In keeping with longstanding papal tradition, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass today for the souls of the cardinals and bishops who died this past year. Recalling how their lives were all marked by a deep friendship with Jesus, Benedict said that this friendship, coupled with Jesus’ death and resurrection, makes it so that “not even death can render a believer’s hope worthless”.
The Holy Father began his homily by naming the cardinals who had died in the past twelve months: Salvatore Pappalardo, Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi Bamungwabi, Antonio María Javierre, Angelo Felici, Jean-Marie Lustiger, Edouard Gagnon, Adam Kozlowiecki and Rosalio José Castillo Lara.
The Pope asked the Church to give thanks to God "for the gift he has given the Church through them and for all the good achieved with their help. He also entrusted “the souls of the departed patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops to the Eternal Father, also expressing our recognition of their work in the name of the entire Catholic community."
These men, our brothers, he continued, "were certainly men of distinct character, both for their personal trials as well as for the ministry they exercised. Nevertheless, they all had a great commonality: their friendship with the Lord Jesus."
"During their temporal existence," the Holy Father asserted, "Jesus led them to know the name of God, granting them participation in the love of the Most Holy Trinity, … an experience of divine communion that, by its nature, tends to envelop one's entire existence, transfiguring it and preparing it for the glory of eternal life."
Commenting on the responsorial psalm, "My soul is thirsting for God, for the living God. When will I see the face of God?" the Pope emphasized that "this thirst holds a truth that does not betray, a hope that does not delude. It is a thirst that, even through the darkest night, illuminates that path toward the source of life."
Benedict XVI pointed out that the psalmist expresses his confidence at the heart of the psalm as well as at its end: "Why are you discouraged, my soul, why do you worry me? Trust in God that I may praise him, my salvation and my God." In the light of Christ and his paschal mystery these words reveal a wonderful truth: not even death can render a believer's hope worthless because Christ," he concluded, "has entered the sanctuary of heaven for us and wants to lead us there where he has prepared us a place."