On All Souls’ Day, Pope Francis visited the Catacombs of Priscilla for the first time. “The identity of the people who met here is the same as that of many of our brothers and sisters who meet today in secret”. For him, “The place of Christians is everywhere". We are safe "in God’s hands,” and “Our hope is in heaven, anchored there". The pontiff visited to the caves in the Basilica of St Peter to pray for the deceased popes.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Mass this afternoon in the chapel of the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome, on the Via Salaria. Many of those martyred during the persecution by imperial Rome were buried in the building, which dates back to the 4th century.
In his address, the pontiff noted that “Even today there are catacombs” and more Christians gather in secret nowadays “than in the first centuries”. What is more, “The identity of the people who met here is the same as that of many of our brothers and sisters who meet today in secret" because they are not allowed to freely gather.
Visibly moved, Francis said that this was his first visit to a catacomb. He describes that time as “an ugly moment in history", one that echoes today.
Francis decided to make the visit to remember the faithful departed, which the Church commemorates today. In his homily, he highlighted "three words: identity, place, hope".
There is but one identity for Christians buried in the Catacombs of Priscilla, for those Christians persecuted today and for all the faithful: the beatitudes: “If you live like this you are a Christian.”
Another element of this identity is found in “Matthew 25, the great protocol on which we will be judged. This is how we will show our identity as Christians. Without this there is no identity, except a fake one.”
For Francis, "the place of Christians is everywhere. We do not have a privileged place;” we are “in God’s hands,” in Christ’s hands, which are “wounded”. “That’s where we re safe, whatever happens, even the cross.”
To exemplify the absence of a “privileged place”, the Pope cited a nun in Albania who baptised children in secret during the communist persecution. “Mothers came to her with their child and the nun took water from the river with a shoe and baptised the children.”
“The beatitudes,” he noted, “say that we will be happy if we are persecuted,” and “the cross is also our place.” In a question addressed to everyone, he asked: "Am I safe in God’s hands or in those of others that will one day fall?”
Speaking about “hope,” he turned to the second reading of the Mass (Revelation 21:1-5,6-7), “the final vision, where everything is done again, recreated, the homeland where we will go. [. . .] To go in there, there is no need for sophisticated attitudes; only our identity card, i.e. the beatitudes and Matthew 25".
“Our hope is in heaven, anchored there, and with the rope in our hands we support ourselves, we look at the shore and the river that we must cross. Always holding onto to the rope. Many times, we shall not see the shore, nor the anchor.”
After the liturgical service, Pope Francis travelled back to the Vatican where he visited the caves in the Basilica of St Peter, pausing to pray for the deceased popes.