By Joachim Teigen
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, on Tuesday, released a letter to all the faithful on the occasion of the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of the faithful departed.
The Apostolic Penitentiary is one of the tribunals of the Roman Curia, whose field of jurisdiction is mainly the lifting of excommunications, dispensations for sacramental impediments, and the issuance and governance of indulgences. For this reason, the Penitentiary is called “a tribunal of mercy”, responsible for the forgiveness of sins.
All Saints and All Souls
The upcoming holy days will take place on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, the Solemnity of All Saints, the Church here on earth remembers all those holy men and women who are now in the presence of God, the Church Triumphant, and asks for their intercession on our behalf.
On Saturday, it is the Church on earth which intercedes on behalf of all the faithful departed, those who died in Christ and are being purified so as to join the heavenly choirs of angels and saints, and who can benefit from our prayers and good works.
“The Church of the Trinity”
In order to more fully understand this mystery, Cardinal Piacenza begins his letter by asking “what – or better still – who is the Church?”. He reminds the readers that the Church is always the “Church of the Trinity”, which is why we cannot fail to remember her heavenly dimension, and that in Christ we find ourselves “embracing our saved brothers and sisters who have left this world.”
“This is the reality conveyed by the upcoming liturgies” the Cardinal said, expressing his wish that “driven by our affectionate remembrance of our dearly departed” we may all draw on the “inexhaustible treasure of Communion”, as well as contributing with our personal prayer, penitence and works of mercy.
The treasure of the Church’s mercy
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines indulgences as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven”. “Temporal punishment” is a consequence of sin, and not the same as “eternal punishment”, but nevertheless it requires purification before entering heaven.
Despite the disrepute into which they fell after the Protestant Reformation, Cardinal Piacenza said that indulgences express the “drawing of the treasure of the Church’s mercy”, and reminded the faithful that they are applicable to both the living and the dead.
The same treasure of mercy is expressed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “Let us go, indeed let us run to the confessional in these holy days!” was the Cardinal’s encouragement, and with it a plea to all confessors to show a generous availability to all those who wish to implore the Divine Mercy, and by so doing also strengthen their faith.
Cardinal Piacenza pointed out the many opportunities in the days ahead “of consolation, of encouragement, and of the drying of tears”, hoping that these occasions would help us understand what it means to be on a “daily pilgrimage”, and so experience a spiritual renewal.
Asking the faithful to “open their hearts to the gifts of the Holy Spirit”, he entrusted the Church to “the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, Queen of all the Saints and Gate of Heaven”, asking her to pray to the Divine Mercy for “the entry of all our brothers and sisters into Paradise”.