Pope calls for unified Europe at WWII battle site

25th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Benedict said that he particularly wanted to visit the Polish cemetery, "to pay homage to the memory of all the soldiers of diverse nationality who... lost their life."

Cassino -- Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday called for a unified Europe during a visit to Cassino, central Italy, near a World War II battleground in which thousands of soldiers were killed.

"Here, where so many men lost their life in the battles fought during World War II, say a special prayer for the souls of the dead," the German pontiff said before thousands of believers after a mass.

Benedict said that he particularly wanted to visit the Polish cemetery, "to pay homage to the memory of all the soldiers of diverse nationality who... lost their life."

The Allied assault on Monte Cassino, a key stage in the battle to take nearby Rome, started in December 1943 and ran into the summer of the following year. The fierce fighting left tens of thousands of dead on both sides.

Benedict called for prayers for the end of the wars, which continued to afflict the planet.

The pope also spoke of Saint Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine order, whose remains are buried at Cassino.

He called for Saint Benedict's spiritual example "to help people who live on this continent to remain true to their Christian foots" and to work towards a Europe of unity and solidarity, "founded on the search for justice and peace."

During the mass, the pope also spoke out for all those people who had lost their jobs or who were otherwise suffering from the current economic crisis.

"I express my solidarity with all those who live in a worrying position of precarity, to the workers who have been put on half-time or laid off," he said, to applause.

He called on the public authorities and business leaders to find a solution to the blight of unemployment, and urged young people struggling to find their first job not to lose hope. "The Church will not abandon them," he said.

Benedict's visit to Cassino was his 14th pastoral visit inside Italy and the first as pope to this city, though he visited here several times as a cardinal.

The pope was due later Sunday to visit the monastery that overlooks the city, which houses Saint Benedict's tomb.

It is this saint who inspired the then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to take the name of Benedict as pope.

AFP/Expatica

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