.- On All Souls Day, Pope Benedict XVI reflected upon death and the hope that Christian faith brings to it.
âAs human beings, we have a natural fear of death and we rebel against its apparent finality,â Pope Benedict said to pilgrims gathered in St. Peterâs Square for the weekly general audience.
âFaith teaches us that the fear of death is lightened by a great hope, the hope of eternity, which gives our lives their fullest meaning. The God who is love offers us the promise of eternal life through the death and resurrection of His Son.â
Therefore, said the Pope, âin Christ, death no longer appears as an abyss of emptiness, but rather a path to life which will never end.â
In the Catholic Church, the month of November is dedicated to praying for the dead. Today priests around the world are given special permission to say three Masses â one for the Pope, one for the dead and one for a personal intention. It is also customary to visit family graves on this day. In some Spanish speaking countries â such as Mexico â this has evolved into a pious national festival known as the âDay of the Dead.â
The Pope said that a visit to the cemetery âto pray for loved ones who have left usâ is a good reminder of the âCommunion of Saintsâ and that there is a âclose link between we who still walk upon the earth and our countless brothers and sisters who have already reached eternity.â
And yet many of us still fear death, observed the Pope, giving three reasons why this is the case. He pointed to fear of the unknown, the apparent destruction of âall that was beautiful and greatâ in our lifetime, and also a fear of judgement, in particularly for those actions that âwith skill, we often remove or attempt to remove from our consciousness.â
The Pope said that modern society often tries to approach death using the âcriteria of scientific experimentalism,â so that the âgreat question of death must be answered not with faith, but with testable, empirical knowledge.â
But this approach, he cautioned, can end up in a form of spiritualism where, in an attempt to have contact with the world beyond death, we almost imagine âa realityâ that is âa copy of the present.â
This worldview reduces man to âa horizontal dimensionâ and causes life to lose âits deeper meaning.â
The life of a person is understandable, Pope Benedict said, âonly if there is a love that overcomes all isolation, even that of death.â The practical impact of this is that âonly those who can recognize a great hope in death, can also live a life based on hope.â
The Pope then reminded pilgrims of the numerous occasions where Christ confirmed the reality of life after death, including upon the Cross on Calvary when he âaddressed the criminal crucified on his right,â with the words, âTruly I tell you, with me today you will be in Paradise.â
âChrist is the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in him will never die,â Pope Benedict said in conclusion.
Before imparting his apostolic blessing, Pope Benedict also prayed that the economic meeting of the G-20 Head of State or Government in Cannes, France, over the next two days âwill help to overcome the difficulties that, worldwide, impede the promotion of an authentically human and integral development.â
The Pope rounded off his public duties for the Solemnity of All Souls with a 6 p.m. visit to the crypt of St. Peterâs Basilica, where he prayed at the tombs of his papal predecessors who are buried there.