POPE FRANCIS PAYS SURPRISE VISIT TO EARTHQUAKE-STRUCK CENTRAL ITALY
On the October 4 feast of St. Francis (and the papal name day), with only a few people in the know, Pope Francis left the Vatican this morning for his promised visit to the towns severely struck by the August 24 earthquake in central Italy. I present a composite of various news agencies’ reports on the papal trip, along with several photos, including one by Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office:
On Tuesday Pope Francis made an unannounced private visit to the small Italian city of Amatrice to offer support to areas devastated by a massive earthquake in August, where he offered a message of comfort and hope “I let a bit of time pass, so that some things could be repaired such as the school, but from the first moment I felt that I had to come to you. Simply for nothing more than to pray. I pray for you,” the Pope said during his Oct. 4 visit.
He said that “closeness and prayer” were the offering he brought, and prayed that the Lord would bless those affected, and that the Virgin Mary would “comfort you in this moment of sadness, pain and trial.”
“Go forward, there is always a future, there are many loved ones who have left us. They have fallen here, let us pray to the Virgin for them. Let us do it together.”
The August 24 6.0-magnitude quake that hit central Italy left 298 dead.
Pope Francis on Tuesday tweeted, “I want to bring the consolation of the Lord Jesus, with the caress and embrace of the whole of the Church to those struck by the earthquake”.
A 3.6-magnitude quake hit the part of central Italy that was devastated by the deadly August 24 earthquake during Pope Francis’s visit to the area on Tuesday. The quake, which was clearly felt by local people, took place at 14:41, seven kilometres from the town of Norcia.
The pontiff travelled to the town for a private visit aboard a VW Golf car with tinted windows and visited the temporary school set up the civil protection to meet students and teachers. He met elementary and middle school pupils who gave him drawings as a present, sources said. The pope spoke with each one of them, listening to what they had to say and hugging them, according to the sources.
After the visit, the pope went to the red zone of Amatrice, the part of the town still sealed off to the public after the earthquake, and walked amid the ruins of Lungo Corso Umberto I street accompanied by firefighters. The devastated town is where 234 of the overall fatalities occurred, according to civil protection figures. Piles of rubble that have yet to be cleared away and half-destroyed buildings are still visible.
The Vatican said the pope arrived in Amatrice Tuesday morning, accompanied by the bishop of Rieti, and started his tour at the school. He then planned to visit the hardest-hit area of the town, which remains largely closed due to security concerns.
Francis had made clear his intentions to visit the quake-stricken zone but without announcing a date. He indicated that he wanted to go alone “to be close to the people.”
The Pope later went to the “San Raffaele Borona” assisted living home in Rieti, where he greeted 60 patients – most of whom are elderly who lost their homes in the earthquake – one by one, and ate lunch with them.
Pope Francis said Tuesday on the second stage of his visit to the central Italian earthquake zone that he was “with” the people of Arquata del Tronto. “I’m with you,” he said. “Times will change, and you will be able to go on”.
The pope visited a hamlet in Arquata, Pescara del Tronto, which was flattened in the August 24 quake killing 48 of the 51 victims in the Marche region. He spent a few minutes in silent prayer.
Pope Francis on Tuesday also visited San Pellegrino di Norcia, one of the places most severely struck in the Umbria region. He met local people in the village square together with the bishop of Spoleto-Norcia, Renato Boccardo. A tent camp at San Pellegrino was recently taken down. The 6.0-magnitude quake killed almost 300 people in Lazio and Marche and caused severe damage in the neighboring regions of Umbria and Abruzzo.
FROM VATICAN RADIO –
After stopping for almost two hours with the elderly in Borbona, the Pope made a brief stop at the Command Post of the Fire Brigade in Cittareale – base camp for the earthquake zone. He then traveled to Accumoli, one of the cities most affected, where he greeted several people including the mayor, in Piazza San Francesco and he prayed in front of the Church of San Francesco destroyed by the earthquake.
From there he traveled to Pescara del Tronto, stopping three times along the way to greet which has the task three stops along the way to greet small groups of people. Shortly before 14:00, the Holy Father arrived in Arquata del Tronto.
In the visit to Pescara Del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto, the Pope was accompanied by Most Reverend Giovanni D’Ercole, bishop of Ascoli Piceno. In Arquata del Tronto, the Pope greeted more than 100 people, addressing a few words to them and praying with them. He also visited a make-shift school that was set up in the tent city.
Here are the Pope’s words to the earthquake victims of Arquata:
“Good afternoon to you all. I wanted to be close to you right now and say to you that you are in my heart and I know, I know your suffering and your anguish, and I also know about your dead, and I am with you, and so I wanted to be here today.
“Now we pray to the Lord to bless you and pray for your loved ones who have stayed there … and gone to heaven. Ave Maria …. [Blessing]
“And courage, always going forward, always forward. Times will change and you will be able to move forward. I am close to you, I’m with you.”
This evening Pope Francis arrived at the last stop on his journey through the earthquake zones: San Pellegrino di Norcia in Umbria. He was accompanied by the Archbishop of Spoleto-Norcia, Most Reverend Renato Boccardo. The Pope prayed in the red zone in front of the San Pellegrino church which was heavily damaged. He then greeted the people who were waiting for him outside and using the police megaphone, addressed these words to them: “I greet you all. I was close to you and I feel very close in this time of sadness and pray for you and ask the Lord to give strength to move forward. And now I invite you to pray all together the Hail Mary.”
At 15:30 Pope Francis returned to Rome.