On Sunday afternoon, Pope Francis traveled to Rome’s largest cemetery to celebrate Mass and pray for the “faithful departed,” an ancient Christian custom associated principally with All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2).
After his noon Angelus address on Sunday, the Pope announced his plans to visit Rome’s “Campo Verano” graveyard, noting that he would offer Mass in suffrage for the dead. The Mass was broadcast live on internet, courtesy of Vatican Television.
“Visiting Rome’s principal cemetery,” he said, “I unite myself spiritually to all those who will be visiting the tombs of their beloved departed in these days everywhere in the world.”
“I wish all of you peace and serenity in the spiritual company of the saints,” he said.
During his homily at Mass, Francis reflected on the Gospel reading of the beatitudes, when Jesus outlines the path to blessedness in a series of paradoxes beginning with the saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
The Pope said that the word of the Lord is living and active, and it continues to point out to men and women of today “the way to achieve true happiness, the road that leads to Heaven.” He said that it is hard to grasp for the modern mentality because it “goes against the current,” but for those willing to embrace it, it leads to true joy, he said.
Francis explained that the poor in spirit are blessed, because having stripped their hearts free from many worldly things, they are “awaited” in the kingdom of heaven. Those who mourn are also blessed, the Pope said, though it seems contradictory, because they will experience the tenderness of God’s comfort.
“Whoever has never felt sadness, anguish and pain in this life will never know the power of consolation,” he said. But happy those “who have the capacity to be moved, the ability to feel in their heart the pain that is in their lives and the lives of others. These will be happy! Because the tender hand of God the Father will console them and caress them,” he said.
The Pope continued through the different beatitudes, offering a word about each one, “blessed are the meek,” because this is the way of Jesus, “blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” because they will experience the greater justice, which only God can give.
“Blessed are the merciful,” Francis said, “who know how to forgive, who have compassion for others, who do not judge everything and everyone, but try to put themselves in others’ shoes.”
“Forgiveness is something we all need, without exception,” he said. Calling ourselves sinners “is not a figure of speech or a formality” but rather “an act of truth.” And if we give to others the forgiveness we ask for ourselves, we are blessed, he said.
The way of the Beatitudes, Francis concluded, “is the way of holiness, and it is the same path to happiness.” This is how the saints lived, “who have preceded us to the heavenly homeland,” he said. “They accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage, encouraging us on our way forward.”
All Souls Day, celebrated the day after the feast of All Saints, commemorates the faithful departed and especially Catholic Christians practice the custom of praying for the souls in purgatory, who await entry into heaven.