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Benedict XVI On the Meaning of Death

With Christ, "It Has Been Deprived of Its 'Venom'"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

During these days that follow the liturgical commemoration of the dead, many parishes celebrate the octave of the dead, an appropriate occasion to remember our loved ones in prayer and to meditate on the reality of death, which the "civilization of comfort" often tries to remove from people's conscientiousness, immersed in the concerns of daily life.

To die, in fact, is part of life and not only of its end, but, if we pay attention, of every instant. Despite all the distractions, the loss of a loved one makes us discover the "problem," making us feel death as a radically hostile presence contrary to our natural vocation to life and happiness.

Jesus revolutionized the meaning of death. He did so with his teaching, above all by facing death himself. "Dying he destroyed death," says the liturgy of the Easter season. "With the Spirit that could not die, Christ defeated death that was killing man," wrote a Father of the Church (Melito of Sardis, "On Easter," 66). In this way, the Son of God wished to share our human condition to the end, to open it to hope. Ultimately, he was born to be able to die and in this way to free us from the slavery of death. The Letter to the Hebrews says: "that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (2:9).

Since then, death is no longer the same: It has been deprived, so to speak, of its "venom." The love of God, acting in Jesus, has given new meaning to the whole of man's existence and in this way, has also transformed death. If in Christ human life is a departure "from this world to the Father" (John 13:1), the hour of death is the moment in which this departure takes places in a concrete and definite way.

Those who commit themselves to live like him are freed from the fear of death, no longer showing the sarcastic smile of an enemy but offering the friendly face of a "sister," as St. Francis wrote in the "Canticle of Creatures." In this way, God can also be blessed for it: "Praise be to you, my Lord, for our Sister Bodily Death." We must not fear the death of the body, faith reminds us, as it is a dream from which we will awake one day.

The authentic death, which one must fear, is that of the soul, called by the Book of Revelation "second death" (cf. 20:14-15; 21:8). In fact, he who dies in mortal sin, without repentance, locked in prideful rejection of God's love, excludes himself from the Kingdom of life.

Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy and of St. Joseph, let us pray to the Lord for the grace to prepare serenely to depart from this world, when he wills to call us, with the hope of being able to be with him eternally, in the company of the saints and of our deceased loved ones.

[At the end of the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

I follow with profound concern the news on the serious deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip and I wish to express my closeness to the civilian populations suffering the consequences of the violence.

I ask you to join me in my prayer so that Almighty and Merciful God will illuminate the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, as well as those nations that have a particular responsibility in the region, so that they will commit themselves to halt the bloodshed, to multiply the initiatives of humanitarian help, and favor the immediate resumption of a direct, serious and concrete negotiation.

[In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today's Angelus, especially the students and teachers from the Arcus College of Heerlen, Holland. During this week following All Souls Day, we remember in a special way our deceased brothers and sisters. With firm confidence we pray that all who have gone before us in faith may share fully in the victory of Christ over death. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday!

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