00 6/1/2009 4:30 AM

Satellite view of the Abbey.


Upon his arrival by helicopter at the Salveti sport field in Cassino this mortning, Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed by politicla, civiliana nd ecclesiastical authorities.

He then proceeded by Popemobile to Piazza Miranda, the main square of Cassino, which starting today, by a decision of the Communal Council, will be called Piazza Benedetto XVI.

The Pope received a formal welcome from the Mayor of Cassino, Dr. Bruno Scittarelli, who offered him, in the name of the citizens, a Roman-style Crucifix from 1633.

The Holy Father said a short prayer at the image of the Madonna that was set up at the altar, before walking to a nearby sacristy to vest for the Mass.


NB: The Mass at Piazza Miranda today - correction, at Piazza Benedetto XVI - was unusually special for the music, provided by a symphony orchestra and Montecassino diocese's famed choral voices that Abbot Vittorelli touted in one of the interviews posted earlier. The choice of music numbers was outstanding, and the sounds were glorious.

Benedict prays for peace
at site of WWII battle

CASSINO, Italy, May 24 (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI prayed Sunday for an end to all wars, making a pilgrimage to the site of a decisive World War II battle and decrying the destruction and lives lost there.

The German-born Benedict visited the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, which was leveled during a 1944 Allied bombardment and was the site of a bloody ground battle between German and Allied forces.

Benedict, who, growing up in Germany was forced to join the Hitler Youth, cited the 65th anniversary of Monte Cassino's destruction before thousands gathered for Mass in Cassino, at the foot of a rocky hill on which the monastery sits.

"In this place, where so many lost their lives in the battles that were fought during the Second World War, we pray especially for the souls of the fallen, commending them to God's infinite mercy, and we pray for an end to the wars that continue to afflict our world," Benedict said in English at the end of Mass.

He added he was visiting the nearby Polish military cemetery later Sunday to pay homage to "all the military forces from diverse nations who gave valiant witness and lost their lives here."

The cemetery contains the remains of Polish troops who fought alongside the Allies and died trying to take control of the Monte Cassino abbey and surrounding positions from German troops. The battle for the battle was decisive for the Allied advance on Rome, 80 miles to the north.

Noting that all Benedictine monasteries carry the word "PAX" — peace — at their entrances, Benedict urged all Christians be witnesses to peace, saying it was a "challenging mission to be fulfilled everywhere."

Benedict was also making a personal pilgrimage to the Monte Cassino monastery, which has long been dear to him. It was founded in 529 by St. Benedict of Nursia, known as the father of Western monasticism and a patron saint of Europe.

The Pope has spoken frequently about his strong affinity for St. Benedict, a hermit and monk whose writings became the basis for the Benedictine order.

In his first general audience as Pope, in April 2005, Benedict said he had chosen to call himself Pope Benedict XVI to pay homage to St. Benedict, who he said was a "fundamental point of reference for European unity and a strong reminder of the undeniable Christian roots of her culture and civilization."

During his homily Sunday, the Pope cited the saint's commitment to both prayer and work, and said he was particularly concerned about the plight of workers in Cassino, home to a Fiat plant at risk amid the economic downturn.

"The wound of unemployment, which afflicts this land, compels those responsible for public life — businessmen and others who are able — to find valid solutions to the labor crisis, creating new jobs so families can be protected," Benedict said.

Pope prays For peace
at site of WW2's largest
and bloodiest land battle

CASSINO, Italy, May 24 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, visiting the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World War Two, on Sunday prayed for an end to all violent conflict.

The Pope celebrated Mass for thousands of people at the foot of the Benedictine Abbey at Montecassino, which was destroyed in 1944 by Allied bombs and later rebuilt.

"In this place, where so many lost their lives in the battles that were fought during the Second World War, we pray especially for the souls of the fallen, commending them to God's infinite mercy, and we pray for an end to the wars that continue to afflict our world," he said at the end of the Mass.

The abbey was founded by St Benedict, whose name the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took when he was elected Pope in 2005.

The battle of Montecassino, also known as the Battle for Rome, was one of the most complex and bloody of World War Two.

It lasted for nearly four months in early 1944 as Allied forces tried to penetrate Germany's Gustav Line to take Rome, resulting in 300,000 casualties on both sides.

Tens of thousands of soldiers were killed before the Allies broke through and captured the Italian capital as the Germans retreated north.

In his sermon, the Pope said the military cemeteries that dot the area were "silent witnesses" to suffering.

The battle saw the much-criticised destruction of the massive hilltop abbey by Allied bombing on Feb. 15, 1944.

The Allies had wrongly believed the Germans were using the site, founded by St Benedict in about 529, as a lookout.

The monastery had been standing for some 700 years. It took more than a decade to rebuild it after the war [completely at the expense of the italian government}.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/12/2009 3:07 AM]