(JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI visited the mass grave of the victims of a Nazi massacre near Rome.
The pope on Sunday called the 1944 massacre of 335 Italian Jews and Catholics by Nazi soldiers at the Ardeatine Caves a "grave offense against God." The victims included Italian army officers, resistance fighters, civilians and 75 members of Rome’s Jewish community.
In the cave where the massacre victims are buried, the pope read prayers alongside the graves with Roman Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni. Relatives of the victims attended the ceremony.
In the book of witness at the entrance to the cave, the pope wrote in Latin that "I shall fear no evil because You are with me," Vatican Radio reported.
Benedict was forced to become a member of the Hitler Youth and fought briefly for the Germans during World War II.
He is the third pope to visit the site; Paul VI visited in 1965 and John Paul II in 1982.