Let us commend the faithful departed to the merciful Father

MY DEAR people of God in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

In the times ahead the Year of Consecrated Life will come to an end (February 2 – the Presentation of the Lord). Over this year I have been pleased to see in the Archdiocese many simple, but profound occasions whereby those in consecrated life have been thanked and honoured by us all. Pope Francis has called them to “wake up the world”.

During this month of November, dedicated to prayer for our faithful departed, let us join together in a merciful act of collective intercession: let us pray for all who served in this Archdiocese and who have now died.

I recall, when I visited the Goulburn cemetery, much personal amazement at the hundreds of tombstones of the consecrated men and women who had served heroically in our Archdiocese over the years. We pray for all of them wherever they are buried, with thanksgiving. May they rest in peace!

Beginning shortly, at the same time, we will open with Pope Francis the Jubilee Year of Mercy (December 8 – the Immaculate Conception). I have written a pastoral letter to all about our participation in this international Jubilee Year. Please find it enclosed in this edition of the Catholic Voice. Read it carefully within your parishes, schools and communities. Start planning your local pastoral responses now.

Once more, the word mercy is heard again and again. It is a word that has particular significance during November, with our prayers for the dead.

Firstly, let us remind ourselves that at the Funeral Mass (sometimes called Mass of Christian Burial or Requiem Mass) within the Catholic Tradition that the first priority is to pray for the repose of the soul of the deceased, and to call down God’s merciful forgiveness of their sins.

The second priority is to thank the Lord for his/her life.

Thirdly, we wish to offer prayers of comforting hope for the bereaved (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 379-385).

Calling a Catholic funeral ‘A celebration of the life of…’ does not, therefore, express the full depth and meaning of our understanding of funerals.

A simple service (i.e. not a Mass) is better called ‘The funeral liturgy of… or rite of Christian burial of…’.

Let us keep these points in mind when we begin planning funerals within our Catholic Tradition.

Finally, as a further petition in November, let us pray for the unborn who have become tragic victims of abortion. Australia has one of the highest abortion rates in the developed world. Each year about 85,000 abortions are performed.

Let us pray too for the mothers and fathers of these aborted children. Healing, mercy and help must await them in the lonely times after an abortion.

For all the faithful departed, especially those in purgatory, we pray in mercy, ‘Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.’

May the Lord bless you and your families.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse

Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn