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General Audience: On Burying the Dead

«We went through the 14 works of mercy, but mercy continues and we must exercise it in these 14 ways»

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Pope Francis today concluded his series of catecheses on mercy, in the general audience held in Paul VI Hall.
The Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “Pray to God for the living and for the dead” (cf. Romans 8:25-27).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he made an appeal on the occasion World AIDS Day, observed tomorrow, and on the occasion of the International Conference on the Protection of Patrimony in Areas of Conflict, which will be held at Abu Dhabi on December 2-3.
Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address:
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
With today’s catechesis, we conclude the series dedicated to mercy. But although the catecheses finish, mercy must continue! We thank the Lord for all this and we keep it in our heart as consolation and comfort.
The last work of spiritual mercy calls to pray for the living and the deceased. We can also place it side by side with the last work of corporal mercy, which invites to bury the dead. The latter might seem a strange request; instead, in some areas of the world that live under the scourge of war, with bombardments that day and night sow fear and innocent victims, this work is sadly timely. In this connection, the Bible <gives> a good example: that of old Tobit, who, at the risk of his own life, buried the dead despite the king’s prohibition (cf. Tobit 1:17-19; 2:2-4). There are those also today who risk their life to bury the poor victims of wars. Hence, this corporal work of mercy is not far from our daily existence. And it makes us think of what happened on Good Friday, when the Virgin Mary with John and some women were close to Jesus’ cross. After His death, Joseph of Arimathea came — a rich man, member of the Sanhedrin, but who had become a disciple of Jesus — and offered his new sepulcher for Him, excavated in the rock. He went personally to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body: a true work of mercy made with great courage (cf. Matthew 27:57-60)! For Christians, burial is an act of piety, but also an act of great faith. We place in the tomb the body of our dear ones, with the hope of their resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-34). It is a rite that remains strong and heartfelt in our people, and which finds special resonances in this month of November, dedicated in particular to remembering and praying for the deceased.
To pray for the deceased is, first of all, a sign of gratitude for the testimony they left us and for the good they did. It is to thank the Lord for having given them to us and for their love and their friendship. The priest says: “Remember, Lord, your faithful, who have preceded us with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace” (Roman Canon). A simple, effective remembrance charged with meaning, because it entrusts our dear ones to God’s mercy. We pray with Christian hope that they may be with Him in Paradise, in the expectation of meeting one another again in that mystery of love, which we do not understand, but which we know is true because it is a promise Jesus made. All of us will resurrect and all of us will remain forever with Jesus, with Him.
The remembrance of the faithful deceased must not make us forget to pray also for the living who, together with us, face every day the trials of life. The necessity of this prayer is yet more evident if we place it in the light of the profession of faith, which says: “I believe in the Communion of Saints.” It is the mystery that expresses the beauty of the mercy that Jesus has revealed to us. In fact, the Communion of Saints indicates that we are all immersed in the life of God and we live in His love. All, living and deceased, are in communion, that is, as a union; united in the community of all those that received Baptism, and of those that are nourished by the Body of Christ and are part of the great family of God. United, we are all the same family; therefore, we pray for one another.
How many different ways there are to pray for our neighbor! They are all valid and accepted by God if done with the heart. I am thinking particularly of mothers and fathers who bless their children in the morning and the evening. There is still this habit in some families: to bless a child is a prayer; I am thinking of prayer for sick people, when we go to see them and pray for them; of the silent intercession, sometimes with tears, of so many difficult situations for which to pray. Yesterday a good man, a businessman, came to Mass at Casa Santa Marta. That young man must close his factory because he cannot make ends meet and he wept, saying: “I don’t like leaving more than 50 families without work. I could declare the failure of the business <and> go home with my money, but I will feel hurt all my life for these 50 families.” There is a good Christian who prays with works: he came to Mass to pray that the Lord might give him a way out, not only for himself, but for the 50 families. This is a man who knows how to pray, with the heart and with the facts, he knows how to pray for his neighbor. He is in a difficult situation, and he does not look for the easiest way out: “That they make do themselves.” This <man> is a Christian. It did me so much good to hear him!
And perhaps there are many like him, today, at this moment in which so many people suffer because of lack of work. I am also thinking of gratitude for good news concerning a friend, a relative, a colleague …: “Thank you, Lord, for this good thing!” This too is to pray for others! To thank the Lord when things go well. Sometimes, as Saint Paul says, “we do not know how to pray as we ought but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
It is the Spirit who prays in us. Therefore, let us open our hearts, so that the Holy Spirit, scrutinizing the desires that are deep inside us, is able to purify them and bring them to fulfilment. In any case, let us always ask for ourselves and for others that God’s Will be done, as in the Our Father, because His Will is certainly the greatest good, the goodness of a Father who never abandons us: to pray and to let the Holy Spirit pray in us. And this is good in life: pray thanking and praising God, asking for something, weeping when there is a difficulty, as that man. But may our heart be always open to the Spirit, so that He prays in us, with us and for us.
Concluding these catecheses on mercy, let us commit ourselves to pray for one another so that the works of corporal and spiritual mercy become increasingly our style of life. The catecheses, as I said at the beginning, finish here. We went through the 14 works of mercy, but mercy continues and we must exercise it in these 14 ways. Thank you.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]
In Italian
I give a warm welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the children affected by the Batten Syndrome, patients at the Bambino Gesu Hospital; the staff of the Technical Center of Military Aeronautics of Fiumicino; and the members of the Federation of Institutes of Educational Activities, gathered on the occasion of the seventieth <anniversary> of its foundation, and I invite them to continue in their endeavor of support to Catholic schools, so that the freedom of parents’ educational choice for their children is always safeguarded.
I greet the students, in particular those of the “Asisium” Institute and the delegation of the Municipality of Cervia, present here for the traditional delivery of salt.
An affectionate greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today is the Feast of the Apostle Andrew, brother of Saint Peter. May his run to the sepulcher to find the Lord remind you, dear young people, that our life is a pilgrimage towards the House of the Father; may his strength, in facing martyrdom, sustain you, dear sick, when your suffering seems unbearable; and may his passionate following of the Savior induce you, dear newlyweds, to understand the importance of love in your new family. And, on the feast of the Apostle Andrew, I would also like to greet the Church of Constantinople and the beloved Patriarch Bartholomew, and to unite myself to him and to the Church in Constantinople on this feast – to that Sister Church in the name of Peter and Andrew, all together – and to wish them all possible good, all the Lord’s blessing and a great embrace.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]
The Holy Father’s Appeals
Tomorrow, December 1, is World AIDS Day, promoted by the United Nations. Millions of persons live with this sickness and only half of them have access to lifesaving therapies. I invite you to pray for them and for their dear ones and to promote solidarity so that even the poorest can benefit from diagnosis and adequate care. Finally, I make an appeal so that all adopt responsible behaviours to prevent the further spread of this sickness.
On the initiative of France and of the United Arab Emirates, with the collaboration of UNESCO, an international Conference on the Protection of Patrimony in Areas of Conflict will be held at Abu Dhabi this coming December 2-3 – a subject that unfortunately is tragically current. In the conviction that the protection of cultural riches constitutes an essential dimension  of the defense of the human being, I hope this event will mark a new stage in the process of the implementation of human rights.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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