Pope: The Fallen’s graves are a cry for peace, a call to weapons makers to stop
Francis celebrated Mass at the French military cemetery in Rome. “I am reminded of an inscription at the entrance of a small cemetery in the north. ‘You who pass by, think about your steps, and when thinking about your steps, think about your last one’. You who pass by. Life is a journey; we are all on a journey. All of us, if we want to do something in life, we are on a journey. It is no stroll, not even a labyrinth. No, it is a journey.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Pope celebrated Mass today, feast of All Souls, at the French Military Cemetery, on Monte Mario, in Rome.
In his homily, he said that the graves of those killed in wars "are a message of peace: 'Stop, brothers and sisters, stop! Stop, weapons makers, stop!” In his view, “No economies have been strengthened by the arms industry.”
For the pontiff, the graves should make us think about "the last step" on the journey of life, i.e., a journey, not "a stroll" nor "a labyrinth".
This is not the Pope’s first visit to a military cemetery. In 2014 he travelled to the Redipuglia War Memorial (north-eastern Italy), to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and in 2017, he visited the Sicily–Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno (near Anzio, not far from Rome).
The pontiff led the service from an altar, placed under a canopy amid the olive trees that stand along the graves of 1,888 soldiers who died for France in the Second World War. Most of them, 1,142, were Muslims, from France’s then overseas territories, mainly from Morocco.
Upon arriving shortly before 11 am, Francis walked among the graves – all the same; some with a cross, and others with the crescent. On some, the Pope placed a white rose.
Many worshippers were present. The readings were in French, the songs in Italian. The homily was delivered without a prepared text.
“I am reminded of an inscription at the entrance of a small cemetery in the north,” said Francis. It read: “‘You who pass by, think about your steps, and when thinking about your steps, think about your last one’. You who pass by. Life is a journey; we are all on a journey. All of us, if we want to do something in life, we are on a journey. It is no stroll, not even a labyrinth. No, it is a journey.”
“On a journey, we pass by so many historical events, so many difficult situations. Cemeteries too. The advice from this cemetery is: ‘You who pass by, stop and think about your steps, your last step’. We shall all take one last step. Someone might say to me: ‘Father, don't be so mournful, don't be tragic.’ But it’s the truth.
“The important thing is that that last step finds us on the journey, not just passing by – in the journey of life, not in an endless labyrinth. Being on a journey so that the last step finds us on the way. This is the first thought that I would like to say, from my heart.”
“The second thought are about the graves. These people – good people – died in war; they died because they were called to defend their country, defend values, defend ideals and, on many other occasions, defend sad and deplorable political situations.
“It is about the victims, the victims of war, which eats a country’s children. Anzio, Redipuglia, the Piave in 1914 come to mind; many never made it home from there; Normandy beach comes to mind, 40,000, in that landing! It doesn't matter, they fell ...
“I halted in front of one grave, over there: ‘Inconnu. Mort pour la France. 1944’. Not even the name. [But] Everyone’s name is in God’s heart, yet such is the tragedy of war.
“I am sure that all these [soldiers] who joined in good will, called up by their country to defend it, are with the Lord. But we, who are on a journey, do we fight sufficiently so that there may be no wars? So that countries’ economies may not be strengthened by the weapons industry?
“Today the sermon should be ‘Look at the graves: Died for France’. Some have names, a few others don't. Yet these graves are a message of peace: 'Stop, brothers and sisters, stop! Stop, weapons makers, stop!’”
“I leave you with these two thoughts. ‘You who pass by, think about your steps, about your last step’; may it be in peace, in peace of the heart, in peace everything. The second thought [is]: These graves speak, shout, cry out on their own 'Peace!' May the Lord help us sow these two thoughts and keep them in our hearts.”