Francis' Message on Anniversary of WWII Bombing of Rome

“Peace is a gift of God, which, also today, must find hearts willing to receive it”

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Here is a translation of the message Francis sent July 19, to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1943 bombing of Rome on that date.

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Message to the Cardinal Vicar on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Rome – San Lorenzo (1943)

To the Lord Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome

I am spiritually united to you, to the community of Capuchin Friars and to all those gathered in the Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside-the-Walls to remember the violent bombardment of July 19, 1943, which inflicted very grave damages to the sacred building and to the whole district, as well as to other areas of the city, sowing death and destruction. Seventy years later, the commemoration of that particularly tragic event is an occasion of prayer for all those who died and of renewed reflection on the tremendous scourge of war, as well as expression of gratitude to him who was a solicitous and provident father. 

I am referring to the Venerable Pius XII, who, in those terrible hours, was close to his fellow citizens so harshly stricken. Pope Pacelli did not hesitate to run immediately and without escort, through the still smoking ruins of the district of San Lorenzo, to succor and console the dismayed population. He showed himself also on that occasion a solicitous Pastor who is in the midst of his flock, especially in the hour of trial, ready to share the sufferings of his people. With you, I would like to remember all those that, in such a tragic moment, collaborated by offering moral and material help, in alleviating the wounds of the body and the soul and in giving assistance to the homeless. Among others, I wish to mention Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, future Paul VI, then Substitute of the Secretariat of State, who accompanied Pius XII on his visit to the district just devastated by the bombs.

Pope Pacelli’s gesture is the sign of the incessant work of the Holy See and of the Church in her various articulations, parishes, religious institutes, boarding schools, to give relief to the population. So many Bishops, priests, men and women religious of Rome and in the whole of Italy were like the Good Samaritan of the Gospel parable, bending over a brother in pain, to help him and give him consolation and hope. It was a contest of charity that extended to every human being in danger and in need of hospitality and support. May the memory of the bombardment of that tragic day echo in each one again the words of Pope Pius XII: “Nothing is lost with peace, everything can be lost with war.” (Radio Message, August 24, 1939). Peace is a gift of God, which, also today, must find hearts willing to receive it and to work to be builders of reconciliation and peace. I entrust all the inhabitants of the district of San Lorenzo, especially the elderly, the sick, people who are alone and in difficulty, to the maternal intercession of Mary Salus Populi Romani. May she, the Virgin of tenderness and consolation, reinforce faith, hope and charity to radiate in the world the love and mercy of God. With such sentiments I assure you of my prayer and I impart from my heart the Apostolic Blessing. 

From the Vatican, July 19, 2013


[Translation by ZENIT]
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