By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Visiting a cemetery on the feast of All Souls can evoke feelings of loss and sadness, but for Christians marking the feast, it also is an affirmation of hope in the resurrection, Pope Francis said.
Through his death on the cross, Jesus “opened for us the door of hope where we will contemplate God,” the pope said Nov. 2 at an evening Mass amid the tombs of Rome’s Prima Porta cemetery.
“The hope of the resurrection never fails us,” the pope said. “The first one who walked this path was Jesus. We will walk the path he has walked.”
As the sun set among scattered gray clouds, hundreds of people attending the Mass were seated along the cemetery walkway, surrounded by the burial plots of countless loved ones. Just before beginning the Mass, Pope Francis, dressed in a purple chasuble, laid roses in front of a tomb within the walls of the cemetery’s mausoleum.
Reflecting on the feast day’s first reading from the Book of Job, the pope noted that in the midst of suffering and darkness, “Job proclaims hope.”
“As for me, I know that my vindicator lives and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust. I will see for myself; my own eyes, not another’s, will behold him,” Job says.
Although visiting the tombs of loved ones who have passed away and realizing that death will come for each person can bring feelings of sadness, the pope said that the act of bringing flowers to a cemetery is also a sign of joyful hope in the afterlife.
The feast of All Souls takes on a “dual meaning” where “sadness is mixed with hope,” he said.
“We return home today with this dual memory: the memory of the past, of our loved ones who have gone and the memory of the future, the path we will go on with the certainty and with the assurance that came from Jesus’ lips: ‘I will raise him up on the last day,’” the pope said.
Italians, taking advantage of the Nov. 1 public holiday celebrating All Saints, traditionally visit the graves of their loved ones, often tidying up their graves and laying fresh flowers on the eve of the feast of All Souls.
Before concluding the Mass, Pope Francis blessed the tombs, while reciting a prayer to God that he would “comfort those in the pain of separation” and that those who have died will “one day participate in the paschal victory of your son.”