Pontiff Visits Memorial of Italian Nazi Victims

Calls Massacre of 335 Citizens an "Offense Against God"

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI paid homage today to the 335 Italians who were massacred in 1944 by the occupying Nazi forces at Fosse Ardeatine on the outskirts of Rome, which he called an "offense against God."

The Pope made a private visit to the commemorative monument to mark the 67th anniversary of the March 24 Ardeatine massacre, which was a reprisal for a March 23, 1944, attack on occupying German forces.

Partisans of the Patriotic Action Group ignited a bomb as a column of German policemen marched through central Rome on Via Rasella. Thirty-three Germans died and Adolf Hitler approved a proposal that 10 Italians should be killed for each German casualty. 

The final toll of 335 Italians was due to a miscount in the hasty roundup, which included civilians, military prisoners of war and prisoners from Rome's jails, as well as 75 Jews.

"What happened here on March 24, 1944, is a deeply grave offense to God because it is deliberate violence of man against man," the Pontiff stated. "It is the most execrable effect of war, of every war, while God is life, peace, communion."

Benedict XVI said he came to monument to "to pray and to renew the memory. I have come to invoke divine mercy, which alone can fill the voids, the chasms opened by men when, driven by blind violence, they renounce their dignity as sons of God and brothers."

He said that he came as the Bishop of Rome to "pay homage to these brothers, murdered a short distance from the ancient catacombs."

Benedict XVI read a short note that was found in the Fosse Ardeatine, written by one who had been murdered there: "God my great Father, we pray to you that you might protect the Jews from the barbaric persecutions. 1 Pater noster, 10 Ave Maria, 1 Gloria Patri."

The Holy Father reflected: "In that moment so tragic, so inhuman, in the heart of that person there was the greatest prayer: 'God my Father,' Father of all!"

"In that name, 'Father,' there is the sure guarantee of hope," the Pope said, "the possibility of a different future, free from hatred and revenge, a future of freedom and fraternity, for Rome, Italy, Europe, the world."

The Pontiff added: "In this place, a sorrowful memorial of the most horrendous evil, the truest response is to take each other’s hands, as brothers, and say: Our Father, we believe in you, and with the power of your love we want to walk together, in peace, in Rome, In Italy, in Europe, in the whole world. Amen."

Benedict XVI is the third Pope to visit the Fosse Ardeatine. Pope Paul VI went on Sept. 12, 1965, and Pope John Paul II on March 21, 1982.

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-32142?l=english