Also called Feast of All Souls; Defuncts’ Day; Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
Observed by Western liturgical churches and Eastern Christians
Type Christian Date (West) 2 November
(East) Several times during the year
Observances Prayer for the departed (especially Requiem Masses), observances in cemeteries, special meals
Related to All Saints Day
In Western Christianity, All Souls’ Day commemorates the faithful departed.
This day is principally observed in the Catholic Church, although some churches of the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Churches also celebrate it.
The Eastern Orthodox churches observe several All Souls’ Days during the year.
The Roman Catholic celebration is based on the doctrine that the souls of the faithful which at death have not been cleansed from the temporal punishment due to venial sins, or have not fully been purged from attachment to mortal sins, cannot attain the beatific vision in heaven yet, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass (see Purgatory).
In other words, when they died, they had not yet attained full sanctification and moral perfection, a requirement for entrance into Heaven.
This sanctification is carried out posthumously in Purgatory.
All Souls’ Day is also known as the Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed.
The official Latin designation Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum, on which this last name is based, is rendered more literally in Portuguese Comemoração de todos os Fiéis Defuntos and many other languages.
Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos or de los Difuntos) is used in Spanish-speaking countries, and Thursday of the Dead (Yom el Maouta) in Lebanon, Israel and Syria.
The Western celebration of All Souls’ Day is on 2 November and follows All Saints’ Day, which commemorates the departed who have attained the beatific vision.
If 2 November falls on a Sunday, the Mass is of All Souls, but the Office is that of the Sunday.
However, Morning and Evening Prayer (Lauds and Vespers) for the Dead, in which the people participate, may be said.
In pre-1969 calendars, which some still follow, and in the Anglican Communion, All Souls Day is instead transferred, whenever 2 November falls on a Sunday, to the next day, 3 November, which was the case in 2008.
The Eastern Orthodox Church dedicates several days throughout the year to the dead, mostly on Saturdays, because of Jesus’ resting in the tomb on Saturday.