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All Souls Day: Pope Visits Laurentino Children’s Cemetery

The First Visit by a Pope to the Site

“Today is a day of memory of the past, a day to remember those who walked before us, who also accompanied us, gave us life,” Pope Francis said on his visit to Laurentin Cemetery on All Souls Day, November 2, 2018. “Remember, remember. Memory is what makes a people strong because it feels rooted in a journey, rooted in a history, rooted in a people. Memory makes us understand that we are not alone, we are a people: a people that has history, that has passed, that has life.”

Pope Francis was the first Pontiff to go to the Laurentino cemetery,  a 67-acre area in Rome’s southern periphery.

The program included a stop at the children’s cemetery. The “Garden of Angels” is an area of 600 square meters dedicated to the burial of stillborn or aborted babies. Two marble statues of Angels, symbols of innocence and purity, guard the Garden.

Monsignor Claudio Palma, almoner of the cemetery, said: “the Pope will keep present the spirit that is here in the Garden of Angels . . . a unique area where there is a place for aborted fetuses. He will be here for this reason: to stress the importance of life . . . because our life goes beyond death.”

The Holy Father celebrated Mass in the Chapel of the Risen Jesus, which opened in 2012. Of a circular shape and a surface of 220 square meters, it has 140 seats and a 120 square-meter Plaza.

The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Camillo Ruini, consecrated the Laurentino cemetery on March 9, 2002. It’s the fourth cemetery visited by the Pontiff on the occasion of November 2: in 2013, 2014 and 2015, he celebrated Mass at the Verano cemetery. In 2016 he presided over the Eucharistic celebration at Prima Porta and in 2017 at the American cemetery of Nettuno, before pausing at the Fosses Ardeatine.

Working Translation of Holy Father’s Remarks, Delivered in Italian

Today’s liturgy is realistic, it is concrete. It is part of the three dimensions of life, dimensions that even children understand: the past, the future, the present.

Today is a day of memory of the past, a day to remember those who walked before us, who also accompanied us, gave us life. Remember, remember. Memory is what makes a people strong because it feels rooted in a journey, rooted in a history, rooted in a people. Memory makes us understand that we are not alone, we are a people: a people that has history, that has passed, that has life. Memory of many who have shared a journey with us, and I am here [indicates the tombs around]. It is not easy to remember. We, many times, we struggle to go back with the thought of what happened in my life, in my family, in my people … But today is a day of memory, the memory that takes us to the roots: to my roots, to roots of my people.

And today is also a day of hope: the second reading made us see what awaits us. A new heaven, a new earth and the holy city of Jerusalem, new. Beautiful is the image she uses to make us understand what awaits us: “I saw her come down from heaven, come down from God, ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (cf. Rev 21: 2). Beauty awaits us … Memory and hope, hope to meet, hope to reach where there is the Love that created us, where there is Love waiting for us: the love of Father.

And between memory and hope, there is the third dimension, that of the road we have to make and which we do. And how to make the road without making mistakes? What are the lights that will help me not to make a mistake? What is the “navigator” that God himself has given us, so as not to make mistakes? They are the Beatitudes that Jesus taught us in the Gospel. These Beatitudes – meekness, poverty of spirit, justice, mercy, purity of heart – are the lights that accompany us so as not to make a mistake: this is our present.

In this cemetery there are the three dimensions of life: memory, we can see it there [indicates the tombs]; hope, we will celebrate it now in faith, not in vision; and the lights to guide us on our journey so as not to make a mistake, we have heard them in the Gospel: they are the Beatitudes.

Today we ask the Lord to give us the grace to never lose our memory, never to hide our memory – memory of a person, family memory, memory of the people -; and that he gives us the grace of hope, because hope is a gift of his: to know how to hope, to look at the horizon, not to remain closed in front of a wall. Always look at the horizon and hope. And give us the grace to understand what are the lights that will accompany us on the road so as not to make mistakes, and so get to where they are waiting for us with so much love.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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