By Ann Schneible
VATICAN CITY, Nov. 4, 2012 (Zenit.org).- "The Communion of Saints and the commemoration of the faithful who have died are present and live in our hearts," Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily at Mass on Saturday, the day after the Feast of All Souls. The Holy Father celebrated the Mass in honor of the cardinals, archbishops and bishop who have died over the past year.
"Death, paradoxically, preserves that which life cannot hold onto," said the Holy Father, in speaking about the practice of visiting the cemeteries where loved ones are buried. "The way our dead lived, what they loved, feared and hoped, what they rejected, we discover, in fact, in a special way precisely at their graves, which are almost a mirror of their existence, of their world: they speak to us and lead us to renew the dialogue that death brought to a crisis. Thus, the cemeteries constitute a kind of assembly in which the living meet their dead and strengthen the bonds of communion that death was unable to interrupt."
In Rome, the Pope continued, the catacombs provide Christians the opportunity to come in contact with their ancient Christian heritage. "When we enter into the corridors of the Roman catacombs," he said, "just as when we enter the cemeteries of our own cities and towns – it is as if we have crossed over a spiritual threshold and entered into communication with them whose past, with its joys and sorrows, failures and hopes, they safeguard. This happens because death regards the man of today in the same way that it regarded the man of the past; moreover, even if many things of the past have become foreign to us, death has remained the same. In the face of this reality, human beings of every age seek a glimmer of light that permits hope, that still speaks of life, and visiting cemeteries expresses this desire too."
Christians respond to this question of death, Pope Benedict said, "with faith in God, with a look firm with hope founded on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. So death opens to life, to eternal life, which is not an infinite doubling of the present time but something completely new. Faith tells us that the true immortality to which we aspire is not an idea, a concept, but a relation of full communion with the living God: it is being in his hands, in his love, and becoming in him one with all our brothers and sisters that he has created and redeemed, with the whole of creation."
The Holy Father continued by recalling those departed bishops and Cardinals who passed this year, especially: Cardinals John Patrick Foley, Anthony Bevilacqua, José Sánchez, Ignace Moussa Daoud, Luis Aponte Martínez, Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, Eugênio de Araújo Sales, Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, Carlo Maria Martini, and Fortunato Baldelli.
"The Shepherds whom we remember today have," he said, "served the Church with fidelity and love, sometimes confronting burdensome trials to assure the flock entrusted to them their attention and care. In the variety of respective gifts and tasks, they have given an example of mindful vigilance, of wise and zealous dedication to the Kingdom of God, offering a precious contribution to the post-conciliar season, a time of renewal in the whole Church."
"The Eucharistic Feast that they approached first as laymen and then, daily, as ministers, anticipates in the most eloquent way that which the Lord promised in the 'Sermon on the Mount': the possession of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the feast of the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us pray that this happens for everyone.
Pope Benedict concludes: "Our brother cardinals and bishops, whom we remember today, were loved with predilection by the Virgin Mary and have returned her love with filial devotion. To her maternal intercession we wish to entrust their souls that they might be introduced into the eternal Kingdom of the Father, surrounded by many members of the flock for whom they gave their life."