NORCIA IS LIKE A “GHOST TOWN,” SAYS BENEDICTINE SUBPRIOR

From an email from Fr. Benedict, subprior of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia. He is one of two who stayed in town.

NORCIA IS LIKE A “GHOST TOWN,” SAYS BENEDICTINE SUBPRIOR

Day 2 in Norcia has brought new challenges and a better sense of the damage, both physical and spiritual. The community departed Wednesday afternoon, 12 hours after the earthquake hit, for a temporary stay (Deo Volente, just 3 or 4 days) at St. Anselmo. While we hope they aren’t away for long and that it is safe enough for them to return soon, they are in fact in solidarity with most of the town of Norcia. Many townspeople have decided to sleep in their cars, in tents outside the city or with relatives elsewhere. The physical damage does not resemble in anyway the tragic images coming out of Amatrice, just 30 miles away. Here in Norcia, nearly all the buildings appear from the outside to be intact and stable. But the reality is many have suffered structural damage that makes them uninhabitable. In addition, secondary shocks have been coming every 15-20 minutes. Some today have been as high as 4.2

We monks who remained, staying in tents, have returned to the days of our youth, and are camping out in the garden area of the our monastery outside the walls. The tents were positioned far from any buildings so the we were not in danger, but tremors throughout the night made sleeping difficult — as did the occasional sound of wild boar in the woods! Restorations to our property outside the city walls (Fuori Le Mura) had only recently started. That restoration work on the Church was made with the latest anti-earthquake materials and, thanks be to God, it has mostly withstood the tremors.

Today, we monks made rounds in town and visited locals at their businesses and found many sad faces. Norcia thrives on tourism and citizens often earn enough in August to keep them going all year round. Not this year. The main hotel in town, that of the Bianconi family, went from 500 guests the night of the quake, to 20 the day after. Norcia is like a ghost town, except for journalists, aid workers and architects who wander around the town each trying in their own way to bring relief of some sort.

We have no specifics to share yet regarding damages we’ve faced, though we know they are extensive. Because of the frequent aftershocks, inspections were suspended earlier in the day. The bells are not ringing for prayer as we don’t know yet if the tower is safe, and the monks are praying for Norcia from Rome, where St. Benedict himself was once sent to study. We checked on the Poor Claire Nuns and Benedictine Nuns today and found the former without any damage to their convent, but the latter, the daughters of St. Scholastica, are sleeping in the laundry room while they assess damages.

We’ve begun drawing up plans for a campaign to help not just the monks but the other religious and lay faithful in town and we’ll pass those along in due course. For now, we continue to rely on your prayers and support.

Pax, Father Benedict

Subprior

HELPING THE BENEDICTINE MONKS – CARITAS WORKING 24/7 IN QUAKE-STRICKEN ITALY – THE CARABINIERI BLUE HELMETS SENT TO AID RESCUERS – A GOOD NEWS MOMENT; 8-YEAR OLD PULLED ALIVE FROM RUBBLE – THE UGLY SIDE OF THE QUAKE: LOOTERS

Here are a number of quake-related stories that might interest you, especially since so many of you have asked how you can help the numerous survivors who lost their homes and everything they own and are now living in tent camps

HELPING THE BENEDICTINE MONKS

No email message today from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, but they have updated their website to enable donations: https://en.nursia.org/earthquake/

As you know, the monks decided to transfer from Norcia – many parts of which are not considered safe – to Rome where they will spend some time with the Benedictines of Sant’ Anselm.

If the name Sant’Anselmo sounds familiar, this is the church from which the Holy Father and others process to nearby Santa Sabina basilica on Ash Wednesday to receive ashes.

CARITAS WORKING 24/7 IN QUAKE-STRICKEN ITALY

Caritas and Church volunteers have been providing food to rescue workers and people affected by Wednesday’s earthquake in central Italy, The quake struck on August 24 in the Rieti region causing severe damage and loss of life in the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto.

CARITAS

Andrea Piscopo of Caritas Marche said, “relief efforts in Arquata and Pescara del Tronto continued throughout the night. We had spent the whole day with the rescue workers and the survivors. Thanks to local church, youth and Caritas, it has been possible to provide food to them. It is hard to say what the concrete needs will be until the situation stabilizes.” Caritas Italy has allocated €100,000 for the initial intervention. Caritas offices have offered local accommodations for people forced from their homes and, where possible, is providing counseling and basic necessities.

Father Francesco Soddu, director of Caritas Italy will lead a team on Friday, August 26 to meet with the local Caritas staff and authorities to discuss the most immediate actions required and those needed for the medium and long-term. He said, “Caritas has been active since the first hours after the earthquake. We have made available €100,000 for the most pressing needs.”

Caritas Italy is asking supporters to contribute to its national appeal so that it can help communities rebuild. This appeal will be bolstered by a nationwide parish collection in Italy on September 18. Caritas national organizations from Germany and Croatia to Nepal have been offering their support.

As in the case of the earthquake that hit L’Aquila in 2009, Caritas will focus on putting towns and villages back together – ranging from social services, infrastructure and job creation.

Donations can be made through the Caritas Italy website:http://www.caritasitaliana.it/home_page_archivio/come_contribuire/00000041_Dona_ora.html

THE CARABINIERI BLUE HELMETS SENT TO AID RESCUERS

(ANSA) – Rome, August 25 – Carabinieri police have deployed 430 officers in earthquake-stricken central Italy, including 30 “monuments men” from Italy’s new cultural defense Blue Helmets who are assessing the extent of the damage to local monuments, officials said Thursday.

“The Blue Helmets have gone into action for the first time,” said Brigadier General Marco Minicucci, who added that the unit’s baptism of fire was supposed to be in the Syrian city of Palmyra, which has been destroyed by Islamic fundamentalists. In addition, the carabinieri force has deployed a special forensic unit for the identification of victims who have not been claimed by relatives. That unit also went into action in Thailand after a deadly 2004 tsunami.

The total of 430 officers “went in support of their colleagues stationed at Amatrice, Accumoli, and Arquata, who immediately turned out to aid the population as soon as the first earthquake hit at 03:36 (on Wednesday),” the general told a press conference.

The mountain villages of Amatrice, Accumoli, and Arquata were the hardest hit by the quake, which has flattened them and killed hundreds.

Some images of Amatrice, before and after:

La combo mostra alcune strade di Amatrice tratte da Google Street View (sulla sinistra) e le stesse strade dopo il forte terremoto di oggi, 24 agosto 2016. ANSA/GOOGLE STREET VIEW-MASSIMO PERCOSSI +++EDITORIAL USE ONLY - NO SALES+++

ANSA/GOOGLE STREET VIEW-MASSIMO PERCOSSI

A GOOD NEWS MOMENT; 8-YEAR OLD PULLED ALIVE FROM RUBBLE

(ANSA) – Pescara del Tronto, August 25 – A firefighter who pulled an eight-year-old girl out of the rubble alive in Pescara del Tronto on Wednesday evening said Thursday he hoped she would “forget everything.” “I hope Giorgia remembers little of this place, rather I hope she forgets everything,” Angelo Moroni told ANSA. “The joy was huge,” he said of the successful rescue effort that saw firefighters dig with their bare hands for hours.

Giorgia was extracted from the debris of her home 15 hours after the 6.2-magnitude earthquake in central Italy that left at least 241 people dead. Her 10-year-old sister was found dead beside her. The girls’ parents were both pulled out alive.

As soon as she was freed, Giorgia “asked to drink, she reacted well,” Moroni said. “At times like that you don’t think, you go on for hours without feeling thirst or tiredness. We were sure she was safe only when we put her on a stretcher and doctors carried her away. Then we exploded with joy for this great result.”

Pescara del Tronto in the central Marche region is a village that was one of the places worst affected by the earthquake.

THE UGLY SIDE OF THE QUAKE: LOOTERS

Police in earthquake-hit Amatrice are stepping up their efforts to control attempted looting on Thursday, after detaining a man with a rolling suitcase who was allegedly stealing from homes there, ANSA sources said. Sources said the man was nearly lynched by a crowd before police arrived, in a climate of increasingly high tension following similar episodes of suspected looting on Wednesday in which some suspects were detained and others were arrested.

An Afghan refugee was also detained and later released Wednesday after attempting to remove rubble from a home where two Afghan women had been buried, in an area that rescue workers hadn’t yet reached.