Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reflections on the Commemoration of All Souls
by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0347: Reflections on the Commemoration of All Souls 

by Pope Benedict XVI 

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on 2 November (or close to this date) for the commemoration of All Souls, in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Here are the texts of one brief address prior to the recitation of the Angelus and eight homilies delivered on these occasions.



Saint Peter’s Basilica, 11 November 2005

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The month of November draws its special spiritual tone from the two days with which it opens:  the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of all the faithful departed. The mystery of the communion of saints illumines this month and the whole of the last part of the liturgical year in particular, directing our meditation to the earthly destiny of man in the light of Christ’s Pasch.

In it is founded that hope which, as St Paul said, is such that it “will not leave us disappointed” (see Rom 5: 5). Today’s celebration fits into this very context in which faith sublimates sentiments deeply engraved into the human soul. 

The great family of the Church finds in these days a time of grace and lives them, in accordance with her vocation, gathered closely around the Lord in prayer and offering his redeeming Sacrifice for the repose of the deceased faithful. Today, we offer it especially for the Cardinals and Bishops who have departed from us in this past year.

For a long time I was a member of the College of Cardinals, of which I was Dean for two and a half years. I therefore feel particularly attached to this special community over which I also had the honor to preside during the unforgettable days that followed the departure of the beloved Pope John Paul II.

Among the other shining examples he left us, his most precious is that of prayer, and at this time we are also piecing together his spiritual heritage, aware that his intercession continues even more intensely from Heaven.

In the past 12 months, five venerable Brother Cardinals have passed to “the other bank”:  Juan Carlos Aramburu, Jan Pieter Schotte, Corrado Bafile, Jaime Sin and, less than a month ago, Giuseppe Caprio. Today, together with their souls, let us entrust to the Lord the souls of the Archbishops and Bishops who have ended their earthly lives in the same period. Together, let us raise our prayers for each one of them, in the light of God’s words to us in this Liturgy.

The passage from the Book of Sirach contains first of all an exhortation to constancy in trial, hence, an invitation to trust in God. To men and women who are passing through the vicissitudes of life, Wisdom recommends:  “Cling to him [the Lord], forsake him not; thus will your future be great” (Sir 2: 3).

Those who place themselves at the Lord’s service and spend their lives in the ecclesial ministry are not exempt from trials; on the contrary, the trials are even more insidious, as the experience of the saints shows.

However, living in fear of God sets the heart free from any fear and immerses it into the abyss of his love. “You who fear the Lord, trust him... hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy” (Sir 2: 8-9).

This invitation to trust is directly linked to the beginning of the passage of John’s Gospel just proclaimed:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, Jesus said to the Apostles at the Last Supper. “Have faith in God and have faith also in me” (Jn 14: 1). The human heart, ever restless until it finds a safe landing place in its wanderings, here at last reaches the solid rock where it can stop and rest.

Those who trust in Jesus place their trust in God himself. In fact, Jesus is true Man, but we can have complete and unconditional faith in him because, as he himself said to Philip a little later, he is in the Father and the Father is in him (see Jn 14: 10). In this, God truly came to meet our needs.

We human beings need a friend, a brother who takes us by the hand and accompanies us to the “Father’s house” (Jn 14: 2); we need someone who knows the way well. And God, with his “super-abundant” love for us (see Eph 2: 4), sent his Son not only to point it out to us but to become himself “the way” (Jn 14: 6).

“No one comes to the Father but through me” (Jn 14: 6), Jesus says. That “no one” admits no exceptions:  indeed, it matches another word that Jesus also said at the Last Supper when, offering the cup, he said:  “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26: 28).

There are also “many places” in the Father’s house, in the sense that with God there is room for “all” (see Jn 14: 2). Jesus is the way open to “all”; there are no others. And what seem to be “other” ways, lead to him if they are authentic, or else they do not lead to life. Therefore, in sending his Only-begotten Son, the Father offered humanity a gift that is priceless.

This gift implies a responsibility which is all the greater, the closer the relationship with Jesus is that derives from it. “When much has been given a man”, the Lord says, “much will be required of him. More will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted” (Lk 12: 48).

For this reason, while we thank God for all the benefits that he has bestowed upon our deceased Brothers, let us offer for them the merits of the passion and death of Christ, so that they may fill the gaps due to human frailty.

The Responsorial Psalm (122[121]) and the second reading (I Jn 3: 1-2) enlarge our hearts with the wonder of hope to which we have been called. The Psalmist makes us sing this Psalm as a hymn to Jerusalem, asking us to imitate in spirit the pilgrims who “go up” to the Holy City and after a long climb, arrive full of joy at its gates:  “I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the Lord’. And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem” (Ps 122[121]: 1-2).

The Apostle John, in his First Letter, expresses this joy, communicating to us the certainty, full of gratitude, that we have become children of God and at the same time, the expectation of the full manifestation of this reality:  “We are God’s children now; what we shall later be has not yet come to light... when it comes to light we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I Jn 3: 2).

Venerable and dear Brothers, with our minds turned to this mystery of salvation, let us offer the divine Eucharist for the Cardinals and Prelates who have recently preceded us in the last journey, to eternal life. Let us invoke the intercession of St Peter and of the Blessed Virgin Mary in order that they welcome them to the Father’s house, in the trusting hope that we will one day be able to join them, to enjoy the fullness of life and peace. Amen.



Vatican Basilica, Saturday, 4 November 2006

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the past few days the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls have helped us to meditate on the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage. In this spiritual atmosphere, we have gathered round the altar of the Lord today to celebrate Holy Mass for the repose of the souls of the Cardinals and Bishops whom God has called to himself during the past year.

We see their familiar faces once again as we listen to the names of the late lamented Cardinals who have departed from us in these past 12 months: Leo Scheffczyk, Pio Taofinu’u, Raúl Francisco Primatesta, Angel Suquía Goicoechea, Johannes Willebrands, Louis-Albert Vachon, Dino Monduzzi and Mario Francesco Pompedda. I would also like to name each one of the Archbishops and Bishops, but let the consoling certainty suffice for us that their names “are written in Heaven”, as Jesus once said to the Apostles (Lk 10: 20).

Remembering the names of these brothers of ours in the faith refers us to the Sacrament of Baptism which marked, for each one of them as for every Christian, entry into the Communion of the Saints.

At the end of life, death deprives us of all that is earthly, but not of that Grace and that sacramental “character” by virtue of which we are indissolubly associated with Our Lord and Saviour’s Paschal Mystery. Emptied of all but clothed in Christ:  thus do the baptized cross the threshold of death and are presented to the just and merciful God.

In order that the white garment received in Baptism may be purified of every speck and every stain, the Community of believers offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice and other prayers of suffrage for those whom death has called to pass from time to eternity.

Praying for the dead is a noble practice that implies belief in the resurrection of the dead, in accordance with what has been revealed to us by Sacred Scripture and, in a complete way, by the Gospel.

We have just heard the account of Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones (37: 1-14). This is certainly one of the most important and impressive biblical passages which lends itself to a twofold interpretation.

From the historical viewpoint, it responds to the need for hope by the Israelites deported to Babylon, distressed and afflicted at having to bury their dead in a foreign land.

The Lord announces to them through the mouth of the prophet that he will rescue them from that nightmare and enable them to return to the land of Israel. The evocative image of the bones that come to life and come together thus represents this people, who regains vigor and hope in order to return to their homeland.

However, Ezekiel’s long and eloquent oracle, which exalts the power of the Word of God to whom nothing is impossible, at the same time marks a decisive step ahead towards faith in the resurrection of the dead. This faith was to be fulfilled in the New Testament.

In the light of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, the vision of the dry bones acquires the value of a universal parable on the human race, a pilgrim in earthly exile subjected to the yoke of death.

The divine Word, incarnate in Jesus, comes to dwell in the world, many aspects of which make it a desolate valley; he shows full solidarity with human beings and brings them the glad tidings of eternal life. This announcement of hope is proclaimed to the depths of the afterworld, while the way that leads to the Promised Land is opened once and for all.

In the Gospel passage, we listened once again to the first verses of Jesus’ great prayer cited in Chapter 17 of John. The Lord’s sorrowful words show that the ultimate purpose of the entire “work” of the Son of God Incarnate consisted in giving eternal life to men and women (Jn 17: 2). Jesus also told us what eternal life consists in: “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17: 3).

In these words one can hear the praying voice of the Ecclesial Community, aware that the revelation of the “Name” of God received from the Lord is equivalent to the gift of eternal life. Knowing Jesus means knowing the Father; and knowing the Father means entering into real communion with the very Origin of Life, Light and Love.

Dear brothers and sisters, today we are thanking God in a special way for having made his Name known to these Cardinals and Bishops who have departed from us. They belong, according to the words of John’s Gospel, to the ranks of those whom the Father entrusted to the Son “out of the world” (Jn 17: 6).

To each one of them Christ “gave the words” of the Father, and they “received them” and they have “believed”; they have placed their trust in the Father and in the Son (see Jn 17: 8).

It was for them that he prayed (see Jn 17: 9), entrusting them to the Father (see Jn 17: 15, 17, 20-21), saying in particular, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory” (Jn 17: 24).

We intend our prayers of suffrage today to be united with this prayer of the Lord which is priestly par excellence. Christ substantiated his entreaty to the Father with the gift of himself on the Cross; let us offer our prayers in union with the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the real and actual representation of that unique and saving self-emptying.

Dear brothers and sisters, the venerable deceased Cardinals and Bishops whom we are commemorating this morning lived in this faith. Each one of them was called in the Church to feel as if the Apostle Paul’s words, just now proclaimed in the second reading, were his own and to strive to put them into practice: “to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1: 21).

This vocation, received in Baptism, was reinforced in them with the Sacrament of Confirmation and with the three degrees of Sacred Orders, and was constantly nourished by participation in the Eucharist.

Through this sacramental process, their “being in Christ” grew steadily stronger and deeper, so that dying was no longer a loss - since they had already evangelically “lost” all things for the Lord and for the Gospel (see Mk 8: 35) - but a gain:  that of encountering Jesus at last, and with him, finding fullness of life.

Let us ask the Lord to obtain for these beloved Brothers of ours, the deceased Cardinals and Bishops, that they may reach the destination they so deeply desired. Let us ask this relying on the intercession of Mary Most Holy and on the prayers of the many people who knew them in their lives and appreciated their Christian virtues.

Let us gather together in this Holy Eucharist every thanksgiving and every supplication, for the benefit of their souls and of the souls of all the deceased, whom we commend to the divine mercy. Amen.



Vatican Basilica, Monday, 5 November 2007

Dear and Venerable Brothers,

After commemorating all the deceased faithful on their liturgical commemoration, we meet here in this Vatican Basilica in accordance with tradition to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice in suffrage for the Cardinals and Bishops who, called by the Lord, departed from this world in the course of the year.

I remember with affection the names of the late Cardinals: Salvatore Pappalardo, Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi Bamungwabi, Antonio María Javierre, Angelo Felici, Jean-Marie Lustiger, Edouard Gagnon, Adam Koz³owiecki and Rosalio José Castillo Lara. I am thinking of the person and ministry of each one of them; although we are immersed in the sorrow of bereavement, let us raise our heartfelt thanks to God for the gift that he made to the Church in them, and for all the good which with his help they were able to achieve. Let us likewise entrust to the Eternal Father the deceased Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops, expressing our gratitude on behalf of the whole Catholic Community for them, too.

The Church’s prayer of suffrage “relies”, so to speak, on the prayer of Jesus himself which we heard in the Gospel passage: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am” (Jn 17: 24). Jesus was referring to his Disciples, and in particular to the Apostles who were with him at the Last Supper. But the Lord’s prayer extends to all his disciples of all times. In fact, a little earlier he said: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word” (Jn 17: 20). And if he asked here that all might be “one... so that the world may believe” (v. 21), we can also understand that he was asking the Father to be able to have with him, in the dwelling place of his eternal glory, all the disciples who died under the banner of faith.

“They... whom you gave me” (v. 24) is a beautiful definition of the Christian as such, but can obviously be applied specifically to those whom God the Father chose among the faithful to follow his Son more closely. In light of these words of the Lord, our thoughts at this time go in particular to the venerable Brothers for whom we are offering this Eucharist. They were men whom the Father “gave” to Christ. He removed them from the world, that “world” which “has not known” him (Jn 17: 25), and called them to become friends of Jesus. This was the most precious grace of their whole life. They were, of course, people with different characteristics, both because of their personal experiences and because of the ministry they exercised; but they all had in common the most important thing: friendship with the Lord Jesus. They received it as their lot on earth, as priests, and now, beyond death, they share in Heaven this “inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading” (1 Pt 1: 4). During his earthly existence Jesus made God’s Name known to them, admitting them to share in the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The Father’s love for his Son had penetrated them, and likewise the very Person of the Son, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, dwelled in each one of them (see Jn 17: 26): an experience of divine communion which tends by its nature to fill the whole of life, to transfigure it and to prepare it for the glory of eternal life.

It is consoling and salutary, in praying for the deceased, to meditate upon Jesus’ trust in his Father and thus to let oneself be enveloped by the serene light of this absolute abandonment of the Son to the will of his “Abba”. Jesus knows that the Father is always with him (see Jn 8: 29); that together they are one (see 10: 30). He knows that his own death must be a “baptism”, in other words, an “immersion” into God’s love (see Lk 12: 50), and he goes to meet it, certain that the Father will bring about in him the ancient prophecy we heard today in the first biblical Reading: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him” (Hos 6: 2). This oracle of the Prophet Hosea refers to the People of Israel and expresses trust in the Lord’s help: a trust which, unfortunately, the people sometimes lacked through fickleness and superficiality, even going so far as to abuse the divine benevolence. Rather, in the Person of Jesus, love for God the Father becomes completely sincere, authentic and faithful. He took upon himself the entire reality of ancient Israel and brought it to completion. The “we” of the People is condensed in the “I” of Jesus, in his repeated announcement of the Passion, death and Resurrection, when he openly revealed to his disciples what awaited him in Jerusalem: he was to be rejected by the elders and chiefs, arrested, condemned to death and crucified, and would rise on the third day (see Mt 16: 21). Christ’s unique trust is passed on to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to the Church in which we come to share through the Sacrament of Baptism. The “I” of Jesus becomes a new “we”, the “we” of his Church, when he is communicated to those who are incorporated into him through Baptism. And this identification is reinforced in all who have been configured to him in Sacred Orders, through a special call from the Lord.

The Responsorial Psalm has put on our lips the acute longing of a Levite far from Jerusalem and the Temple, who desires to return there to stand once again before the Lord (see Ps 42[41]: 1-3). “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Ps 42[41]: 1-3). This thirst contains a truth that does not betray, a hope that does not disappoint. It is a thirst which even in the darkest night lights the way towards the source of life, as St John of the Cross so admirably expressed it. The Psalmist makes room for the laments of the soul but he sets in the heart and at the end of his wonderful hymn a refrain full of trust: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, the salvation of my face and my God” (see vv. 5-6). In the light of Christ and of his Paschal Mystery, these words reveal all their marvelous truth: not even death can make the believer’s hope fruitless, because for our sake Christ entered the sanctuary of Heaven, and it is there that he desires to lead us, after having prepared a place for us (see Jn 14: 1-3).

Our beloved deceased Brothers recited this Psalm countless times with this faith and this hope. As priests they experienced its full existential resonance, taking upon themselves in addition the accusations and mockery of those who say to believers in their trial: “Where is your God?”

Now, at the end of their earthly exile, they have reached the Homeland. Following that path their Risen Lord made accessible to them, they have not entered a Sanctuary made with hands but Heaven itself (see Heb 9: 24). There, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints, may they contemplate God’s Face at last - this is our prayer - and sing his praises for ever and ever. Amen.




St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 2 November 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 (see Spe salvi, nos. 10-12). I asked myself: “Is the Christian faith a hope that transforms and sustains the lives of people still today?” (see ibid., no. 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 (see ibid, no. 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.



Vatican Basilica, Monday, 3 November 2008

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the day after the liturgical commemoration of All Souls, we are gathered today, according to a beautiful tradition, to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice in suffrage for our Brother Cardinals and Bishops who have left this world during the last year. Our prayer is motivated and comforted by the mystery of the communion of saints, a mystery that we have newly contemplated anew in these past days in order to understand it, welcome it and live it ever more intensely.

In this communion we recall with great affection the Cardinals Stephen Fumio Hamao, Alfons Maria Stickler, Aloísio Lorscheider, Peter Poreku Dery, Adolfo Antonio Suárez Rivera, Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, Alfonso López Trujillo, Bernardin Gantin, Antonio Innocenti and Antonio José González Zumárraga. We believe and sense them to be alive in the God of the living. And with them we remember each of the Archbishops and Bishops, who in the last 12 months have passed from this world to the House of the Father. We want to pray for all, letting ourselves be enlightened in mind and heart by the Word of God that we have just heard.

The First Reading a passage from the Book of Wisdom (4: 7-15) reminded us that true, venerable old age is not only length of years, but wisdom and a pure existence, without malice. And if the Lord prematurely calls the righteous to himself, it is due to a loving design for him that is unknown to us. The premature death of a person dear to us becomes an invitation not to persist in living in a mediocre way, but to strain towards the fullness of life as soon as possible. In the Wisdom text there is a paradoxical vein that we find also in the Gospel pericope (Mt 11: 25-30). In both Readings a contrast emerges between what appears to the superficial glance of men and what, instead, the eyes of God see. The world considers a long life fortunate, but God, more than age, looks at the uprightness of heart. The world gives credit to the “wise” and “intelligent”, while God prefers the “lowly”. The general teaching that we can draw from this is that there are two dimensions to reality: a more profound, true and eternal one and the other, marked by finitude, transience and appearance. Now, it is important to emphasize that these two dimensions are not placed in simple temporal succession, as if true eternal life were to begin only after death. In reality, true life, eternal life already begins in this world, although within the precariousness of human history; eternal life begins in the measure to which we open ourselves to the mystery of God and welcome it in our midst. It is God, the Lord of life, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28), as St Paul said at the Areopagus in Athens.

God is the true wisdom that never ages, the authentic wealth that never corrupts, the happiness to which every man aspires in the depths of his heart. This truth, that passes through the Wisdom Books and re-emerges in the New Testament, comes to fulfilment in the existence and teaching of Jesus. In the perspective of Gospel wisdom, death itself is the bearer of a healthy teaching because it forces us to look reality in the face; it pushes us to recognize the transience of that which appears great and strong in the eyes of the world. In the face of death every reason for human pride vanishes and instead what seriously matters comes to the fore. Everything comes to an end, every one of us is passing through this world. Only God has life in himself; he is life. Ours is a life of participation, given ab alio, thus a man can gain eternal life only because of the particular relationship that the Creator himself has established with him. But God, on seeing man distancing himself from him, made a further step, he created a new relation between himself and us, of which today’s Second Reading speaks. He, Christ, “laid down his life for us” (1 Jn 3: 16).

If God St John writes has loved us freely, we too can, and we must, let ourselves be taken up in this giving gesture, and make of ourselves a free gift to others. In this way we know God as he knows us; in this way we dwell in him as he has willed to dwell in us, and we pass from death to life (see 1 Jn 3: 14) like Jesus Christ, who has overcome death with his Resurrection, thanks to the glorious power of the heavenly Father’s love.

Dear brothers and sisters, this Word of life and hope is deeply comforting before the mystery of death, especially when it strikes those who are most dear to us. Today the Lord assures us that our beloved Brothers, for whom we pray particularly in this Holy Mass, have passed from death to life because they have chosen Christ, they have welcomed his sweet yoke (see Mt 11: 29) and they dedicated themselves to the service of their brethren. Therefore, even if they must expiate their part of the punishment due to human frailty that marks all of us, helping us to stay humble, fidelity to Christ permits them to enter into the freedom of the children of God. If, however, having to part with them has saddened us, and even now their loss saddens us, faith fills us with an intimate comfort at the thought that, as it has been for the Lord Jesus, and always thanks to him, death no longer has power over them (see Rm 6: 9). Passing through the merciful Heart of Christ in this life they have entered a place of “rest” (Wis 4: 7). And now we like to think of them in the company of the Saints, finally relieved of the bitterness of this life, and we also sense the desire to be able to join such a happy company one day.

In the Responsorial Psalm we have repeated these consoling words: “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Ps 23 [22]: 6). Yes, we love to hope that the Good Shepherd has welcomed these Brothers of ours for whom we are celebrating the divine Sacrifice, at the sunset of their earthly days, and that he admit them into his inmost and blessed presence. The consecrated oil mentioned in the Psalm (23[22]: 5) has been placed three times on their head and once on their hands; the chalice (ibid.) of Jesus the Priest has become their chalice as well, which they have raised day after day, praising the name of the Lord. Now they have reached the heavenly pastures, where signs give way to reality.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us unite our common prayer and raise it to the Father of all goodness and mercy so that, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the encounter with the fire of his love quickly purifies our late departed friends from every imperfection and transforms them to the praise of his glory. And we pray that we, pilgrims on the earth, will always keep our eyes and heart focused on the ultimate goal for which we yearn, the House of the Father, Heaven. So be it!



Vatican Basilica, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!’“. The words of Psalm 122[121]: 1 which we have just sung invite us to lift our heart’s gaze towards the “house of the Lord”, towards the Heavens. It is there that the host of all the Saints whom, a few days ago, the Liturgy brought us to contemplate is mysteriously gathered in the beatific vision of God. The Solemnity of All Saints is followed by the commemoration of all the faithful departed. These two celebrations, lived in a profound atmosphere of faith and prayer, help to us to understand better the mystery of the Church in its totality and to comprehend ever more that life must be lived in continual, vigilant anticipation. It is a pilgrimage towards eternal life, the ultimate fulfilment that gives meaning and fullness to our earthly journey. Already “our feet have been standing” (v. 2) at the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem.

By now the following late Cardinals have reached this definitive destination: Avery Dulles, Pio Laghi, Stéphanos II Ghattas, Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, Paul Joseph Pham Ðính Tung, Umberto Betti, Jean Margéot, as have the numerous Archbishops and Bishops who have left us during this past year. We remember them with affection and we give thanks to God for the good that they achieved. We are gathered in this Vatican Basilica, as every year, to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice for their souls. We think of them in the real and mysterious communion that unites us pilgrims on earth and those who have gone before us into the afterlife, certain that death does not break the bonds of spiritual fraternity forged by the Sacraments of Baptism and of Holy Orders.

In these our Venerable Brothers we like to recognize the servants of whom the Gospel parable we just heard speaks: faithful servants whom the master finds awake and ready when he comes home from the marriage feast (see Lk: 36-38); Pastors who have served the Church, providing the flock of Christ with the necessary care; witnesses of the Gospel whom, in the diversity of their gifts and works, have given proof of active vigilance, of generous dedication to the cause of the Kingdom of God. Every Eucharistic Celebration in which these men participated so many times, first as faithful and then as priests anticipates the Lord’s promise in the most eloquent way: that he himself, supreme and eternal Priest, will seat his servants at table and will come to serve them (see Lk 12: 37). Upon the Eucharistic table, nuptial feast of the New Covenant, Christ as the Paschal Lamb makes of himself food for us; destroys death; and gives us his life, life without end. Brothers and sisters, we too must be alert and vigilant: may the master find us so when he returns from the marriage feast, “if he comes in the second watch, or in the third” (see Lk 12: 37-38). Thus may we too, like the servants in the Gospel, become blessed!

“The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God” (Wis 3: 1). The First Reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, speaks of the righteous who are persecuted, unjustly put to death. But, the sacred Author emphasizes, even if their deaths occurred in circumstances so humiliating and painful as to seem shocking, in truth, for those who have faith this is not so, for “they are at peace”. And even if they undergo punishment in the eyes of men, “their hope is full of immortality” (vv. 3-4). The loss of loved ones is painful. The event of death is a disquieting enigma; but for believers, however it occurs, it is always illumined by the “hope of immortality”. Faith sustains us in these moments, charged with human sadness and discouragement. “In your eyes, life is not taken away but transformed,” the Liturgy recalls, “and whilst the land of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal home is being prepared in Heaven” (Preface, Mass for the Dead). Dear brothers and sisters, we know well and we experience in our own journeys that there is no lack of difficulties and problems in this life. There are situations of suffering and of pain, difficult moments to understand and accept. All this, however, acquires worth and meaning if it is considered in the perspective of eternity. In fact, every challenge, accepted with persevering patience and offered for the Kingdom of God, already works to our spiritual advantage here on earth and above all in the next life, in Heaven. In this world we are in transit; we are tested in the crucible like gold, as the Sacred Scripture affirms (see Wis 3: 6). United mysteriously to Christ’s passion, we can make of our existence a pleasing offering to the Lord, a voluntary sacrifice of love.

In the Responsorial Psalm and in the Second Reading, taken from the First Letter of Peter, we find something of an echo of the words from the Book of Wisdom. While Psalm 122, which takes up the song of the pilgrims who come to the Holy City and, after a long journey, reach its gates full of joy, projects a festive feeling of paradise. St Peter exhorts us to keep the perspective of hope a “living hope” (1: 3) alive in our hearts during the earthly pilgrimage. He notes that, in the face of the inevitable dissolution of this world, we are made the promise of “an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (v. 4), because God in his great mercy has given us new life “through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1: 3). This is why we must be “full of joy”, even if we are burdened with various afflictions. If, in fact, we persevere in the good, our faith, purified by many trials, will shine in all its splendor one day and will return to our praise, glory, and honor when Jesus manifests himself in his glory. Herein lies the reason for our hope, that already makes us “rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy” here, while we are journeying towards the purpose of our faith: the salvation of souls (see vv. 6-8).

Dear brothers and sisters, it is with these sentiments that we wish to entrust to Divine Mercy these Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, with whom we have worked together in the Lord’s vineyard. Once liberated from whatever remains of their human frailty, may the Heavenly Father welcome them into his eternal Kingdom and confer upon them the reward promised to the good and faithful servants of the Gospel. May the Blessed Virgin, with her maternal care, accompany them and open to them the gates of Paradise. May the Virgin Mary help us too, still travelers upon the earth, to keep our eyes fixed on the homeland that awaits us. May she encourage us to be ready with our “loins... girded and our lamps burning” to welcome the Lord “when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-36). At any hour and at any moment. Amen!



Altar of the Chair in the Vatican Basilica, Thursday, 4 November 2010

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above”. The words we have just heard in the second reading (Col 3:1-4) invite us to raise our gaze to the reality of Heaven. With the expression “the things that are above” St Paul means Heaven, for he adds: “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God”. The Apostle is referring to the condition of believers, of those who are “dead” to sin and whose life “is hidden with God in Christ”. They are called to live daily in the lordship of Christ, the principle and fulfilment of all their actions, witnessing to the new life bestowed upon them in Baptism. This renewal in Christ takes place in the heart of each person. While continuing the struggle against sin, it is possible to grow in virtue, attempting to give a full and willing answer to the grace of God.

Inversely, the Apostle indicates later “the things of the earth”. Thus highlighting that life in Christ entails a “choice of field”, a radical renunciation of everything that — like an anchor — ties man to earth, corrupting his soul. The search for the “things that are above” does not mean that Christians must neglect their earthly obligations and duties, rather that they must not get lost in them, as if they had a definitive value. Recalling the realities of Heaven is an invitation to recognize the relativity of what is destined to pass away, in the face of those values that do not know the deterioration of time. It is about working, committing oneself, allowing oneself the proper rest, but with the serene detachment of one who knows that he is only a traveler on the way to the heavenly Homeland; a pilgrim, in a certain sense, a foreigner on the path to Eternity.

The late Cardinals Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, Cahal Brendan Daly, Armand Gaétan Razafindratandra, Tomáš Špidlík, Paul Augustin Mayer, Luigi Poggi have now arrived at this final destination; as have the numerous Archbishops and Bishops who left us in the course of this past year. Let us remember them with affection, thanking God for their gifts to the Church through our brothers who have preceded us in the sign of faith and now rest in the sleep of peace. Our gratitude becomes a prayer of suffrage for them, so that the Lord may receive them in the beatitude of Heaven. We offer this Holy Eucharist for their chosen souls, gathered around the altar on which is made present the Sacrifice which proclaims the victory of life over death, of grace over sin, of Heaven over hell.

We wish to remember our venerable Brothers as zealous Pastors, whose ministry was always marked by the eschatological horizon that sustains the hope of happiness without shadows, and has been promised to us after this life. As witnesses of the Gospel we are called to live the “things that are above”, which are fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22), as Christians and pastors enlivened by profound faith, by the real desire to be conformed to Jesus and to be profoundly attached to his Person, ceaselessly contemplating his face in prayer. That is why they were able to have a foretaste of “eternal life”, of which the passage of today’s Gospel speaks (Jn 3:13-17), and which Christ himself promised “to the one who believes in him”. Indeed the expression “eternal life” designates the divine gift granted to humanity: communion with God in this world and its fullness in that of the future.

Eternal life was opened to us by the Paschal Mystery of Christ and faith is the way to reach it. This is what emerges from Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in the Gospel of the Evangelist John: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15). The explicit reference to the episode narrated in the book of Numbers (21:1-9) highlights the saving force of faith in the divine word. During the Exodus, the Hebrew people rebelled against Moses and God and were punished by the plague of fiery serpents. Moses asked for forgiveness and God, accepting the repentance of the Israelites, ordered him to “make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live”. And so it happened. Jesus, in his conversation with Nicodemus, revealed a more profound significance of this event of salvation, referring it to his own death and Resurrection: the Son of Man must be lifted on the wood of the Cross so that whoever believes in him may have life. St John sees precisely in the mystery of the Cross the moment in which the real glory of Jesus is revealed, the glory of a love that gives itself totally in the passion and death. Thus, paradoxically, from a sign of condemnation, death and failure, the Cross becomes a sign of redemption, life and victory, through faith, the fruits of salvation can be gathered.

Continuing this dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus elaborates further on the salvific meaning of the Cross, revealing with ever greater clarity that it consists in the immense love of God and in the gift of the Only-Begotten Son: “God so loved the world that he gave his Only-Begotten Son”. This is one of the central verses of the Gospel. The subject is God the Father, origin of the whole creating and redeeming mystery. The verbs “to love” and “to give” indicate a decisive and definitive act that expresses the radicalism with which God approached man in love, even to the total gift, crossing the threshold of our ultimate solitude, throwing himself into the abyss of our extreme abandonment, going beyond the door of death. The object and beneficiary of divine love is the world, namely, humanity. It is a word that erases completely the idea of a distant God alien to man’s journey and reveals, rather, his true face. He gave us his Son out of love, to be the near God, to make us feel his presence, to come to meet us and carry us in his love so that the whole of life might be enlivened by this divine love. The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give life.

God does not domineer but loves without measure. He does not express his omnipotence in punishment, but in mercy and in forgiveness. Understanding all this means entering into the mystery of salvation. Jesus came to save, not to condemn; with the sacrifice of the Cross he reveals the loving face of God. Precisely by faith in the abundant love that has been given to us in Christ Jesus, we know that even the smallest force of love is greater than the greatest destructive force, which can transform the world, and by this same faith we can have the “reliable hope”, in eternal life and in the resurrection of the flesh.

Dear brothers and sisters, with the words of the first reading, taken from the Book of Lamentations, we pray that the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, whom we are commemorating today, generous servants of the Gospel and of the Church, will now be able to know fully “how good the Lord is to the one who hopes in him, to the soul that seeks him” and experience that “in him is found mercy and redemption in abundance” (Ps 129), trying to walk in the path of goodness, sustained by the grace of God, always remembering that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb 13:14). Amen.



Altar of the Chair in the Vatican Basilica, Thursday, 3 November 2011

Venerable Brothers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The day after the liturgical commemoration of all the faithful departed we are gathered at the altar of the Lord to offer his Sacrifice in suffrage for the cardinals and bishops who, during the course of this year, came to the end of their earthly pilgrimage. With great affection we recall the venerable members of the College of Cardinals who have left us: Urbano Navarrete, SJ, Michele Giordano, Varkey Vithayathil, CSRR, Giovanni Saldarini, Agustín García-Gasco Vicente, Georg Maximilian Sterzinsky, Kazimierz Świątek, Virgilio Noè, Aloysius Matthew Ambrozic, Andrzej Maria Deskur. Together with them we present before the throne of the Most High the souls of the late Brothers in the Episcopate. For each and everyone we offer our prayers, enlivened by faith in eternal life and in the mystery of the communion of saints; a faith full of hope, also enlightened by the Word of God that we have heard.

The passage taken from the Book of the Prophet Hosea turns our thoughts immediately to the Resurrection of Jesus, to the mystery of his death and his reawakening to everlasting life. This text of Hosea — the first half of chapter six — was deeply impressed upon the heart and mind of Jesus. In fact, more than once in the Gospels he repeats verse six: “I desire love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings”. Jesus does not cite verse two but he makes it his own and brings it about in the Paschal Mystery: “After two days he will give life back to us and on the third he will raise us up again, and we will live in his presence”. In the light of these words the Lord Jesus entered the passion, he decisively embarked upon the road to the cross; he spoke openly to his disciples of what was to happen to him in Jerusalem, and the words of the Prophet Hosea echoed in his words: “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days, he will rise” (Mk 9:31).

The Evangelist notes that the disciples “did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him” (v. 32). We too, in the face of death, cannot fail to experience the sentiments and thoughts dictated by our human condition. And we are always surprised and overcome by a God indeed, who draws so close to us that he does not even stop before the abyss of death, who rather passes through it, remaining in the tomb for two days. However, exactly here the mystery of the “third day” occurs. Christ takes on our mortal flesh completely that it may be invested with the glorious power of God, by the breath of the life-giving Spirit who transforms and regenerates it. This is the baptism of the passion (see Lk 12:50), which Jesus received for us and about which St Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans. The expression used by the Apostle — “baptized into his death” (Rom 6:3) — never ceases to surprise us, such is the precision with which he summarizes the breathtaking mystery. Christ’s death is the source of life, for into it God poured all of his love, as in an immense cascade, which makes us think of the image of Psalm 42[41]: “Deep calls to deep / at the thunder of your cataracts / all your waves and all your billows have gone over me” (v. 8). The abyss of death is filled by another abyss that is greater still, namely, the love of God, which is such that death no longer has power over Jesus Christ (see Rom 8:9), nor over those who are associated with him through faith and baptism: “If we have died with Christ”, says St Paul, “we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8). This “living with Jesus” is the fulfilment of the hope prophesied by Hosea: “… and we will live in his presence” (6:2).

In truth, it is only in Christ that such a hope finds its real foundation. It had previously run the risk of becoming an illusion, a symbol taken from the rhythm of the seasons: “as the showers, as the spring rains” (6:3). At the time of the Prophet Hosea the faith of the Israelites was in danger of being contaminated by the naturalistic religions of the land of Canaan, but this faith is unable to save anyone from death. God’s intervention in the drama of human history, however, does not obey any natural cycle; it only obeys his grace and faithfulness. The new and eternal life is the fruit of the tree of the Cross, a tree that blossoms and bears fruit from the light and power that radiate from the sun of God. Without the Cross of Christ all the energy of nature remains powerless before the negative force of sin. A beneficial force greater than that which moves the cycles of nature is needed, a Good greater than that of Creation itself: a love that proceeds from the “heart” of God himself and that, while it reveals the ultimate meaning of creation, renews it and directs it toward its original and final goal.

All of this happened in those “three days”, when the “grain of wheat” fell into the earth; where it remained for the time necessary to fill up the measure of the justice and mercy of God, and in the end produced “much fruit”, not remaining alone, but as the firstborn of many brothers (see Jn 12:24; Rom 8:29). Now, thanks to Christ and the work accomplished through him by the Most Holy Trinity, the images drawn from nature are no longer only symbols, illusory myths, but speak to us of a reality. At the origin of hope is the desire of the Father and the Son, which we heard about in the Gospel for this liturgy: “Father, I desire that those whom you have given me, may be with me where I am” (Jn 17:24). And among those whom the Father gave to Jesus are also the venerable Brothers for whom we offer this Eucharist: They “knew” God through Jesus, they knew his name, and love of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit, dwelled in them (see Jn 12:25-26), opening their life to heaven, to eternity. Let us thank God for this priceless gift. And, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, let us pray that this mystery of communion, which filled their whole existence, be fully realized in each one of them.



Vatican Basilica, Altar of the Chair, Saturday, 3 November 2012

Venerable Brothers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The atmosphere of the Communion of Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed is present and alive in our hearts. The liturgy has enabled us to live it intensely in the celebrations of the past few days. In particular, visiting cemeteries has allowed us to renew our bond with those loved ones who have left us; death, paradoxically, preserves what life cannot retain. We discover how our deceased lived, what they loved, feared and hoped, what they rejected, in a singular way from their tombs, that have remained almost as a mirror of their existence, of their world — challenging us and inducing us to reestablish a dialogue that death has put in jeopardy. Thus, the burial places are a kind of assembly, in which the living meet their dead and reaffirm the bonds of communion that death was unable to stop. And here in Rome, in these singular cemeteries, namely the catacombs, we see, as in no other place, the deep links to early Christianity, that we feel so close. When we step into the corridors of the catacombs in Rome — as in those cemeteries in our cities and in our towns — it is as though we were crossing an immaterial threshold and entering into communication with those who guard their past, made of joy and sorrow, of loss and of hope there. This happens because death concerns man today just as it did then; and even if many things of the past have become estranged to us, death remains the same.

In the face of this reality, the human being of every age searches for a glimmer of light that brings hope, that still speaks of life, and visiting graves also expresses this desire. But how should we Christians respond to the question of death? We respond with faith in God, with a gaze of firm hope founded on the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, death opens to life, to eternal life, which is not an infinite duplicate of the present time, but something completely new. Faith tells us that the true immortality for which we hope is not an idea, a concept, but a relationship of full communion with the living God: it is resting in his hands, in his love, and becoming in him one with all the brothers and sisters that he has created and redeemed, with all Creation. Our hope, then, lies in the love of God that shines resplendent from the Cross of Christ who lets Jesus’ words to the good thief: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43) resound in our heart. This is life in its fullness: life in God; a life of which we now have only a glimpse as one sees blue sky through fog.

In this atmosphere of faith and prayer, dear Brothers, we are gathered around the altar to offer this Eucharistic Sacrifice in suffrage for the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who, during the course of this past year, have ended their earthly existence. In a special way, we recall our beloved Brother Cardinals: John Patrick Foley, Anthony Bevilacqua, José Sánchez, Ignace Moussa Daoud, Luis Aponte Martínez, Rodolfo Quezada Toruňo, Eugênio de Araújo Sales, Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, Carlo Maria Martini, Fortunato Baldelli. We extend our affectionate memory to all the late Archbishops and Bishops, asking the Lord, who is righteous, merciful and just (see Ps 116[114]:5), to grant them the eternal reward promised to the faithful servants of the Gospel.

Thinking of the witness of these our venerated Brothers, we acknowledge them as “mild”, “merciful”, “pure of heart”, “peacemakers” disciples of whom the Lord spoke in the Gospel passage (Mt 5:1-12): friends of the Lord who, trusting in his promise, in times of struggle and persecution, kept the joy of the faith, and now dwell for ever in the house of the Father and enjoy the heavenly reward, filled with happiness and grace. The Pastors we remember today served the Church with fidelity and love, at times facing burdensome trials, in order to reassure the flock entrusted to their care and attention. In the variety of their gifts and tasks, they gave an example of diligent supervision, of wise and zealous dedication to the Kingdom of God, offering a precious contribution to the post-conciliar period, a time of renewal for the whole Church.

The Eucharistic table, to which they drew near, first as faithful and then, daily, as ministers, anticipates in a most eloquent way what the Lord promised in his “Sermon on the Mount”: possession of the Kingdom of Heaven, participation in the meal of the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us pray that this be done for all. Our prayer is nourished by this firm hope that “does not disappoint” (Rom 5:5), for it is guaranteed by Christ who wanted to live in the flesh the experience of death in order to triumph over it with the miraculous event of the Resurrection. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). This announcement proclaimed by the Angels on Easter morning before the empty tomb, has reached us down the centuries and it offers us, in this liturgical celebration too, the essential reason for our hope. In fact, “if we have died with Christ”, says St Paul alluding to what occurs at Baptism, “we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8). It is the same Holy Spirit, through whom the love of God was poured into our hearts, who ensures us that our hope is not in vain (see Rom 5:5). God the Father, rich in mercy, who gave his only Son up unto death when we were still sinners — how will he fail to grant us salvation now that we are justified by his blood (see Rom 5:6-11)? Our justice is based on faith in Christ. He is the “just man”, foretold in all the Scriptures; it is thanks to his Pascal Mystery that, by crossing the threshold of death, our eyes will behold God, contemplate his face (see Job 19:27a).

The singular human existence of the Son of God is accompanied by his Most Holy Mother, who, alone among all creatures, we venerate as Immaculate and full of grace. Our Brother Cardinals and Bishops, whom we remember today, were loved with preference by the Virgin Mary and reciprocated her love with filial devotion. To her motherly intercession today we wish to entrust their souls, that by her they may be led to the eternal Kingdom of the Father, surrounded by so many of their faithful for whom they offered their lives. May Mary, with her loving gaze, watch over them watch over them who now sleep in peace awaiting the blessed resurrection. And we lift up our prayers to God for them, sustained by the hope of meeting again one day, united forever in Paradise. Amen. 

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