Vatican City (AsiaNews) - On the day on which the Church commemorates all of the faithful departed, Benedict XVI has asked Christians to "evangelize the reality of death and of eternal life, a reality particularly subject to superstitious beliefs and syncretism, so that Christian truth does not risk being blended with mythologies of various kinds." Speaking before the prayer of the Angelus, to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, he said that "it is very important that we Christians live a relationship with the departed in the truth of the faith, and that we look at death and the next world in the light of Revelation." In support of this, he cited the words of St. Paul, who said "not to be sad like those who have no hope," and "if in fact we believe that Jesus has died and risen, so also God, through Jesus, will gather with him all those who have died" (1 Thes. 4:13-14).
The pontiff recalled that eternal life was one of the themes of his encyclical "Spe Salvi." "I asked: is the Christian faith also for the men of today a hope that transforms and upholds their life (cf. no. 10)? And more radically: do the men and women of our age still desire eternal life? Or has earthly existence become their only horizon? In reality, as St. Augustine observed, we all want 'the blessed life', happiness. We do not know very well what this is, but we feel drawn to it. This is a universal hope, common to the men of all times and places. The expression 'eternal life' is intended to give a name to this irrepressible expectation: not an endless succession, but immersion in the ocean of infinite love, in which time, before and after, no longer exist. A fullness of life and joy: this is what we hope for and anticipate from our being with Christ (cf. no. 12)."
Before the Marian prayer, the pontiff exhorted all to renew their "hope in eternal life, solidly founded in the death and resurrection of Christ. 'I am risen, and now I am always with you', the Lord tells us, 'and my hand upholds you. Wherever you might fall, you will fall into my hands, and I will be present even at the gate of death. Where no one can accompany you any longer, and where you can bring nothing, there I will wait for you to transform your darkness into light'."
"Christian hope," the pope concluded, "is not, however, an individual hope, it is always hope for others as well. Our existence is profoundly connected to that of one another, and the good and evil that each one does always affects the others. Thus the prayer of a pilgrim soul in the world can help another soul that is being purified after death. This is why the Church calls upon us to pray for our deceased loved ones, and to visit their graves. May Mary, the Star of Hope, make our hope in eternal life stronger and more authentic, and support our prayers for our departed brethren."
At 6:30 this evening, the pope will visit the crypt of the Vatican basilica for a moment of prayer in private, on behalf of the Supreme Pontiffs buried there, and of all the departed. Tomorrow, he will celebrate a Mass for all of the cardinals and bishops who died this year.