ROME – Pope Francis marked the Catholic feast of All Souls Day on Thursday by celebrating Mass at a Roman war cemetery, calling for an end to war and the loss of innocent lives claimed in violent conflicts.
Speaking at the Rome War Cemetery for his Nov. 2 All Souls Day Mass, Francis also stressed the importance of keeping both memory and hope alive.
Some 426 fallen soldiers are buried at the cemetery, hailing from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, the Mauritius Islands, Palestine and the West Indies, representing members of the British Commonwealth.
In his brief, off-the-cuff homily, Francis said the day’s feast evokes thoughts of both “memory and hope: Memory of those who preceded us, who have spent their lives, who have ended this life; memory of the many people who have done us good: in the family, among friends.”
It is also a time to remember those “who were not able to do so much good, but were received into the memory of God, into the mercy of God. It is the mystery of the great mercy of the Lord,” he said.
Reflecting on hope, which is the theme of the 2025 ordinary Jubilee, officially titled, “Pilgrims of Hope,” the pope said the day’s feast is also a time “to look forward, to look at our road, our path.”
“We are walking toward an encounter, with the Lord, and with everyone. And we must ask the Lord for this grace of hope: hope that never ever disappoints; hope, which is the everyday virtue because it carries us forward, it helps us resolve problems and look for ways out. But always going forward, forward,” he said.
Calling hope a “virtue of the kitchen,” he said it is a virtue that is always “at hand and always comes to our aid.”
“The hope that does not disappoint; let us live in this tension between memory and hope,” he said.
Pope Francis noted that as he was entering the cemetery, he glanced at the ages of the deceased on their tombstones, and most were between 20-30 years old.
“Lives cut short, lives without a future. I thought of the parents, of the mothers who received that letter” telling them their son was a hero, but who also knew that meant their sons had lost their lives.
Looking at the headstones, Francis said, “I couldn’t help but think of today’s wars. The same thing happens even today: so many young and no longer young people” are dying in wars throughout the world, he said, pointing to those “closest to us” in Europe, such as the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and those farther away.
“How many deaths! Life is destroyed without being aware of it,” he said, and invoked the memory of the dead asked God “for peace, so that people no longer kill each other in wars.”
“So many innocents dead, so many soldiers who lose their lives. But why does this happen? Wars are always a defeat, always. There is no total victory, no,” he said, noting that while one side eventually defeats the other, “Behind there is always the defeat of the price paid.”
He closed his homily asking attendees to pray “for our deceased, for everyone, everyone: that the Lord receive them all. And let us pray so that the Lord has mercy on us and gives us hope: the hope to go forward and of being able to find them all together with him, when he calls us. So be it.”
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