Pope Francis called war “the destruction of ourselves” during visits Thursday to an American military cemetery and the site of a Nazi massacre in Rome as he marked the Catholic All Souls’ Day commemorating the dead.
Pope Francis laid flowers on 10 graves among the 7,680 American war dead buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, which also commemorates a further 3,095 who went missing in campaigns to liberate southern and central Italy from Sicily north to Rome during World War II.
The new U.S. ambassador to Rome, Lewis Eisenberg, was among the 5,000 in attendance.
During Mass, Pope Francis said in his homily that the sight of the arcs of white headstones should stand as a call for peace, saying “no more war, no more of these useless massacres.”
The Pope said that humanity hasn’t learned, or hasn’t wanted to learn, the lessons of war.
“How often in history, when men think of making war, they are convinced of bringing a new world, they are convinced that they are making spring. It ends in winter; ugly, cruel, a reign of terror, of death,” the Pope said.
Calling for prayers for all the dead, the pope made special mention of those “who are dying in the battle every day,” referring again to what he has called “a war of pieces,” or the many eruptions of violence and attacks around the globe.
The Pope continued to the Ardeatine Caves, the site of one of the worst massacres of Nazi-occupied Rome. He prayed, laid flowers on the graves and signed the book of honor: “These are the fruits of war: hatred, death and vendetta. Forgive us, Father.”
The site commemorates the Nazi murder of 335 Italians aged from 14 to 75 in reprisal for a partisan attack on Nazi troops marching through Rome. They included 68 soldiers as well artists, farmers, a priest and a diplomat. While some were members of the resistance, many had no partisan involvement and 73 were singled out because they were Jewish.
Francis is the fourth pope to visit the caves, after Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.