Vatican City, 2 June 2013 (VIS) – At 9:30 this morning, the Pope celebrated Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae with family members, mostly parents, of the Italian armed forces who have been killed on peacekeeping missions—especially in Afghanistan—in the past few years, as well as service members who have been wounded on those missions with their family members. The group was accompanied by Archbishop Vincenzo Pelvi, military ordinary for Italy, who concelebrated with the Holy Father.
There were 55 relatives commemorating 24 fallen servicemen and 13 wounded servicemen. During the celebration, all fallen soldiers were prayed for, as well as for peace. Today was chosen for this meeting as it coincides with Italy's Republic Day (“Festa della Repubblica”) when the entire nation, as Archbishop Pelvi noted during his greeting to the Pope, “expresses its debt of love for the military family with various manifestations”.
In his homily, the Pope commented on the Gospel story of the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his slave. “Our God,” he said, “is personal. He listens to everyone with his heart and He loves 'wholeheartedly'. Today we have come to pray for our dead, for our wounded, for the victims of the madness that is war! It is the suicide of humanity because it kills the heart. It kills precisely that which is the Lord's message: it kills love! War grows out of hatred, envy, and the desire for power, as well as—how very many times we see it—from the hunger for more power.”
“So many times we’ve seen the great ones of the earth wanting to solve local problems, economic problems, and economic crises with war. Why?” the Holy Father continued. “Because, for them, money is more important than people! And war is just that: it is an act of faith in money, in idols, in the idols of hatred, in that idol that leads to killing one’s brother, that leads to killing love. It reminds me of God our Father's words to Cain, who, out of envy, had killed his brother: ‘Cain, where is your brother?’ Today we can hear this voice: it is God our Father who weeps, weeps for this madness of ours, who asks all of us: ‘Where is your brother?’ Who says to the powerful of the earth: ‘Where is your brother? What have you done!’”
Pope Francis urged those present to pray to the Lord so that He might “take all evil far away from us,” and to repeat this prayer “even with tears, with the tears of the heart”: “'Turn to us, O Lord, and have mercy on us, because we are sad, we are in anguish. See our misery and our pain and forgive our sins'; because behind war there are always sins: the sin of idolatry, the sin of exploiting persons on the altar of power, of sacrificing them. ‘Turn to us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we are sad and in anguish.’ ... We are confident that the Lord will hear us and will do everything to give us the spirit of consolation. So be it.”
On concluding Mass, the “Prayer for Italy”, composed by Blessed John Paul II in 1994, was prayed. Then, as is his custom, the Pope personally greeted each of those present with warmth and affection. The ecclesial community of the Military Ordinary gave the Holy Father a terracotta piece of Neapolitan artisanry that portrayed St. Joseph the Worker teaching the carpentry tools of his trade to a young Jesus who is carrying a basket with the objects symbolizing the crucifixion: nails, hammer, and pincers.