From the Tombs a Message of Peace: ‘Stop!’

On November 2 the Pope Celebrated Mass in the French Military Cemetery at Monte Mario and Renewed His Appeal to Stop the Arms Industry

From the Tombs
The Pope in prayer in front of the graves of the French fallen

A heartfelt cry to stop wars; a cry of peace that rose from the tombs of the fallen: “Stop, brothers and sisters, stop! Stop, arms manufacturers, stop!” Was the cry Pope Francis launched from the French Military Cemetery at Monte Mario, which hosts 1888 fallen during World War II, many of whom were part of the Moroccan militias. The Holy Father celebrated Mass in this cemetery on All Souls Day, a celebration that began earlier than foreseen.

The Pope arrived on board a Fiat 500 and was received by French Authorities and by Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. A child offered the Holy Father a white rose. Then the Pontiff placed white flowers on the tombs of the fallen, pausing for a few moments in prayer. He walked several meters on an avenue between the tombs and then greeted the Concelebrants.

The Homily

 There comes to mind a writing on the door of a cemetery, in the north,” said the Pope during his off-the-cuff homily – “You who pass by, think of your steps and from your steps, think of your last step. You who pass by . . . “ Life is a journey, we are all journeying; all of us, if we want to do something in life, we must walk.” But this journey is not a stroll or a labyrinth,” explained the Pope.

The Holy Father added that on this journey we “pass in front of many historical events, many difficult situations, and also in front of cemeteries. The advice of this cemetery is: ‘you that pass by stop, and from your steps think of your last step.’ We’ll all have a last step. Someone might say to me ‘Father, don’t be so mournful, so tragic … ‘ But it’s the truth! What is important is that the last step finds us on the way, not on a stroll, not in a labyrinth without end: may the last step find us walking.”

Memory of the Fallen

 “This is the first thought that comes from my heart. The second is the tombs. These people, good people, died in war they died because they were called to defend the homeland, values, ideals and many other times to defend sad and lamentable political situations. They are the victims, the victims of war that eats the children of the homeland. I’m thinking of Anzio, of Redipuglia; I’m thinking of Piave in ’14 so many remained there. I’m thinking of the Normandy Beach, 40,000 in that landing, no matter, they fell,” he said Thoughts that were undoubtedly also personal memories. In fact, in 2014 the Holy Father went to the Redipuglia Military Memorial for the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and in 2017 he celebrated Mass on November 2 in the American cemetery of Nettuno.

Message of Peace

 “I paused in front of a tomb there, quoting the inscription on a tombstone: unknown died for France. “Not even his name. In God’s heart is the name of all of us but this is the tragedy of war . . . I’m sure that all these fallen are with the Lord but do we, who are on the way, fight enough so that there won’t be wars, countries’ economies strengthened by the arms industry?

Today the preaching should be to look at the tombs. There, dead for France, some have the name, others don’t . . . but this is a message of peace: stop, brothers and sisters, stop. Stop arms manufacturers, stop! I leave you with these two thoughts,” concluded the Pontiff. “You that pass by, think, of your steps — your last step,” may it be in peace, in peace of heart, all in peace. The second thought: these tombs that speak, cry out, cry out, themselves cry out: “Peace!” May the Lord help us to sow and keep in our heart these two thoughts.”

From the Tombs
The Holy Father in prayer in front of the tomb of St. Peter

In Prayer at the Tombs of His Predecessors

On his return to the Vatican, after the Holy Mass at the French Military Cemetery, Pope Francis stopped to pray at the tombs of Popes located under Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester