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Pope urges world to shed apathy towards new threats

Published:Sunday | September 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Pope Francis

REDIPUGLIA, (AP):Pope Francis urged the world yesterday to shed its apathy in the face of what he characterises as a third world war, intoning "war is madness" at the foot of a grandiose monument to soldiers killed in World War I.

Francis' aim in recalling those who died in the Great War that broke out 100 years ago was to honour the victims of all wars, and it came at a time when his calls for peace have grown ever more urgent amid new threats in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Standing at an altar beneath the towering Redipuglia memorial entombing 100,000 Italian soldiers fallen in World War I, the pope said, "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".

The visit was also infused with intensely personal meaning. The pope's grandfather fought in Italy's 1915-17 offensive against the Austro-Hungarian empire waged in the nearby battlefields, surviving to impress upon the future pope the horror of war.

An Italian defence ministry official presented the pope with his grandfather's military record during the commemorations, and the parents of an Italian soldier killed in Afghanistan last year presented Francis with the distinctive feathered Bersagliere cap worn by the Piedmontese corps, famed for a rugged endurance epitomised by their tradition of marching at a jog.