The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
(All Souls)

During the four-plus years of his papacy, Pope Francis has issued many statements, speeches and interviews. One important speech that few people pay attention to is his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on November 25, 2014. In his address, Pope Francis spoke about the idea of soul. First, he warned the European Parliament that, “A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.” Second, he cited an anonymous second-century author, who wrote that “Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body”. The Pope then asserted that the function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory.

Remember that this is a pope who is neither a philosopher nor theologian like his two immediate predecessors. Interestingly, Pope Francis makes a reference to Raphael’s famous painting “School of Athens,” especially to the image of Plato’s finger that points upward. For the Pope, this image suggests, “openness to the transcendent– to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe.” Indeed, Plato talked a lot about the soul’s fate after its death, in particular those of the Gorgias and Republic. In those works, Plato discussed the soul’s retention of memories from previous lives and the particular type of indestructibility of soul. He also dealt with the apparent incongruity of the fact that souls are rewarded and punished for their previous incarnated lives with the fact that part of that punishment and reward consists in the determination of their next incarnation.

Today is commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, commonly known as the All Souls day. In praying for the dead, the Church invites all of us to contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ, who obtains salvation and eternal life for us through his Cross. Furthermore, contemplation of the lives of those who have followed Christ encourages us to lead a good. Thus, we are called to prepare ourselves each day for eternal life. As we are contemplating the trouble and injustice around the world today, let us remember our belief in eternal life which we profess in the Creed; as an invitation to the joyful hope of seeing God face to face. In addition, we can also be assured that those who commit unjust works on earth will have to face eternal judgment in the afterlife.

November 2nd, 2017