(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 02.11.2023).- On Thursday morning, November 2, All Souls Day, Pope Francis presided over the Holy Mass at the Rome War Cemetery.
On his arrival, the Holy Father was received by the Vice-President, Peter Hudson, CBE; the Area Director, Geert Bekaert; the Italy Country Manager, Claudia Scimonelli, and the Cemetery’s personnel. On the way, he placed white flowers on some graves and paused for a moment in prayer.
At the end of the Eucharistic Celebration, Pope Francis stopped briefly at Rome’s Catholic Cemetery, before returning to the Vatican.
Here is the Pontiff’s heartfelt homily, given in Italian and translated into English. He spoke about memory and hope and his interior feelings on seeing the names of the young soldiers buried in that pantheon.
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The celebration of a day like today leads us to two thoughts: memory and hope.
Memory of those that have preceded us, who spent their life, who have ended this life; memory of so many people who have done us good: in the family, among friends . . . And memory also of those that did not do so much good, but were received in God’s memory, in God’s mercy. It’s the mystery of the Lord’s great mercy.
And then, hope. Today’s is a memory to look ahead, to look at our way, our path. We are walking towards the encounter with the Lord and with all. And we must ask the Lord for this grace of hope: the hope that never defrauds; the hope that is the daily virtue that leads us forward, which helps us to resolve problems and look for ways out. But always forward, forward. That fruitful hope, that theological hope of each day, of each moment: I’ll call it the theological virtue “of the kitchen,” because it’s at hand and always comes to our aid. The hope that doesn’t defraud: we live in this tension between memory and hope.
I would like to pause on something that happened to me at the entrance. I looked at the age of these fallen soldiers. The majority are between 20 and 30 years old. Truncated lives, lives without future. And I thought of the fathers, the mothers who received that letter: “Madam, I have the honour to tell you that you have a hero son.” “Yes, hero, but they have taken him from me!” How many tears in those truncated lives. And I couldn’t avoid thinking of today’s wars. The same thing is happening today: so many young and not so young people. In the world’s wars, including the closest to us, in Europe and beyond: how many dead! Life is destroyed without being conscious of it.
Today, thinking of the dead, guarding the memory of the dead and keeping hope, we ask the Lord for peace, so that men won’t kill each other any more in war. So many innocent dead, so many soldiers that leave their life. But this, why? Wars are always a defeat, always. There is no total victory, no. Yes, one defeats the other, but behind there is always the defeat of the price paid. Let us pray to the Lord for our dead, for all. May the Lord receive them all. And let us pray also that the Lord take pity on us and give us hope: the hope to go forward and that we all be with Him when He calls us. So be it.
Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester