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All Souls: Pope Francis Celebrates Mass in Catacombs of Priscilla

Holy Father’s First Visit to a Catacomb

Today in the afternoon, at the commemoration of all the faithful departed, the Holy Father went to the Catacombs of Priscilla, in Via Salaria, Rome, to celebrate Holy Mass.

At 4.00 pm the Eucharistic Celebration took place in the small Basilica of San Silvestro Papa. The Benedictine nuns who guarded the Catacombs of Priscilla and about a hundred of them were present.

At the end of the celebration Pope Francis, before returning to the Vatican at 5.30 pm, went down to the catacombs below for a brief visit, pausing for a few moments before the representation of the Madonna dating back to the mid-third century, and, in the cryptoporticus, in front of the Greek chapel. On his return to the Vatican, the Holy Father Francis went to the Caves of the Vatican Basilica for a moment of prayer in private, for the deceased Pontiffs.

We publish below the transcript of the homily that the Holy Father gave in his arm during the Holy Mass:

Homily of the Holy Father

The celebration of the feast of all the dead in a catacomb – for me it is the first time in my life that I enter a catacomb, it is a surprise – tells us many things. We can think of the life of those people, who had to hide, who had this culture of burying the dead and celebrating the Eucharist in here … It is a moment of bad history, but it has not been overcome: even today there are. There are many. Many catacombs in other countries, where they even have to pretend to have a party or a birthday to celebrate the Eucharist, because in that place it is forbidden to do so. Even today there are persecuted Christians, more than in the first centuries, more. This – the catacombs, the persecution, the Christians – and these Readings, make me think of three words: identity, place and hope.

The identity of these people who gathered here to celebrate the Eucharist and to praise the Lord, is the same as that of our brothers today in so many, so many countries where being a Christian is a crime, it is forbidden, they have no right. The same. The identity is this that we have heard: they are the Beatitudes. The identity of the Christian is this: the Beatitudes. There is not another one. If you do this, if you live like this, you are a Christian. “No, but look, I belong to that association, to that other …, I belong to this movement …”. Yes, yes, all good things; but these are fantasy in front of this reality. Your identity card is this [indicates the Gospel], and if you do not have this, movements or other belongings are of no use. Either you live like this, or you’re not a Christian. Simply. The Lord said it. “Yes, but it’s not easy, I don’t know how to live like this …”. There is another passage from the Gospel that helps us better understand this, and that passage of the Gospel will also be the “great protocol” according to which we will be judged. It is Matthew 25. With these two passages of the Gospel, the Beatitudes, and the great protocol, we will show, by living this, our identity as Christians. Without this, there is no identity. There is the fiction of being Christian, but not identity.

This is the identity of the Christian. The second word: the place. Those people who came here to hide, to be safe, even to bury the dead; and those people who celebrate the Eucharist today in secret, in those countries where it is forbidden … I think of that nun in Albania who was in a re-education camp, at the time of the communism, and it was forbidden for priests to give the sacraments, and this nun, there, he baptized in secret. The people, the Christians knew that this nun baptized and the mothers approached with the child; but this one didn’t have a glass, something to put water … He did it with shoes: he took water from the river and baptized with shoes. The place of the Christian is everywhere, we do not have a privileged place in life. Some want to have it, they are “qualified” Christians. But these run the risk of remaining with the “qualified” and dropping the “Christian”. Christians, what is their place? “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God” (Sap 3,1): the place of the Christian is in the hands of God, where He wants. The hands of God, who are plagued, who are the hands of his Son who wanted to bring with him the wounds to show them to the Father and intercede for us. The place of the Christian is in the intercession of Jesus before the Father. In the hands of God. And we are sure there, whatever happens, even the cross happens. Our identity [points to the Gospel] says that we will be blessed if they persecute us if they say everything against us; but if we are in God’s hands, plea for love, we are sure. This is our place. And today we can ask ourselves: but where do I feel most secure? In the hands of God or with other things, with other securities that we “rent” but that will eventually fall, that have no consistency?

These Christians, with this identity card, who lived and live in the hands of God, are men and women of hope. And this is the third word that comes to me today: hope. We heard it in the second reading: that final vision where everything is re-done, where everything is re-created, that country where we all go. And to enter there, we don’t need strange things, we don’t need sophisticated attitudes: we just need to show the identity card: “It’s okay, go ahead”. Our hope is in Heaven, our hope is anchored there and we, with the rope in our hands, support ourselves by looking at that river bank that we must cross.

Identity: Beatitudes and Matthew 25. Place: the safest place, in God’s hands, plagued with love. Hope, future: the anchor, there, in the other bank, but I cling to the rope. This is important, always clinging to the rope! Many times we will only see the rope, not even the anchor, not even the other shore; but you, hold on to the rope that you will arrive safely.

[01741-IT.02] [Original text: Italian]

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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