ROME – On Friday, Pope Francis marked the Catholic feast of All Souls Day by celebrating Mass in a Roman cemetery, saying hope, memory and the Beatitudes are the recipe that will help people get to heaven.
“Today’s liturgy is realistic, it’s concrete. It gives us the three dimensions of life, dimensions that also children understand: the past, the present and the future,” the pope said during his Nov. 2 Mass for All Souls Day.
First, the day is one “of memory, the past. A day to remember those who have walked before us and who are accompanying us,” he said in his brief, off-the-cuff homily, adding that memory “makes a people strong because it roots them in a journey, in a story, in a people.”
“Memory helps us to understand that we are not alone,” and that each person belongs to a people and to a family, some of whom have walked together with the living on their earthly pilgrimage, he said, noting that while it is often difficult to stop and remember the past in today’s fast-paced society, connecting with one’s roots is important to go forward.
Upon his arrival at the cemetery, Pope Francis was greeted by the Vicar of Rome Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, a close friend and ally, the auxiliary bishop for the south of Rome, Paolo Lojudice, and the cemetery chaplain, Father Claudio Palma.
Francis is the first pope to visit the Laurentino cemetery. Located on the southern periphery of Rome, the graveyard is one of 11 in the Italian capital and is known for its “Garden of Angels,” a section where unborn children, who died in utero either due to miscarriage or medical procedures, including abortions, are buried.
Before celebrating Friday’s Mass, Francis stopped to pray at the children’s section of the cemetery, offering a brief prayer for the repose of their souls.
In his remarks, the pope said the day’s feast is also one of hope for the future and pointed to how in the day’s readings reference is made to a “new Jerusalem” that awaits those who have completed their earthly journey.
“It’s wonderful to imagine what awaits us…beauty awaits us,” he said, adding that what is also represented on All Souls Day is the hope “of arriving to the love that created us, the love that awaits us, the love of the Father.”
Looking at the present moment, Francis, as he often has in the past, said the “lights” that help people walk toward heaven without erring along the way are the Beatitudes, which are given by Jesus in the Gospels.
“Meekness, poverty of spirit, justice, mercy, purity of heart, are the lights that accompany us in order not to err on the path…this is our present,” he said.
He closed his homily asking that God would grant those present the grace never to lose or hide their memories, and always to look to the horizon with hope.
“Not to stay closed behind the wall,” but to look to the horizon, he said, and prayed for the grace to ask for the light offered to mankind in the Beatitudes, which help people “not to err and to arrive to where we are awaited with so much love.”
On previous All Souls Day feasts, Francis has visited Rome’s Verano cemetery, located in the center of Rome, as well as the city’s Prima Porta cemetery. In 2017, he chose to visit the cemetery in Nettuno, where some 8,000 U.S. soldiers who died during World War II have been laid to rest.
After the conclusion of Friday’s Mass, Francis returned to the Vatican, where he was scheduled to stop in the grotto to pray for all deceased predecessors, including Saint Pope Paul VI, who was canonized by Francis Oct. 14 during the Synod of Bishops on youth.