Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ homily during the Mass he offered this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica in suffrage for the souls of Cardinals and Bishops who have died in the course of the past year:
“The Lord is merciful and gracious: (Psalm 102:8).
The month of November, which Christian piety dedicates to the remembrance of the deceased faithful, arouses every year in the Ecclesial Community the thought of life after death and especially the thought of the definitive encounter with the Lord. He will be the judge of our earthly pilgrimage, a judge whose characteristics are mercy and graciousness, as the Psalmist reminds us. Conscious of this, we are gathered prayer around the Lord’s altar for the souls of the Cardinals and Bishops who ended their earthly day in the course of the last twelve months. And while we entrust them, once again, to the merciful goodness of the Father, we renew our gratitude for the Christian and priestly testimony that they left us.
These brothers of ours have reached their goal, after having served the Church and loved the Lord Jesus, in that certainty of love that the Apostle Paul reminded us of in the Second Reading: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35). It is faith in the love of Christ of which no one can separate us: neither tribulations, nor anguish, nor persecution, nor danger, nor death, nor life … They also had very clear the words of the Book of Wisdom: “the faithful will abide with Him in love” (3:9). And they knew well that our earthly pilgrimage ends in the house of the heavenly Father and that only there is the goal, rest and peace found. The Lord Jesus, our Way, Truth and Life leads us to that house.
The path to the Father’s house begins for each one of us on the very day we open our eyes to the light and, through Baptism, to grace. An important stage of this path for us priests and Bishops, is the moment in which we pronounce the “here I am!” during our priestly Ordination. From that moment we are united to Christ in a special way, associated to His ministerial priesthood. At the hour of our death, we will pronounce our last “here I am,” united to that of Jesus, who died entrusting his spirit into the Father’s hands (cf. Luke 23:46). The Cardinals and Bishops, whom we remember today in prayer, dedicated their whole life, especially after having consecrated it to God, to witness and to give to others the love of Jesus. And, likewise, they exhorted the faithful with the word and with example.
They were shepherds of Christ’s flock and, in imitation of Him, they often gave themselves and sacrificed themselves for the salvation of the people entrusted to them. They sanctified them through the Sacraments and guided them on the way of salvation. Full of the power of the Holy Spirit, they proclaimed the Gospel. With paternal love, they made an effort to love all, especially the poor, the defenseless and those in need of help. Therefore, at the end of their existence, we think that the Lord “like a sacrificial burnt offering, accepted them” (Wisdom 3:6). Now, we are here to pray for them, to offer the divine Sacrifice for their soul and to ask the Lord to make them shine for ever in His Kingdom of light (cf. Wisdom 3:7).
With their ministry, they imprinted in the heart of the faithful the consoling truth ”that grace and mercy are upon His elect” (Wisdom 3:9). In the name of the God of mercy and of forgiveness, their hands blessed and absolved, their words comforted and dried tears, their presence witnessed with eloquence that God’s goodness is inexhaustible and His mercy is infinite. Some of them were called to give witness to the Gospel in a heroic way, enduring heavy tribulations. In this Holy Mass, memorial of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, we praise God for all the good that the Lord did for us and for His Church through these our Brothers and Fathers in the faith.
In the light of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, their death is, in reality, their entry into the fullness of life. In this light of faith, we feel closer to our deceased Brothers: death has seemingly separated us, but Christ’s power and His Spirit unite us in an even more profound way. We will continue to feel them beside us in the Communion of Saints. Nourished by the Bread of life, we too, together with all those who have preceded us, await, with firm hope, the day of our face-to-face encounter with the luminous and merciful face of the Father. May our Mother Mary watch over them as well as over us and obtain for us that “we may never be separated “from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 8:39).[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]