11/01/2005, 00.00
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The Eucharist unites saints and pilgrims, both the living and the dead

Tomorrow Benedict XVI will visit the tombs of the popes in the Grotte Vaticane, where he will pause a while before the grave of John Paul II.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Holiness is a "new life" bestowed in baptism, which "is not subject to the corruption or power of death". On the feast of All Saints, Benedict XVI said the "communion of saints" is the profound unity among those who see God "as He is" and those who are "pilgrims in the world". The Eucharist, said the pope, is the moment in which are all truly united, the living and the dead, saints and pilgrims.

The pope reminded pilgrims in St Peter's square of traditional devotions to commemorate the dead: visiting cemeteries and offering Masses for them. Tomorrow, the pope himself will go the Grotte Vaticane to pause a while before the tombs of the popes, with a "special thought for the beloved John Paul II".

Here are the words of the pope in the lead-up to the Marian prayer:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints, which allows us to savour the joy of being part of the large family of God's friends or, as St Paul wrote, "to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light" (Col 1:12). The Liturgy puts forward the expression filled with wonder of the apostle John: "What love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are!" (1 Jn 3:1). Yes, becoming saints means the full realization of what we already are in that we have been raised, in Jesus Christ, to the dignity of adoptive children of God (cfr Eph 1:5; Rm 8:14-17). With the Son's incarnation, death and resurrection, God wanted to reconcile humanity to Himself and to open it to share his own life. Whoever believes in Christ, Son of God, is born again "from above", it is as if he is regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit (cfr Jn 3:1-8). This mystery is implemented in the sacrament of Baptism, through which the mother Church brings "saints" to light.

The new life received in Baptism is not subject to the corruption and power of death. For those who live in Christ, death is the passage from an earthly pilgrimage to the homeland of heaven, where the Father welcomes all his children "of every nation, race, people and language" as we read today in the Book of Revelation (7:9). This is why it is very meaningful and appropriate that after the feast of All Saints, all the faithful who have died are commemorated tomorrow. The "communion of saints" which we profess in the Creed, is a reality which is built down here, but which will be manifested fully when we see God "as he is" (1 Jn 3:2). It is the reality of a family tied by profound links of spiritual solidarity, which unite the faithful who have died to those who are pilgrims in the world. A bond which is mysterious but real, fed by prayer and by participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The souls of the faithful meet in the mystical Body of Christ, overcoming the barrier of death, praying for each other, realizing in charity an intimate exchange of gifts. Through this dimension of faith may be understood also the practice of offering prayers of suffrage for the deceased, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice, a memorial of the Easter of Christ, who opened the road to eternal life for believers.

Uniting myself spiritually with those going to cemeteries to pray for their deceased ones, I too will go tomorrow afternoon to pray in the Grotte Vaticane at the tombs of the popes, which crown the sepulchre of the Apostle Peter, and my thoughts will be especially for the beloved John Paul II. Dear friends, the tradition of these days of visiting the tombs of our deceased ones is an occasion to think about the mystery of death without fear, and to cultivate that incessant watchfulness which allows us to face it serenely. The Virgin Mary, the Queen of Saints who we turn to now with filial confidence, will help us in this.

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