Pope Francis traveled to Italy’s World War I War Memorial in Fogliano Redipuglia on September 13 to commemorate the centenary of the war’s beginning and to pray for the victims of all wars.
The war memorial is located in northeastern Italy at the site of several battles between Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces. Traveling by air from the Vatican, he stopped to pray at the Austro-Hungarian cemetery, where nearly 15,000 are buried, and laid a wreath on a grave.
He then proceeded to the Italian war memorial, where 100,187 war dead, the majority unidentified, are buried. Concelebrating Mass with bishops from Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia, Pope Francis linked the decision to go to war to the words of Cain in the Book of Genesis:
Greed, intolerance, the lust for power: these motives underlie the decision to go to war, and they are too often justified by an ideology; but first there is a distorted passion or impulse. Ideology is presented as a justification and when there is no ideology, there is the response of Cain: “What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen 4:9). War does not look directly at anyone, be they elderly, children, mothers, fathers…. “What does it matter to me?”
Above the entrance to this cemetery, there hangs in the air those ironic words of war, “What does it matter to me?” Each one of the dead buried here had their own plans, their own dreams… but their lives were cut short. Humanity said, “What does it matter to me?”
Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.
In all honesty, the front page of newspapers ought to carry the headline, “What does it matter to me?” Cain would say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
“Today, too, the victims are many,” he continued. “How is this possible? It is so because in today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms, which seem to be so important! And these plotters of terrorism, these schemers of conflicts, just like arms dealers, have engraved in their hearts, ‘What does it matter to me?’”
The Pope concluded:
With the heart of a son, a brother, a father, I ask each of you, indeed for all of us, to have a conversion of heart: to move on from “What does it matter to me?”, to tears: for each one of the fallen of this “senseless massacre,” for all the victims of the mindless wars, in every age. Humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep.