Pope tells quake survivors he will visit them 'as soon as possible'

By Carol Glatz

CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said he wants to visit survivors and those affected
by a deadly earthquake in central Italy as soon as possible.

wants to go to the ravaged area to “bring you personally the
solace of faith, the embrace of a father and brother, and the support of
Christian hope,” he said after praying the Angelus with visitors gathered
in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 28.

pope expressed his closeness and concern for the people “hard hit by the
earthquake” in the central Italian regions of Lazio, Marche and Umbria.

leading a prayer for the deceased and survivors, the pope praised the rapid
response of the Italian government and volunteers, saying their efforts showed
“how important solidarity is in order to overcome such painful

6.2 quake rumbled across the region Aug. 24, collapsing roofs, leveling buildings
and homes while people slept, and leaving 290 people dead. It also left 388 people injured, with more than 250 of them requiring hospitalization.
Rescuers pulled some 238 survivors from the wreckage.

Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno led a state funeral for victims Aug. 27
inside a gymnasium. More than 2,000 people attended, including Italian
President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Set before the
altar were dozens of caskets covered with flowers and photos of lost loved ones
as well as two small white caskets representing all the children killed in the

fair for people to say, ‘But Lord, where are you?'” he said in his homily.
However, if people look deeper they will find that “the earthquake can
take away everything, everything but one thing — the courage of faith.”

try everything to predict an earthquake, but only faith teaches us how to
overcome it,” he said.

be afraid,” he said. Don’t hesitate to cry out in need, “but make
sure you do not lose courage because only together will we be able to rebuild
our homes and churches,” he said.

concelebrated the funeral Mass with the bishop of Rieti and archbishop of
L’Aquila. Bishop D’Ercole had served as auxiliary bishop of L’Aquila in the
months after a devastating earthquake there in 2009 left more than 300 people
dead and tens of thousands homeless.

bishop also celebrated a Mass for survivors at an encampment in Arquata del Tronto
Aug. 28. Firefighters built a cross made out of two rescue ladders and
decorated it with the helmets of first responders. They wove through the rungs
a bright red firehose, which took on the shape of limp arms and legs draped
around the cross and the image of blood trailing downward.

Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia celebrated a Mass Aug. 26 in one of the many
large tents erected in towns and villages to provide provisional shelter for
the 2,100 people rendered homeless by the quake and its strong

visited areas in his archdiocese which were affected by the quake, whose
epicenter was close to Norcia — the birthplace of St. Benedict. Civil
authorities have condemned all the churches in the area as unusable, he said.

is no longer any place of worship in the birthplace of St. Benedict where
people can gather to pray,” he told SIR, the news agency of the Italian
bishops’ conference, Aug. 27. A local Caritas was to provide two temporary
structures to be used for pastoral centers.

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