After the Pope addressed a few words to them, the more than 8,000 pilgrims present at the audience in Paul VI Hall responded with prolonged applause.

"I greet with special affection the family members of the Italian military men who lost their lives a year ago in Nasiriyah, carrying out their mission of peace," the Holy Father said.

Then, each one of the widows and their children went up to greet the Pope, who was visibly moved.

His secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, asked the widows to show the Holy Father the photographs of their husbands.

The attack on the Italian army's peace contingent occurred on Nov. 12, 2003. Nineteen Italians died in the incident.