As Catholics around the world on Nov. 2 remember those who have passed away, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Vatican Grottoes to pray for his predecessors on the feast of All Souls.
In remarks made in St. Peter's square Nov. 1 anticipating All Souls day, Pope Benedict said the feast “helps us to reflect on the double horizon of humanity, which we symbolically express with the words 'earth' and 'heaven.'”
He noted on Thursday that All Souls should remind Catholics of the reality of the communion of saints – a reality uniting all believers, living and dead.
“The earth represents the journey of history, heaven eternal, the fullness of life in God,” he said. “These two dimensions are united by the reality of the 'communion of saints': a reality that begins here on earth and that reaches its fulfillment in heaven.”
The feast of All Souls is celebrated throughout the entire Catholic world with particular zeal in country's animated by the heritage of Spanish Catholicism.
In the Philippines, families traditionally celebrate the feast by camping in cemeteries and often spending the night near relatives' tombs, playing card games, singing, and dancing. Tombs are also cleaned or repainted, flowers are offered and candles are lit.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead – “Día de los Muertos” – is a national holiday centered around the Feast of All Souls and the Feast of All Saints, celebrated the day before. It is traditional to build altars in honor of the dead and adorn them with the deceased's favorite foods and beverages as well as sugar-candy skulls and marigolds.
Msgr. Peter Fleetwood of the Archdiocese of Liverpool in the U.K. remarked that the feast of All Souls is a time for remembrance as well as the natural reaction of sadness.
“To have a special time in the year when you can dedicate time and prayer to the memory of your dear departed,” he told Vatican Radio, “that responds to a very deep need in all of us.”
“You do get used to missing someone but you never really get over it,” he added.
“I think the fact of the church adopting a day when Masses are offered for the souls of the faithful departed – and in fact a whole month where such things happen – is simply recognizing how real that need is and how important is is to respect the name, the person, the mortal remains and the memory of those who have died.”