On Sunday Pope Benedict XVI, visiting the site of a World War II massacre, remembered
the “abhorrent effects” of war, of violence on man by man, and in doing so, strengthened
the urgency of his appeal for an end to the use of weapons and space for dialogue
in the conflicts that are currently raging in Libya and the North African region.
the midday Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square, the Pope described how his “fears”
for the safety of the civilian population and his “concern” for the unfolding situation
in Libya is growing. He said that it is at moments such as these, of greatest tension,
that international bodies and people in positions of responsibility, must use all
diplomatic means at their disposal to give space to even the “weakest signs” of openness
to dialogue. Appealing to both sides of the Libyan conflict, the Pope concluded with
a heartfelt call for end to the use of weapons and an immediate start of dialogue.
underscoring this renewed Papal appeal, were the images of Pope Benedict Sunday morning,
as he walked among the tombs of 335 Italians massacred in the Fosse Ardeatine, (roughly
translated as the Ardeantine quarries or caves), during the Nazi Occupation March
24, 1944, in retaliation for a partisan attack on Nazi troops in central Rome a day
earlier. Ten Italians for every one German soldier killed were rounded up, and transported
to the quarry site on Via Ardeatine, brought into the caves and, one by one, shot
dead at point blank range. The victims included Italian army officers, resistance
fighters, innocent civilians and 75 members of the city’s Jewish community. The youngest
victim was 15 years old.
On Sunday, accompanied by Rome’s Chief Rabbi, Riccardo
Segni and Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest of St Paul’s outside
the Walls, the Pope laid a basket of red roses at the feet of the plaque commemorating
the victims. He then entered the cavern containing the tombs, pausing before three;
the first, that of Cardinal Montezemolo’s father, who was a general in the Italian
army. The second, that of Don Pietro Pappagallo a priest of the Roman diocese proclaimed
a XX century martyr by John Paul II, for his self sacrifice in helping those persecuted
under the Fascist and Nazi regimes; and finally that of Alberto Funaro, a Jew, whose
nephew, a Rabbi of the same name, stood alongside the Pope as he prayed.
from the darkened crypt Pope Benedict said: “What happened here March 24, 1944 is
a most grave offense against God, because it is the deliberate violence of man by
man. It is the most abhorrent effect of war, any war, while God is life, peace, communion”.
“Like my predecessors, I have come here to pray and renew the memory. I have come
to invoke Divine mercy, which alone can fill the void, the abyss opened by men who,
when driven by blind violence, deny their dignity as children of God and brotherhood
with each other”. “Yes, wherever he is, on every continent, in every nation, man is
the son of that Father in heaven, he is brother to all humanity. But this being the
son and brother is not a given. Unfortunately, this is revealed by the Ardeatine Caves
themselves. We must want it, we must say yes to good and no to evil. We must believe
in the God of love and life, and reject any false image of God, that betrays His holy
name and thus betrays man, made in His image”.
“Therefore, in this place,
painful memorial of the most horrendous evil, the real answer is to join hands as
brothers, and say: Our Father, we believe in You, and with the strength of Your love
we desire to walk together in Peace, in Rome, Italy, in Europe, throughout the world”.
before taking his leave, in the book of witness at the entrance to the cave, Pope
Benedict wrote: Non timebo quia Tu mecum es, I shall fear no evil, because
You are with me. Listen to Emer McCarthy's report: