Pope in Fosse Ardeatine: May the memory of the fallen strip us of indifference

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A few minutes after five o'clock in the afternoon, Pope Francis arrived at the 'Fosse Ardeatine' near Rome, where many people waited affectionately for him.

The pope was accompanied by representatives of the Jewish community and by members of the army, who explained the significance of the monument that presides over this grand tomb.

'That monument, with those three people, symbolizes every age of the 335 victims who were young, children, adults and the elderly.'

In 1944, here in the outskirts of Rome, the Nazi army executed 335 people. It was a reprisal ordered by Hitler himself in response to the attack of the partisans against 31 Nazi soldiers. Hitler ordered the killing of at least 10 Italian civilians for each German soldier.

At the site of the massacre, the pope silently meditated in deep prayer for a few minutes. At the same spot and, in groups of five, the Nazis murdered their victims with a shot in the neck.

Then Pope Francis went through the caves to the room where the 335 people are buried, 12 of which could never be identified. There he walked in silence and left a white rose on some of the graves where men, women and children are buried. Exactly 68 soldiers and 255 civilians were killed, 73 of them were Jews.

Before the tombs, the pope voiced a moving prayer.

'Make, oh Lord, so that in this place consecrated to the memory of those fallen for freedom and justice we remove 'the shoes' of selfishness and indifference.'

Before leaving, Pope Francis autographed the honor book held in the grand tomb. He left a message saying he regrets 'these are the fruits of war: hatred, death and vengeance' and he concluded with a request: 'Forgive us Lord.'

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