On the Communion of Saints
"We Are Never Alone! We Form Part of a Spiritual Company"
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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
This Sunday coincides with the solemnity of All Saints, which invites the pilgrim Church on earth to anticipate the endless celebration of the heavenly community, and to revive the hope in eternal life. It is 14 centuries ago this year since the Pantheon -- one of the most ancient and famous Roman monuments -- was destined to Christian worship and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs: Sancta Maria ad Martyres. The temple of all the pagan divinities thus became a memorial of all those who, as the Book of Revelation states, "are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).
Subsequently, the celebration of all the martyrs was extended to all the saints, "a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues" (Revelation 7:9) -- as is expressed by St. John. In this Year of Priests, I like to remember with special veneration all holy priests, both those whom the Church has canonized, proposing them as examples of spiritual and pastoral virtues, as well as those -- much more numerous -- whom the Lord knows. Each one of us cherishes the memory of some one of them, who has helped us to grow in the faith and has made us feel the goodness and closeness of God.
Tomorrow we will observe the annual commemoration of all the deceased faithful. I would like to invite you to live this annual celebration in keeping with a genuine Christian spirit, that is, in the light that proceeds from the Paschal Mystery. Christ has died and risen and has opened to us the way to the house of the Father, Kingdom of life and peace. He who follows Jesus in this life is received where he has preceded us.
Therefore, while we visit cemeteries, let us remember that there, in the tombs, only the mortal remains of our loved ones rest, while awaiting the final resurrection. Their souls -- as Scripture says -- already "are in the hand of God" (Wisdom 3:1). Hence, the most appropriate and effective way to honor them is to pray for them, offering acts of faith, hope and charity. In union with the Eucharistic sacrifice, we can intercede for their eternal salvation, and experience the most profound communion while awaiting to be reunited again, to enjoy forever the love that created us and redeemed us.
Dear friends, how beautiful and consoling is the communion of saints! It is a reality that infuses a different dimension to our whole life. We are never alone! We form part of a spiritual "company" in which profound solidarity reigns: the good of each one is for the benefit of all and, vice versa, the common happiness is radiated in each one. It is a mystery that, in a certain measure, we can already experience in this world, in the family, in friendship, especially in the spiritual community of the Church. May Mary Most Holy help us to walk swiftly on the way of sanctity and show herself a Mother of mercy for the souls of the deceased.
[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]
Exactly ten years have passed since leading representatives of the World Lutheran Federation and the Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, in Augsburg, on Oct. 31, 1999. Subsequently, in 2006, the World Methodist Council also adhered to it. This document certified a consensus between Lutherans and Catholics on fundamental truths of the doctrine of justification, truths that take us to the very heart of the Gospel and to essential questions of our life.
We are received and redeemed by God; our existence is inscribed on the horizon of grace, it is guided by a merciful God, who forgives our sin and calls us to a new life following his Son; we live from the grace of God and we are called to respond to his gift; all this liberates us from fear and infuses hope and courage in us in a world full of uncertainty, anxiety and suffering.
The Servant of God John Paul II described the day of the signing of the Joint Declaration as "a milestone in the difficult path to reconstitute full unity among Christians" (Angelus, October 31, 1999). This anniversary, therefore, is an occasion to recall the truth about man's justification, testified together, to come together in ecumenical celebrations and to reflect further on this and other topics that are the object of the ecumenical dialogue.
It is my heartfelt hope that this important anniversary will contribute to make us progress on the path toward the full and visible unity of all the disciples of Christ.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[In English, the Pope said:]
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. Today we celebrate the great solemnity of All Saints. In honoring all of the holy men and women gone before us marked with the sign of faith, and who are now united with the Lord in Heaven, we are encouraged to pray and work with pure hearts as we anticipate with joy seeing the Lord as he really is. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings!
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