoke Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. May she, the All Holy, make us faithful disciples of her Son Jesus Christ! Amen.

 

Angelus message of Pope John Paul II on the commemoration of All Souls

(November 2, 2003)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. After having celebrated yesterday the Solemnity of All Saints, today, 2 November, our prayerful gaze is directed toward those who have departed from this world and are awaiting arrival into the Heavenly City. The Church has always strongly advised that we pray for the dead. She invites believers to regard the mystery of death not as the “last word” of human destiny but rather as a passage to eternal life. As we read in the Preface of today’s Mass:  “When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven”.

2. It is an important obligation to pray for the dead, because even if they have died in grace and in God’s friendship, they may still need final purification in order to enter the joy of Heaven (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1030). Prayer for the dead is expressed in various ways, one of which is also visiting the cemeteries. Pausing in these sacred places becomes an ideal occasion to reflect on the meaning of earthly life and at the same time to nourish hope in the blessed eternity of Paradise.

May Mary, Gate of Heaven, help us never to forget and never to lose sight of the Heavenly Homeland, the final destination of our pilgrimage here on earth.

 

Angelus message of Pope John Paul II on the commemoration of All Souls

 (November 2, 1997)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints and today the liturgy invites us to commemorate the faithful departed. The Church links her contemplation of those who have already attained God’s glory with her remembrance of those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and who now sleep in peace (cf. Roman Canon).

I spiritually join all who in these days are visiting the graves of their departed ones in the cemeteries of Rome and the whole world. I go on spiritual pilgrimage especially to where the victims of violence and war, of injustice and hunger are buried. May Jesus, who said: “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25), grant to all the departed the rest of the just and the fullness of eternal life.

2. The Church’s tradition has always recommended prayers for the dead. The basis for this prayer of suffrage is found in the communion of the Mystical Body. As the Second Vatican Council stresses: “In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in her pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honoured with great respect the memory of the dead” (Lumen gentium, n. 50).

Therefore she encourages cemetery visits, the care of graves and prayers of suffrage as a witness of confident hope, amid the sorrow of being separated from one’s loved ones. Death is not the last word on human fate, because man is destined for endless life, which finds its fulfilment in God.

For this reason, the Council emphasizes: “Faith, with its solidly based teaching, provides every thoughtful man with an answer to his anxious queries about his future lot. At the same time it makes him able to be united in Christ with his loved ones who have already died, and gives hope that they have found true life in God” (Gaudium et spes, n. 18).

3. With this belief in man’s ultimate destiny, we now turn to Mary, who experienced the drama of Christ’s death at the foot of the Cross and then shared in the joy of his Resurrection. May she, the Gate of Heaven, help us more and more to understand the value of praying for our departed loved ones. May she sustain us each day on our earthly pilgrimage and help us never to lose sight of the ultimate goal of life, which is paradise.


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