ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis, during a visit to a military cemetery on the day Catholics remember their dead, on Tuesday urged arms manufacturers to “stop” because war “swallows the children of the homeland”.
On All Saints Day, Francis said a mass at the French military cemetery in Rome, with its rows of white crosses, the burial place of around 1,900 French and Moroccan soldiers killed in World War II.
Francois, who visits a cemetery every year on Remembrance Day, laid white roses and stopped to pray at some of the graves and mentioned that one read “Unknown, died for France, 1944”.
“Not even a name. But in the heart of God there are all our names. This is the tragedy of war,” he said in an improvised sermon.
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“I am sure that all those who were called to defend the fatherland and who left with good will are with the Lord,” Francis said.
“But … are we fighting enough so that there are no wars, so that there are no economies of countries strengthened by the arms industry?” he said.
“These graves are a message of peace. Stop brothers and sisters, stop. Stop, arms manufacturers, stop! he said, calling those buried in the cemetery among the many “victims of the war, which swallows up the children of the fatherland”.
Francis has made numerous calls for disarmament and said nuclear weapons should be banned because even their possession for deterrent purposes is “perverse” and indefensible.
When the location of the mass was announced last month, an Italian group protested, saying the choice was an offense to the victims of Moroccan soldiers, known as Goumiers, an auxiliary unit of the French army when France was still the colonial power.
They committed many random murders and raped many Italian women in the countryside between Naples and Rome as the Allied forces moved up the Italian peninsula.
One such incident was immortalized in Vittorio De Sica’s 1960 neo-realist film “Two Women”, starring Sophia Loren, which told the story of a woman and her daughter who were both raped by Moroccan soldiers south of Rome.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by William Maclean and Giles Elgood)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.