Pope Francis, in what has now become a traditional part of his papacy on the feast of All Souls, visited a cemetery, going this morning to the Monte Mario area of Rome to the French Military Cemetery. He arrived a half hour earlier than scheduled, entering at the gate that says, “Cimitière Militaire Français” – Campagne d’Italie 1943-1944” (French Military Cemetery – Italian campaign 1943-1944).

As part of this annual tradition, the Pope strolls through the cemetery, places white flowers on a number of tombs and presides at Mass where he delivers an off-the-cuff homily.

As he looked at the tombs, the Holy Father said, “These people are good people, they died in the war. They died because they was called to defend their homeland, defend values, defend ideals and, many other times, defend sad and lamentable political situations. They are victims, victims of war, war that consumes a country’s sons. I think of Anzio, of Redipuglia, I think of the Piave, in ‘1914,; so many were left there. I think of Normandy beach; 40,000 in that landing. But it doesn’t matter, they fell.”

Francis mentioned one grave in particular that struck him, that of an unknown soldier, “a grave without a name and only the words ‘Unknown. Died for France’. But this is the tragedy of the war. I’m sure all these who went in good will, called from their homeland to defend it, are with the Lord. But we, who are still on the way, do we fight sufficiently so that there are no wars?”

And then, the very heart of Pope Francis’ message: “May countries’ economies no longer be fortified by the arms industry! This sermon should be about  ‘Looking at tombs’: ‘Died for France’. Some have names, others no. But these graves are a message of peace: “Stop, brothers and sisters, stop! Stop, arms manufacturers, stop!”

(photos are from Vatican media)

A video of the papal Mass with English translation in part is here: Holy MassFrom the French Military Cemetery – YouTube