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Pope Francis confronted a piece of his own family history on Saturday when he visited a World War I memorial built amid the battlefields where his grandfather fought in the brutal 1915-17 Italian offensive against the Austro-Hungarian empire, surviving to impress upon the future pope the horrors of war.
The pontiff prayed first among the neat rows of gravestones for fallen soldiers from five nations buried in a tidy, enclosed Austro-Hungarian cemetery. He then traveled in his popemobile to Italy’s largest war memorial, a large, Fascist-era monument where more than 100,000 soldiers who died in World War One are buried, for an open-air mass.
Francis' aim in recalling those who died in the Great War that broke out 100 years ago was to honor the victims of all wars, coming at a time when his calls for peace have grown ever more urgent amid new threats in the Middle East and Ukraine.
ABOVE: Pope Francis visits the Austro-Hungarian cemetery in Fogliano di Redipuglia, northern Italy, on Saturday.