Pope Francis yesterday condemned the failure to learn the lessons of the First World War. He issued a powerful plea for peace.
Speaking after the Angelus at St Peter's Rome on the centenary of the Armistice, shortly before bells rang out worldwide including at the Basilica, Pope Francis said: "Today is the centenary of the end of the First World War, which my predecessor Benedict XV called 'useless slaughter'."
He continued: "The historical page of the First World War is a severe warning for all to reject the culture of war and seek every legitimate means to put an end to the conflicts that still bleed several regions of the world.
"It seems we do not learn. While we pray for all the victims of that terrible tragedy, let us say forcefully: invest on peace, not on war! And, as an emblematic sign, we take that of the great Saint Martin of Tours, which we remember today: he cut his cloak in two to share it with a poor man. This gesture of human solidarity indicates to all the way to build peace."
Benedict XV was Pope from a month after the war began in 1914, until his death eight years later at the age of just 67. He wrote repeated encyclicals and other documents in an attempt to bring an end to the war that he described as "the suicide of civilised Europe". His work as reconciler continued after the war and he became known as the "pope of peace".
Pope Francis also referred after the Angelus to one of his own personal passions, helping the poor.
"Next Sunday the World Day of the Poor will be celebrated , with many initiatives of evangelisation, prayer and sharing. Here too, in St Peter's Square, a health garrison has been set up which will offer treatment to those in need for a week. I hope that this Day will foster a growing attention to the needs of the last, the marginalised, the hungry," he said.
In the Angelus itself, he spoke of the need to do good works without seeking glory from them, from the story of the widow's mites in Chapter 12 of Mark's gospel.
Pope Francis said: "When we are tempted by the desire to appear and to account for our gestures of altruism, when we are too interested in the gaze of others and – allow me to speak – when we behave like 'peacocks', we think of this woman. It will do us good: it will help us to get rid of the superfluous to go to what really matters, and to remain humble."