World War I was remembered by the Pope in a visit to Italy, during which the Pontiff warned that humanity was embroiled in a broken-up World War III. After he made a prayerful visit to the small Austro-Hungarian Cemetery on Saturday, Pope Francis said that the world was in a “piecemeal” Third World War. His visit was to commemorate the World War I’s 100th anniversary at the largest Italian war memorial in Redipuglia di Fogliano in northeastern Italy, where he delivered a homily denouncing wars both past and present.
The pope stated that war was “irrational” and that it was “destructive.” War, he told the people in attendance, “seeks to grow by destroying.” Though Pedipuglia is the resting place of 100,000 Italian soldiers, Pope Francis stated that many lives are still today being lost to the wars and massacres around the world, but that these losses had been met with an apathetic response.
The reasons for war, the Pope said, were due to “[g]reed, intolerance,” and “the lust for power” and that these motives were later “justified” by ideologies. He referred to the Second World War as a “second failure.” The Pope also brought up in his homily the Biblical story of Abel and his brother Cain. During the homily he said, “Humanity needs to weep and this is the time to weep.”
The Pope has in the past made a call to stop the current conflicts around the world in Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and the African continent. While he was in Korea in August, he said the current state of the world, recalling how a man declared to him that “we are in World War Three,” a sentiment Pope Francis agreed with.
Despite warning of his alleged World War III’s fractured presence in the world, the Pope’s visit the the war memorial had a personal undercurrent to it as well, as it brought time for remembrance of his own grandfather. Giovanni Bergoglio had fought during the World War I in 1917 and 1918 against the Austro-Hungarian empire. Bergoglio had been a member of the Piedmont Corps.
At the memorial, the Pontiff was presented with his grandfather’s enlistment document by one of the Italian defense ministry officials. After serving, Pope Francis’ grandfather emigrated from Italy to Argentina, the country where the Pontiff was born. Speaking of his grandfather, the Pope said that the elder Bergoglio had told “painful” stories about the war.
Antonio Calligaris, the mayor of Fogliano di Redipuglia, said that the Pope’s visit was good for the memorial, as for the past 20 years it had been visited less by the citizenry. He spoke of the Pope’s visit as something that put “attention on this history.”
Though his official visit to Fogliano di Redipuglia was the remembrance of World War I, the Pope took time to honor the victims of all of humanity’s wars, and warned his listeners that World War III was a reality, though broken up around the world. His visit brought attention to many of Italy’s fallen soldiers and reminded those in attendance of war’s consequences.
By Jillian Moyet