By Millicent Ossai, Alexander Onuorah

All Souls Day is a solemn celebration in the Roman Catholic Church commemorating all of those who have died and are now in Purgatory, being cleansed of their venial sins and the temporal punishments for the mortal sins that they had confessed, and being made pure before entering into the presence of God in Heaven.

The importance of All Souls Day was made clear by Pope Benedict XV (1914-22), when he granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses on All Souls Day: one for all the dead; one for the faithful departed in purgatory; and one for our departed family members and for the  intentions of the Holy Father.

On All Souls Day, we not only remember the dead, but we apply our efforts, through prayer, almsgiving, and the Mass, to their release from Purgatory. There are two plenary indulgences attached to All Souls Day, one for visiting a church and another for visiting a cemetery. (The plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery can also be obtained every day from November 1-8, and, as a partial indulgence, on any day of the year.) While the actions are performed by the living, the merits of the indulgences are applicable only to the souls in Purgatory. Since a plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment for sin, which is the reason why souls are in Purgatory in the first place, applying a plenary indulgence to one of the Holy Souls in Purgatory means that the Holy Soul is released from Purgatory and enters Heaven.

Praying for the dead is a Christian obligation. In the modern world, when many have come to doubt the Church’s teaching on Purgatory, the need for such prayers has only increased. The Church devotes the month of November to prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and participation in the Mass of All Souls Day is an essential action for every Catholic.

Commemorating this annual tradition, Most Rev. Dr. CV.C Onaga led the Clergy and faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu in praying for the souls of the faithful departed.

Three Masses were said by His Lordship at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Ogui, Enugu for this purpose. In his opening remarks, he welcomed all who were present at the solemn celebration. According to the Bishop, it was a time to think and pray for family members, Bishops, Priests and religious, friends and all who have passed on before us.

Delivering his homily, the Chief Shepherd said that the celebration of All Souls which came after the solemnity of All Saints gives us the opportunity to pray for all who are not listed in the book of saints. The intention of the celebration of the three Masses that day is to pray for the dead, the souls in Purgatory and lastly for all our relations who have left the face of the earth.

According to him, the Catholic Church believes in the concept of Purgatory which is an opportunity for souls to be purified. The souls of these people who are in purgatory are incapacitated and can no longer help themselves so they depend on our prayers for the release of their souls.

Still speaking, Bishop Onaga reminded the faithful that this celebration is a reminder of the reality of death and that we shall all die some day, which only God knows. The Bishop finally urged the faithful to pray for the dead throughout the month of November.

Speaking further in a sermon during the Mass celebrated in the evening of the same day, Rev. Fr. Amobi Omeayo stated that we have been called as the children of God, and as the representatives of God to always remember and pray for the departed souls so that they can transit into eternity.

He pointed out the importance of praying for these souls who are in Purgatory because of the consequences of their actions while in the world. This he said is that in the process of doing so, we are actually also praying for ourselves. The prayers we offer is for ourselves in order to gain forgiveness for our sins.

He also reminded the faithful that our soul is on a sojourn and where it goes is determined by how good or how bad we live our life. He called on the faithful to stand firm in their faith because our actions on earth have no merit until it is combined with the mercy of God who has the final say.  He finally encouraged all to strive to do good and be prayerful to help us in this race.

During the prayer of the faithful, the Bishop urged the people of God to remember the leader of the Purgatorian society “Ndianatuegwu” who passed away last month in prayers for all his efforts in leading the faithful in the course of praying for the release of the souls in purgatory.

Speaking with journalists at the end of the Mass, Bishop Onaga reiterated his earlier statement that there are souls of our beloved ones who are neither in heaven nor in hell. The Catholic Church strongly believes in the existence of purgatory and other Churches like the Anglican Church also celebrate souls concurrently with all Saints day. Through the aid of our prayers, these souls who are being prepared for eternal life in heaven will attain it.

Eternal rest grant them O! Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.