Albano Laziale, Italy, Nov 1, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will visit on Thursday an Italian cemetery for American personnel killed in World War II, where he will say Mass for All Souls’ Day.
The Pope’s Nov. 2 Mass will be held at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, a little more than 20 miles south of Albano Laziale.
Cemetery Superintendent Melanie Resto said that for Francis to choose to commemorate the fallen soldiers at the cemetery is “the biggest honor I can imagine.”
“We didn’t expect the Pope, but it is a great honor,” she added.
Pope Francis “will be here to pray for the service members, not only the service members here, but all those who have died in wars.”
According to Resto, the cemetery is visited every week by family members of the soldiers whose bodies are buried there.
It is open every day, except Christmas and New Years Day. Staff are available to answer questions and to escort relatives to grave sites.
Rasto said many of the cemetery staff have been employeed at the memorial for more than 25 years; there are already three employees whose fathers worked on the grounds before them. They feel that “it’s an honor to work here,” she said, “and we’re proud to have them.”
The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, dedicated in 1956, covers 77 acres, and 7,860 servicemen are buried there. In a chapel on the grounds are the names of 3,095 who were missing in action.
Most of those who are buried in the Nettuno cemetery died in the liberation of Sicily, the landings at Salerno and Anzio, and in air and naval support of these operations in 1943 and 1944.
In recent tradition, the Popes have said an All Souls’ Day Mass at Rome’s Campo Verano cemetery, founded in the 19th century.
Pope Francis did this the first three years of his pontificate, and in 2016 said an All Souls’ Day Mass at Rome’s Prima Porta Cemetery.
Material from EWTN News Nightly was used in this report.