Remembrance day and the Church

On April 19th 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope. He chose to be called Benedict, and was the sixteenth man to choose that name since Pope Benedict I in the year 575. But it was his most recent name-sake, Pope Benedict XV (pope from 1914-1922) that inspired Cardinal Ratzinger to take Benedict as his papal name. The new pope said,

‘I chose to call myself Benedict XVI ideally as a link to the venerated Pontiff, Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences.’

The First World War, was a disaster for the countries of central Europe. In the four years of the war, more than 15,000,000 people were killed, which represented at that time the bloodiest conflict in the history of the world. Pope Benedict XV tried desperately to bring peace between the warring parties, but was tragically unsuccessful. What was even more painful for the Pope was that many, if not all the countries involved were either Catholic or Christian, and still they were killing their enemies in their hundreds of thousands.

Pope Benedict did however call the Church to pray. And he asked priests all around the world to work with him in praying in particular for the souls of all those who had been killed by the violence of what was becoming known as the ‘Great War’. To do this he issued a decree stating that priests were able to offer three Masses on the 2nd November, All Souls’ Day, for the Faithful Departed.

This was intended by Pope Benedict not only to bring about a speedy end to the War, but also to pray that those who had died (and who were dying) would be granted eternal rest free from their sins. Ever since priests have been able to offer three Masses on All Souls’ Day, a unique privilege given by Pope Benedict in 1915. Here in our own parish of Our Lady and St. Christopher we had three Masses on All Souls’ Day this year.

The War did finally come to an end, and it was not accidental that the Armistice, the Peace, signed between the warring countries was concluded in the very month, November, dedicated to praying for the Faithful Departed. Whilst the speedy end to the War that Pope Benedict XV had hoped for was not realised, the ending of the War on the eleventh day of the eleventh month did restore to Europe something that had been lost; the remembrance of the Dead in the month of November.

So every November when across the United Kingdom people of all ages pause and remember the sacrifice that men and women have and continue to make in the defence of our country, we are forming part of a chain of prayer that goes back to even before Christ, when in honour of fallen warriors, the Maccabees offered prayers for the Dead that God might forgive their sins and grant them His peace.

This Remembrance Sunday, let us not just ‘remember’ or ‘think about’ those who have died, but pray for them. November is a month dedicated to praying for the Dead, so with hope in Resurrection of the Dead, we pray asking for their eternal rest.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Post by Edmund Montgomery, Pastoral Associate at Our Lady & St. Christopher’s, Romiley.

About Sarah Doyle - let them be small
Mum to Daniel and Emma, born 2014 and 2012. Lover of crafting, reading and hot baths, although I rarely seem to find time to do these things!

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