He made his comments during a visit to a memorial to soldiers killed in World War I.
Pope Francis urged the world Saturday to shed its apathy in the face of what he characterizes as a third world war, intoning “war is madness” at the foot of a grandiose monument to soldiers killed in World War I.
Francis’ aim in recalling those who died in the Great War that broke out 100 years ago was to honor the victims of all wars, and it came at a time when his calls for peace have grown ever more urgent amid new threats in the Middle East and Ukraine.
Standing at an altar beneath the towering Redipuglia memorial entombing 100,000 Italian soldiers fallen in World War I, the pope said “even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.”
The visit was also infused with intensely personal meaning. The pope’s grandfather fought in Italy’s 1915-17 offensive against the Austro-Hungarian empire waged in the nearby battlefields, surviving to impress upon the future pope the horror of war.
An Italian defense ministry official presented the pope with his grandfather’s military record during the commemorations, and the parents of an Italian soldier killed in Afghanistan last year presented Francis with the distinctive feathered Bersagliere cap worn by the Piedmontese corps, famed for a rugged endurance epitomized by their tradition of marching at a jog.
Francis’ grandfather, who hailed from the Piedmont region, belonged to the corps, said Redipuglia parish priest the Rev. Duilio Nardin.
The military records showed that the pope’s grandfather, Giovanni Carlo Bergoglio, was a radio operator during the Isonzo campaign aimed at piercing the Austro-Hungarian defenses. The 12 battles are memorialized at the Redipuglia monument which was dedicated by Italy’s Fascist government in 1938 on the eve of World War II.
The elder Bergoglio, who was drafted at age 31 as Italy entered the war, obtained a certificate of good conduct and 200 lire at the war’s end, according to documents discovered by the Italian bishops’ conference’s media outlets. With postwar Italy’s economy stalled, he emigrated to Argentina where the future pontiff — Jorge Mario Bergoglio — was born.
The pope in the past has recalled the “many painful stories from the lips of my grandfather.”
Before arriving at the monument, the pope prayed privately among the neat rows of gravestones for fallen soldiers from five nations buried in a tidy Austro-Hungarian cemetery just a couple of hundred of meters (yards) away.