Pope pleas for world peace as he visits Italian WWII battle scene
25 May 2009
Vatican: May 25, 2009. The Pope made a pilgrimage yesterday to the scene of one of the fiercest battles of the Second World War.
Benedict XVI visited the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy, which was flattened by air attacks in 1944 as German troops positioned around it fought to stop the advancing Allies.
German-born Pope Benedict, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth but never saw combat, said: 'In this place, where so many lost their lives, we pray especially for the souls of the fallen, commending them to God's infinite mercy, and we pray for an end to the wars that continue to afflict our world.'
He visited the nearby Polish military cemetery to pay homage to 'all the military forces from diverse nations who gave valiant witness and lost their lives here.'
The monastery, 80 miles south of Rome, has long been dear to the Pope.
It was founded in 529 by St Benedict of Nursia, known as the father of Western monasticism and a patron saint of Europe.
After his election in 2005, the Pope said he chose to call himself Pope Benedict XVI as a homage to St Benedict, a hermit and monk whose writings became the basis of the Benedictine order.