Pope Francis echoed the words of World War II pontiff Pius XII in a message today marking 70 years since the Basilica of San Lorenzo bombing in Rome.
“The memory of the bombing of that dramatic day resonates once again in each of the words of Pope Pius XII, 'nothing is lost with peace, everything can be lost with war,'” Pope Francis said on July 19.
“Peace is a gift of God, to find such open hearts to receive him and to work to be builders of peace and reconciliation,” he told the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini.
The San Lorenzo basilica was bombed July 19, 1943 by allied planes aiming to disrupt railway communication, and was the most catastrophic bombing in Rome during World War II.
Pope Francis underscored that the anniversary of the event should be “an occasion to pray for those who have disappeared and a renewed meditation around the terrible scourge of war, as well as an expression of gratitude to the man who was attentive and provident father.”
The pontiff also encouraged assistance to the homeless and the wounded in his message to the cardinal.
“I would like to remind all those who, in such a dramatic moment, collaborated in offering moral and material help in healing the wounds of body and soul and in providing assistance to the homeless,” he said.
“That was a charity race that stretched to every human being in danger and in need of friendship and support,” said Pope Francis in his message.
He emphasized that during that time, “many Bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout Italy were like the Good Samaritan in the Gospel parable, leaning on his brother in pain, to help him and give him consolation and hope.”
Pope Pius XII, he recalled, “did not hesitate to run, immediately and without escort, among the still smoking ruins of the District of San Lorenzo, in order to help and console the frightened.”
“Even at that time, he showed to be a caring pastor who is in the midst of his flock, especially in times of trial, ready to share in the sufferings of his people.”
Pope Francis stressed that the gesture of Pius XII was a “sign of the incessant work of the Holy See and the Church in its various forms, parishes, religious institutes, boarding schools, to give relief to the population.”
He noted “among others, I wish to make mention Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, then Deputy Secretary of State, who accompanied Pius XII in the visit to the barrio just devastated by bombs.”