Christians Worldwide Observe All Saints' Day to Mediate on Life and Death

Christians across the world are observing two traditional religious feasts on the first and second day of November, one day following Halloween.

Christians across the world are observing two traditional religious feasts on the first and second day of November, one day following Halloween.

According to Catholic tradition, Nov. 1 is known as All Saints' Day while Nov. 2 is All Souls' Day. Both festivals are not only observed by Roman Catholics, but Protestant churches that retained Catholic rituals, such as Lutherans and Anglicans, still keep All Saints' Day. In predominantly Catholic countries including the Philippines, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Mexico, people regard these two days as holy.

For Anglicans and Catholics, All Saints Day is a day to honor all the saints, including all the great apostles, martyrs and those who have met God in heaven. People on earth ask the saints in heaven to pray and intercede. Lutherans, however, on this day give glory to Jesus Christ, who has made the saints holy by sacrificing his life.

The Pope traditionally visits the tombs of past popes and offers Masses for them on the second day of November. This year is very meaningful following the death of John Paul II on Apr. 2, according to Reuters.

Pope Benedict XVI made public address in St. Peter's Square on Nov. 1, saying that he would pause for a while at the tomb of John Paul II tomorrow on the All Souls’ Day with a “special thought for the beloved John Paul II”, according to Reuters. In addition, he has also explained the theological significance of All Saints' Day in his statement.

"The new life received in Baptism is not subject to the corruption and power of death," Pope Benedict said. “Death is the passage from an earthly pilgrimage to the homeland of heaven, where the Father welcomes all his children ‘of every nation, race, people and language.’"

Therefore, it is very meaningful to remember all the faithful who have died and completed their journey to their heavenly home, concluded the pope, according to Reuters.

In the United Kingdom, the Church of England held a memorial service for the victims of the London bombings at St Paul's Cathedral in London on All Saints’ Day. Over 2,300 gathered in the Church, including the relatives who lost loved ones, survivors and members of the emergency services.

On July 7, terrorist attacks of the London transportation system claimed 52 lives and injured over 700.

Acknowledging the fear and anxiety of British people towards death after undergoing the trauma of repeated bombings, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reminded the congregation of the love of God as saying, “We have some abiding sense that death, even violent and untimely death, cannot destroy our relationships at the most important level; that love is indeed, as the Bible says, strong as death."

The Archbishop called on prayer that "we may all, with those we love, ‘come to ourselves’ in heaven."

In Mexico, which has a strong Catholic background, both All Saints and All Souls Days take on a little different theme. People spend the two days in remembering the dead, believing the dead will return each year to receive offerings from the living ones, according to Reuters.

As the Philippines newspaper Manila Bulletin reported, in the Philippines where 80 percent of the population is Catholic, millions of families have visited the graveyards and prayed for the souls of the loved ones on All Saints’ Day since early morning. Some families will keep vigil and light candles in the gravesites of their dead until the following day – the All Souls’ Day.

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