St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

Pope Francis announces First World War Centenary pilgrimage

Posted on on 10 June 2014
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Pope Francis is to mark the Centenary of the First World War with a pilgrimage to pray for the victims of all wars.

The Pope, head of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide, will travel to Italy's largest military memorial at Redipuglia on 13th September 2014.

Making the announcement during a Vatican audience, Pope Francis, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, said he'd heard 'so many painful stories from the lips his grandfather.'

Refugees fled their homes in the wake of Italy's defeat at the Battle of Caporetto in 1917 as a large area of the country's northeast fell under enemy occupation.

Italy entered the First World War on the Allied side in 1915 and for three years, fought the Austro-Hungarian Empire on its Alpine borders. The conflict became known as La Guerra Blanca (White War).

Almost 110,000 Italian soldiers are commemorated at the Redipuglia War Memorial, 69,000 of them unidentified. 14,000 Austro-Hungarian troops are buried in a cemetery nearby.

Isonzo Front

Redipuglia, near Italy's modern border with Slovenia, lay at the eastern end of the front where a series of battles was fought along the Isonzo River.

Austrian forces, reinforced by German troops, routed the Italians at the Battle of Caporetto in the autumn of 1917, advancing more than 80 miles.

The future Second World War commander, Erwin Rommel, was a young officer on the German side.  Ernest Hemingway, the American author, based his novel A Farewell to Arms on his experiences as an ambulance driver in Italy.

In the closing two weeks of the war, the Italians counter-attacked with British and French support at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, forcing Austria-Hungary to seek an armistice in November 1918.

Source: Vatican Press Office (Announcement of Papal visit)

Images: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News 

Posted by Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News