Pope, at U.S. military cemetery, makes emotional anti-war address

ROME, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Pope Francis made one of his most emotional anti-war addresses on Thursday, saying during a visit to a U.S. military cemetery that the world seemed to be headed into war perhaps bigger than any before.

Francis said a Mass for several thousand people at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in the town of Nettuno, south of the Italian capital, on the day Roman Catholics commemorate their dead.

The burial ground is the final resting place for 7,860 American soldiers who died in the liberation of southern Italy and Rome in 1943 and 1944.

He walked slowly and alone amid the rows of low white headstones in the shape of crosses and Stars of David, gently resting a white rose on about a dozen and stopping to pray silently before saying the Mass.

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Pope Francis visits US military cemetery
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Pope Francis visits US military cemetery
Pope Francis passes graves, before a Mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery on the day Christians around the world commemorate their dead, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery on the day Christians around the world commemorate their dead, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Pope Francis leaves a white rose on the grave before a Mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis prays before a Mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery on the day Christians around the world commemorate their dead, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Pope Francis prays before a Mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery on the day Christians around the world commemorate their dead, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis leaves white roses on the memorial in the Fosse Ardeatine (Ardeatine Caves) in Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Vincenzo Pinto/Pool
Pope Francis leaves a white rose on a grave before a Mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery, on the day Christians around the world commemorate their dead, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis prays at the memorial in the Fosse Ardeatine (Ardeatine Caves) in Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Vincenzo Pinto/Pool
Pope Francis prays before a Mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis celebrates a mass at the U.S. World War II cemetery on the day Christians around the world commemorate their dead, in Nettuno, near Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Pope Francis prays at the memorial in the Fosse Ardeatine (Ardeatine Caves) in Rome, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Vincenzo Pinto/Pool
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"Please Lord, stop. No more wars. No more of these useless massacres," he said, speaking in hushed tones in an improvised homily.

Francis said that remembering the many young people who died in World War Two was even more important "today that the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war."

He did not elaborate but appeared to be referring to the possibility of nuclear war.

Later, he and Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, each read a prayer. After walking past the tombs in the still dark caves, the pope wrote in the visitors' book: "This is the fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta. Forgive us Lord".

As tensions between the United States and North Korea have increased in recent months, Francis has warned that a nuclear conflict would destroy a good part of humanity.

Last April, he said a third country should try to mediate the dispute between Pyongyang and Washington to cool a situation that had become "too hot".

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President Donald Trump meets Pope Francis
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President Donald Trump meets Pope Francis
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/pool
Pope Francis exchange gifts with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/pool
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/pool
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania, and the U.S. delegation pose with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump stands next to Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool
Pope Francis (C) walks past US First Lady Melania Trump (R) and the daughter of US President Donald Trump Ivanka Trump (L) at the end of a private audience at the Vatican on May 24, 2017. US President Donald Trump met Pope Francis at the Vatican today in a keenly-anticipated first face-to-face encounter between two world leaders who have clashed repeatedly on several issues. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alessandra Tarantino (Photo credit should read ALESSANDRA TARANTINO/AFP/Getty Images)
A man raises a U.S. flag minutes before U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 24: US President Donald Trump arrives to meet Pope Francis, on May 24, 2017 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Vatican Pool - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 24 : U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and his wife Melania (R) arrive at the Vatican for their audience with Pope Francis, on May 24, 2017. (Photo by Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 24: US President Donald Trump is welcomed by the prefect of the papal household Georg Gaenswein as he arrives at the Apostolic Palace for an audience with Pope Francis on May 24, 2017 in Vatican City, Vatican. The president will return to Italy on Friday, attending the Group of 7 summit in Sicily. Trump will also visit American troops stationed in at a US air base in Sicily. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)
Archibishop Georg Ganswein escorts U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump who arrive to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump arrives to meet Pope Francis for a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin after a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania talk with Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool
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U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said North Korea "will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it threatened the United States, will visit South Korea as part of a trip to Asia that starts on Friday.

While Trump is in Asia, the pope will be hosting an international seminar at the Vatican that will urge the banning of nuclear weapons.

The cemetery Mass was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Italy Lewis Eisenberg and the acting U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Louis Bono.

"If today is a day of hope, it is also a day of tears," the pope said. "Humanity must not forget" the tears of mothers and wives who lost husbands and sons in past wars.

"Humanity has not learned the lesson and seems that it does not want to learn it," he said, asking for prayers for the victims of today's conflicts, especially children.

On his way back to the Vatican, Francis stopped to pray at the Ardeatine Caves, where in March 1944 occupying Nazis killed 335 Italian men and boys as a reprisal for the killing of 33 German policemen by partisans.

They were all shot in the back of the neck. The Germans blew up the caves in a vain attempt to try to hide the massacre. Seventy-five of the victims were Jews.

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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