Pope Francis prayed for peace, hope, and mercy at a Mass to mark All Souls’ Day on a rainy morning at the Rome War Cemetery.
“Today, thinking of the dead, cherishing the memory of the dead and cherishing hope, we ask the Lord for peace, so that people will no longer kill each other in wars,” the pope said in an improvised homily on Nov. 2.
Pope Francis presided at a Mass at the war cemetery amid scattered rain showers on a breezy, cool morning.
He lamented the loss of the lives of so many people, especially the young, in war, and said there can never be a real victory because of the price that is paid to reach it.
“We pray to the Lord for our dead, for all, for all: that the Lord will receive them all,” Francis said. “And we pray also that the Lord will have mercy on us and give us hope: hope that we can go forward and that we can find them all together with him when he calls us. So be it.”
The cemetery Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Diego Ravelli, the papal master of ceremonies.
The small cemetery, which contains the graves of 426 soldiers from Commonwealth countries who died in World War II, is located near the Pyramid of Cestius, a Roman-era pyramid in the Ostiense neighborhood south of the historic center of Rome.
In his homily, Pope Francis said the day’s commemoration of the faithful departed made him think of memory and hope.
“Memory,” he explained, “of those who have gone before us, who have spent their lives, who have concluded this life” — both those who have done good and those who have failed in doing good, “but were received into the memory of God.”
The pope said All Souls’ Day is also a good moment to dwell on the theological virtue of hope, which he called an “everyday” virtue.
“I will call it the theological virtue of ‘the kitchen,’ because it is at hand and always comes to our aid,” he said. “We live in this tension between memory and hope.”
Before the Mass, Pope Francis passed through the cemetery in prayer, pushed in a wheelchair. He also placed white roses on some of the graves, including before the headstone of 28-year-old W. Perkins.
After Mass and before returning to the Vatican, the pope also stopped for a brief moment of prayer in front of Rome’s historic Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners, also known as the Protestant Cemetery.
Pope Francis has made it a recent custom to hold a Mass at a cemetery on Nov. 2 to pray for the dead.
From 2016 to 2021, he celebrated Mass at five different cemeteries in or near Rome. For All Souls’ Day in 2019, he celebrated Mass at the Catacombs of Priscilla, while in 2022 he did not visit a cemetery but offered Mass for deceased bishops and cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica — another papal custom during the week of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.