When tragedy strikes, don't turn God into a scapegoat, bishop says

By Carol Glatz

CITY (CNS) — Do not turn to superstition or blame God in the aftermath of a
deadly tragedy, the bishop of Rieti told people mourning the deaths of those
killed by the devastating earthquake that struck central Italy.

is humanity’s salvation and he “cannot be used as a scapegoat,”
Bishop Domenico Pompili said in his homily Aug. 30 at a funeral Mass in the
village of Amatrice, which was nearly razed to the ground. The 6.2 quake
rumbled across the central Italian regions of Lazio, Mache and Umbria Aug. 24,
leaving at least 292 people dead and more than 400 people injured.

Mass, attended by residents left homeless as well as top government officials,
was held under a large tent canopy.

wooden statue of the crucified Christ, salvaged from the wreckage, was
suspended from a rope behind the altar. It hung against a backdrop of concrete
and twisted steel from a building that buckled under the weight of its roof;
solar panels lay in a jumble on top, like playing cards hastily tossed aside.
The mountains of rubble were ringed by a dense forest of trees, lush and green
in the pouring rain.

question, ‘Where is God?’ shouldn’t get asked afterward, but comes first and
at every time for explaining life and death,” he said. Pathetic cliches
and reactions bordering on superstition — with talk about fate, bad luck and
coincidences — must also be avoided, he added.

the importance of restoring the vitality and beauty of affected communities,
Bishop Pompili said that “to desert these places would be to kill them a
second time.” However, the years of rebuilding will require cooperative,
“tender and tenacious” effort if they are to avoid the political
wrangling and profiteering that often plague Italy’s reconstruction projects.

Francis sent his almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, to the Mass; the Polish
prelate distributed papal rosaries to the families of those who died.

pope had said he plans to visit the ravaged area and meet survivors “as
soon as possible” in order to “bring you personally the solace of
faith, the embrace of a father and brother, and the support of Christian

leading a prayer for the deceased and survivors after his Angelus address at
the Vatican Aug. 28, the pope expressed his closeness and concern for the
people “hard hit by the earthquake” and praised the rapid response of
the Italian government and volunteers. He said their efforts showed “how
important solidarity is in order to overcome such painful trials.”

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 Bishop Pompili 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 aftershocks.

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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