But what is the importance surrounding these two feasts? Can a Plenary Indulgence be obtained for yourself or deceased loved ones? How does the celebration of Halloween overshadow this important feast in the Church?
These are just some of the questions that ZENIT asked Cardinal Mauro Piacenza. As the Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, he oversees the Vatican tribunal responsible for issues regarding mercy and the forgiveness of sins.
In Part II of this interview with Cardinal Piacenza, ZENIT asked about indulgences, the Solemnities of All Saints and All Souls Day, and the effects of celebrating Halloween.
ZENIT: Eminence, you have said that indulgences can be applied to oneself, or to a deceased faithful. Why not to another faithful, for whom one prays? To one’s husband, one’s wife, one's children?
Cardinal Piacenza: This isn’t possible because of the great mystery of freedom, which makes us in the image and likeness of God and that God Himself respects profoundly. Each one, while he is alive, namely, while he is in time, can change his existential choices, can decide personally to be converted, and in this sense, no one can substitute himself for the freedom of the other. Therefore, each one can gain indulgences and apply them to himself. One certainly can pray for the conversion of brothers, for the conversion of sinners but, by its nature, an indulgence is already a pious exercise, necessary for which to be fulfilled are true acts of conversion, first among which is Sacramental Reconciliation. In so far as the deceased are concerned, with their death they have left time and the gift of freedom has ceased for them. Therefore, it is always important that our freedom be oriented to the good and by no means is it prudent to remain a long time in a state of mortal sin. The souls of the deceased not being able to do anything for their purification, by virtue of the Communion of Saints, that is, of the profound unity of all the baptized in Christ, we, who are still on the way, can carry out the extraordinary work of spiritual mercy in suffrage of souls, and this for their benefit and, at the same time, also for our benefit.
ZENIT: Is this the reason why the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls are so reconciling? On the first and the second of November?
Cardinal Piacenza: Since her origins, the Church certainly prayed for the deceased faithful belonging to the early Christian communities. Whether they were martyrs or ordinary faithful who died a natural death, the community understood immediately the suffrage for the deceased as a structural dimension of their life, of their prayer and, above all, of the Eucharistic celebration. As if to signify that the profound unity with Christ and in Christ, created with Baptism, and the sharing of the Eucharist itself, lived in the Christian community, could not be severed not even with death. Moreover, thinking correctly, if death has been overcome by Christ, he who is reborn in Christ can no longer be separated by anything, not even by that death that Christ has already overcome! The Solemnity of All Saints in fact brings to light the truth of the communio sanctorum, of the union of all the baptized. As Pope Francis has reminded us many times: “time prevails over space.” Therefore, the union in time of all the baptized, of the very first Christians, up to those that tomorrow morning will receive Baptism and until the end of history, is a union that nothing will be able to affect and which determines that journeying of the Church in time, which is a real anticipation, here on earth, of the Kingdom of Heaven. We belong to the one ecclesial Body that, uninterruptedly, from Jesus Christ, through the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles, comes to us and it is for this reason that the heavenly Church is much more numerous, much more interesting, much more expert and much more “influential” than the earthly Church.
ZENIT: For about a decade in Europe, on the night before the Solemnity of All Saints, Halloween has become a “fashionable” holiday. To what is this phenomenon due? What are your thoughts on it?
Cardinal Piacenza: As you well said, it is about a “fashion”, which certainly also has serious implications, and not only of a consumerist order. It seems to me that I can deduce that the vast majority of youth, who organize masked celebrations on that occasion, are unwitting victims be it of the fashion or of those who at all costs must sell their commercial products, manipulating spiritual realities. I find the phenomenon so irrational that it becomes the real figure of contemporary society: one who does not believe in truth ends up by believing in anything, including pumpkins! It does not escape my attention, moreover, that in such cases this type of manifestations have a spiritualistic origin and even satanic and, therefore, by feeding them and not correcting them, youth can unwittingly become stokers of the “smoke of Satan,” which already intoxicates the world too much. We must all be very careful not to breathe the toxic fumes; sometimes that happens inadvertently. We must remember that a pumpkin, even if blessed, is always a pumpkin. And those of Halloween are not even blessed!
[Translation by ZENIT]
(Part I was published on October 30th, 2014)