2011-03-27 14:55:34

Pope recalls horror of wars, past and present

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.

Following 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.

Poignantly 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.

Emerging 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”.

And 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: RealAudioMP3

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