Pope Francis today lamented that humanity does not seem to want to learn the lesson that war leads to death, to “an ugly, cruel winter.”
He said this during a visit to the Nettuno US War Cemetery and Memorial south of Rome, the final resting place for thousands of men who died during military operations carried out to liberate Italy – from Sicily to Rome – from Nazi Germany. Its chapel contains a list of the 3,095 missing.
Today, All Souls Day, it is traditional to visit cemeteries in order to pray for the souls of the departed. A plenary indulgence can be associated with the visit.
Editor’s Note:An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.Here’s a two-part Aleteia primer on Indulgences:
Pope Francis arrived at the War Cemetery early in the afternoon so that he could spend time reflecting and paying his personal respects to the 7,860, mostly young soldiers who gave their lives.
Walking in silence between the rows and rows of tombstones, Pope Francis bowed to read some of the names and dates inscribed in the white marble: stark reminders of the fact – as he stated during his homily – that the only fruit of war is death.
Here is an Aleteia translation of his poignant homily:
Today, we are all gathered together in hope. Every one of us, in our own heart, can repeat the words of Job that we heard in the first reading: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust.” The hope of meeting God again, of all of us meeting again as brothers: this hope does not disappoint us. Paul uses this strong expression in the second reading: “Hope does not disappoint.”
However, hope is so often born and puts down its roots in so many human wounds, in so many human sufferings, and that moment of sorrow, of soreness, of suffering, makes us look to Heaven and say, “I believe that my Redeemer lives, but stop, Lord.” And perhaps this is the prayer that we all utter, when we see this cemetery. “I am sure, Lord, that these brothers of ours are with you. I am sure,” this is what we say. “But, please, Lord, stop. No more. No more war. No more of this useless butchery,” as Benedict XV said. It’s better to hope without this destruction: young men… thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of broken hopes. “No more, Lord.” And we must say this today, when we pray for all the dead, but in this place we pray especially for these young men; today, when the world is once again at war, and is preparing to go to war even more intensely. “No more, Lord. No more.” With war, all is lost.
This brings to mind that elderly woman who, looking at the ruins of Hiroshima, with wise resignation but great sorrow, with that mournful resignation that women know how to live, because it is their charism, said, “Men do everything in order to declare and wage war, and in the end, they destroy themselves.” This is war: the destruction of ourselves. Surely that elderly woman had lost some of her children and grandchildren; the only thing she had left was the wound in her heart, and tears. If today is a day of hope, today is also a day of tears. Tears like those wept by the women when the letter arrived in the mail: “You, madam, have the honor that your husband is a hero of the Homeland; your sons are heroes of the Homeland.” They are tears that humanity today should not forget. This pride of this humanity that has not learned the lesson, and seems not to want to learn it!
When, so many times in history, men think of starting a war, they are convinced that it will lead to a new world; they are convinced they will usher in a “springtime.” And it ends up as an ugly, cruel winter, with the reign of terror and death. Today, we pray for all the departed, all of them, but especially for these young men, at a time when so many die in battles every day in this piecemeal war. We pray also for those who die today, the casualties of war, and also children, the innocent. This is the fruit of war: death. And may the Lord grant us the grace of weeping.
Out of the mouths of babes: Walking the graveyard with my kids