Hope, not optimism, is needed to rebuild, pope tells quake survivors

By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — Along
the difficult path of rebuilding their lives, survivors of the earthquake that
devastated central Italy must also rebuild their hearts with a strong
foundation built on hope, Pope Francis said.

need something long lasting when coping with the heartbreaking wounds of losing
their homes and loved ones, the pope told survivors during an audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall
Jan. 5.

is not optimism, there is no place for optimism. Yes, for hope but (not for) optimism, which is momentary; it isn’t sustainable. In order to rebuild, you need
hope,” the pope said.

central Italian region, which includes the towns of Amatrice, Rieti, Accumoli, and Pescara del Tronto,
were rocked by a 6.2 magnitude quake Aug. 24, 2016.

was the hardest-hit town, accounting for 234 of the estimated 290 deaths,
according to the Italian Civil Protection office.

Francis visited the areas affected by the quake in October, saying that showing up immediately after
the quake would have complicated relief efforts and “would have been more
of a hindrance than a help.”

the first moment, I felt that I needed to come to you! Simply to express my
closeness to you, nothing more. And I pray; I pray for you!” the pope said
during his visit Oct. 4.

weeks after his visit, a powerful 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Norcia in the
early morning Oct. 30
and reduced the Basilica of St. Benedict to rubble.

at the audience hall, the pope greeted thousands of victims and survivors of
the earthquake, especially children who gave him handwritten notes and
drawings. Others handed the pope photos of their loved ones to be blessed.

addressing them, the pope heard from Raffaele Festa, a resident of Amatrice,
who along with his wife, Iole,
and two children — Leonardo and Lavinia — recounted their harrowing
experience of survival following the earthquake.

priest from Spoleto, who
was identified only as Father Luciano, also gave “witness to the
strength, of solidarity, and help of my people” who came together
following the tragic disaster.

down notes as they spoke, the pope said he preferred to address survivors
directly rather than through a prepared speech.

want to take your words and make them my own because in your situation, the
worst thing to do is (give)
a sermon. Only by taking what your heart says and making it mine can I give a
reflection on this,” he said.

the morning he received word of the earthquake, the pope said he immediately
felt that he had to
go and visit the people and “then I felt pain, a lot of pain. And with
this pain, I went to celebrate Mass that day.”

While those who have lost loved ones
continue to feel the pain,
the pope praised their bravery in choosing to not bring any more harm to “that
which is already wounded” and to stay in their towns despite the devastation.

one of you has suffered something. Some have lost a lot — children, parents,
spouse,” he said. “Silence, caresses, the tenderness of the heart
helps” heal the
pain of loss.

praying the Hail Mary with them, Pope Francis thanked the survivors, the clergy
and volunteers “who have taken part in your pain.”

you for all that you’ve done to help each other in rebuilding hearts, homes,
the social fabric and —
with your example” repairing the selfishness in the hearts of those who
haven’t suffered this, the pope said.

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Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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