Pope Benedict XVI

Dialogika Resources

Address at the Site of the Ardeatine Cave Massacre

From Vatican Radio

Dear brothers and sisters!

I very gladly accepted the invitation of the “National Association of Italian families of the martyrs who died for the freedom of the Fatherland" to make a pilgrimage to this shrine, dear to all Italians, particularly the Roman people. I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Chief Rabbi, the President of the Association, the Commissioner General, the Director of the Mausoleum and, especially, the families of victims as well as all those present.

"I believe in God and in Italy / I believe in the resurrection / of the martyrs and heroes / I believe in rebirth / and in my homeland / in the freedom of the people." These words were engraved on the wall of a torture cell, in Via Tasso in Rome during the Nazi occupation. It is the testimony of an unknown person, who was imprisoned in that cell, and demonstrates that the human spirit remains free even in the harshest conditions. "I believe in God and in Italy": these words struck me because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, but mainly because it affirms the primacy of faith, from which to draw confidence and hope for Italy and its future. What happened here March 24, 1944 is a most grave offense against God, because it is the deliberate violence of man by man. It is the most odious effect of war, any war, while God is life, peace, communion.

Like my predecessors, I have come here to pray and renew the memory. I have come to invoke Divine mercy, which alone can fill the void, the abyss opened by men who, when driven by blind violence, deny their dignity as children of God and brotherhood with each other. I, too, as Bishop of Rome, a city consecrated by the blood of the martyrs of the Gospel of Love, I come to pay homage to these brothers, who were killed not far from the ancient catacombs.

"I believe in God and in Italy." In this testimony etched in a place of violence and death, the link between faith and love of country appears in all its purity, without any rhetoric. Whoever wrote those words did so only for personal conviction, as his last testimony to the truth he believed, which renders the human spirit regal even at its extreme abasement. Every man is called to achieve their own dignity in this way, testifying that truth he recognizes with his own conscience.

Another testimony struck me, and this was found here in the Ardeatine Caves. A sheet of paper on which a victim had written: "God my great Father, we pray so that you can protect Jews from the barbaric persecution. 1 Pater Noster, Ave Maria 10, 1 Gloria Patri. " At that moment so tragic, so inhuman, in the heart of that person was the highest prayer, "God my great Father." Father of all! Just as on the lips of Jesus, dying on the cross: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." In that name, "Father", is the sure guarantee of hope, the possibility of a different future, free from hatred and revenge, a future of freedom and fraternity, for Rome, Italy, Europe and the world. Yes, wherever he is, on every continent, in every nation, man is the son of that Father in heaven, he is brother to all humanity. But this being the son and brother is not a given. Unfortunately, this is revealed by the Ardeatine Caves themselves. We must want it, we must say yes to good and no to evil. We must believe in the God of love and life, and reject any false image of God, that betrays His holy name and thus betrays man, made in His image.

Therefore, in this place, painful memorial of the most horrendous evil, the real answer is to join hands as brothers, and say: Our Father, we believe in You, and with the strength of Your love we desire to walk together in Peace, in Rome, Italy, in Europe, throughout the world. Amen.