Papal tweet on January 5: May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other.


Pope Francis met on Thursday with hundreds of Italians from the archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, devastated by a series of powerful earthquakes over the past six months. The central Italian town of Amatrice and surrounding areas were hit by a 6.3 magnitude quake in August which killed nearly 300 people. Other powerful quakes caused major damage in the same region on October 26th and 30th, with the latest tremors reported in Spoleto last Monday, January 2nd.


Around 800 people, led by their Bishop Renato Boccardo and local civic authorities, travelled to Rome for the audience in the Paul VI hall. Many of them had lost their houses, livelihoods and friends or family members in the largest earthquakes which reduced parts of many towns and villages to piles of rubble.

Regional reconstruction: Pope Francis sat and listened as a survivor and a local parish priest described the immense suffering of people, now seeking to rebuild their shattered communities. In his off-the-cuff response, the Pope said the worst thing to do in such circumstances was to offer a prepared sermon, but instead he reflected on the work of physical, mental and spiritual reconstruction that has been taking place throughout the region.

Healing hands: Pope Francis spoke of the wounds which have affected those who’ve lost their loved ones and the importance of crying together as they seek to heal the pain. He spoke too of the healing hands of doctors, nurses, firemen and all those who worked together to pull survivors from the rubble or offer help to those most in need.

Sharing and solidarity: Finally the Pope spoke of the spirit of solidarity and nearness which is vital for the reconstruction process. While everyone affected by the earthquakes will continue to bear scars, he said it’s important to find the courage to dream again.  Sharing and remaining close together, he said, makes us more courageous and more human as we face this daunting task.

Amatrice visit: The Pope’s words come three months after he made a surprise visit to Amatrice and two neighbouring towns to meet with survivors and relatives of victims. During the visit, he said he had not come to make speeches, but simply to be close to those suffering and to pray with all those affected by the earthquakes. (Vatican Radio)



Just a quick note today about my guest on my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider.” Join me for Part II of my conversation with Fr. Bill Petrie, pastor of St. Damien parish on the Hawaiian island of Molokai’i. We recently met in Honolulu to talk about his 25 years of work with Mother Teresa! 25 years! As you heard last week and will again this weekend, Fr. Bill has tons of insight and remarkable stories about this holy woman who will be declared a saint next weekend!!



Some statistics about the central Italy August 24 earthquake from various Italian news sources:

  • –         5400 aid workers/volunteers/rescuers in place
  • –         267: death toll as of this morning (Aug. 26)
  • –         387 wounded being treated in hospitals in Lazio, Umbria and Marche regions
  • –         238 people have been pulled alive from the rubble, of whom 215 by firemen and 23 by Italy’s Alpine Rescue
  • –         293 monuments comprising Italy’s cultural heritage have been destroyed

ANSA: Displaced survivors of the August 24 earthquake have occupied 2,100 of the 3,500 beds made available by the Civil Protection Department, officials said Friday. However that number is on the rise because area residents are still fleeing their homes as tremors continue in the area, Civil Protection Emergency chief Titti Postiglione told a press conference.

Sergio Pirozzi, Amatrice’s mayor, told ANSA that “Amatrice must be completely razed to the ground,” adding that there is not a single structure in the historic center than can be saved or restored. He said, “apart from the Roman church of St. Francis, all the rest is gone,” and repeated what he said Thursday: “We want to rebuild on the same spot, hopefully perhaps even with the same shape and aesthetics.”

Il palazzetto dello sport adibito a centro di accoglienza per i terremotati e di immagazzinamento viveri di prima necessità, 25 Agosto 2016. ANSA/FLAVIO LO SCALZO


(AP): Italian Premier Matteo Renzi has authorized a preliminary 50 million euros ($56.5 million) in emergency funding and ordered the cancellation of taxes for residents of quake-hit central Italy.

(ANSA): A religious service for those who died in the quake in Amatrice will be brought forward from Wednesday to Tuesday to enable Italian Premier Matteo Renzi to attend, Rieti Bishop Domenico Pompili said Friday. He said the service would be without coffins because it is not possible “to say when we will have all the bodies at our disposal since some have already been taken away by their families.” The Lazio town of Amatrice was the worst hit by Wednesday’s 6.2-magnitude tremor that killed at least 267 people, 207 of them in Amatrice.

(ANSA): London – Three British nationals and a Canadian reportedly died in the August 24 earthquake in central Italy. Sky News cited an official from the mountain village of Amatrice, which was flattened by the 6.2-magnitude quake that struck before dawn last Wednesday, as saying two adults and a teenage boy perished in the nearby hamlet of Sommati. The Daily Telegraph newspaper named the victims as 14-year-old Marcos Burnett, and Maria and William Henniker-Gotley, aged 51 and 55, family friends of the teenager’s parents. The Telegraph reported the UK Foreign Office confirmed the deaths and said in a statement: “(The victims’) families have paid tribute to the tireless work of the Italian rescue workers and hospital staff and expressed their gratitude for the love and support they have received from the Italian people”. Also on Friday, Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion said one Canadian citizen perished in the quake. The identity of the person was released.

Domenica Primerano, president of the Italian Association of Ecclesiastical Museums (AMEI), has welcomed an invitation from Dario Franceschini, minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, to donate the revenue from museum entrance fees on Sunday, August 28 to the victims of the earthquake, or to chose another day if the museums is closed on Sundays. She also asked museums that were not members of AMEI to consider doing the same.


Pharmacists who are members of SIFO – the Italian Society of Hospital Pharmacists – are helping the areas affected by the August 24 quake by offering all medicines and medical devices that are needed to help the large number of survivors currently undergoing medical care in area hospitals. These pharmacists work in the hospitals of those regions affected by the quake. SIFO president Marcello Pani said, “Our colleagues are working to guarantee extra pharmaceutical assistance and to give all the support necessary for the rescue operations.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is accompanying the victims of Wednesday’s devastating earthquake with both prayer and concrete signs of solidarity.

Having already sent Vatican firefighters to the area, Pope Francis on Thursday sent a group of Vatican gendarmes to assist in rescue and relief operations, in coordination with Italy’s Civilian Protection agency.


Also on Thursday, the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass at the Casa Santa Marta for all those who are suffering on account of the earthquake. The Pope was joined at the Sacred Liturgy by a group of Poor Clares from the monastery of Santa Maria di Vallegloria, in Spello, Umbria, who themselves had been affected by an earthquake in 1997. The Poor Clares subsequently had to reside for 14 years in temporary housing. Speaking at the Mass, Pope Francis invited the nuns to “sow hope,” to share Christ with others both through prayer and with their lives. Jesus “is true wealth, even when we have nothing.”

Meanwhile, the Vatican firefighters sent to Amatrice were active in rescue efforts, helping to pull a young girl from the rubble. Unfortunately, other members of the girl’s family lost their lives in the quake. The firefighters’ also provided spiritual assistance to the victims, distributing rosaries and holy images blessed by Pope Francis.

Vatican doctors and nurses are also ready to depart for the earthquake zone as needed.

In the wake of the deadly quake on Wednesday that has killed more than 250 people, aftershocks continued to hamper relief efforts. Large aftershocks in the early hours of Friday brought down already cracked buildings, rattled residents and closed already clogged roads.

Firefighters and rescue crews using sniffer dogs worked in teams around the hard-hit areas in central Italy, pulling chunks of cement, rock and metal from mounds of rubble where homes once stood. Rescuers refused to say when their work would shift from saving lives to recovering bodies, noting that one person was pulled alive from the rubble 72 hours after the 2009 quake in the nearby town of L’Aquila.


(AP) –  New York City’s World Trade Center is honoring the victims of the earthquake in Italy. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday directed the building’s 408-foot (124-meter) spire be lit in the colors of the country’s flag – green, white and red. Wednesday’s earthquake killed at least 250 people in Amatrice and other towns in central Italy.

In a statement, Cuomo extended his condolences to the victims and said New York stands ready to lend support.


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


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 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.


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


(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) – 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.


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.


In addition to the earthquake that devastated parts of central Italy early this morning, there are reports coming in from Burma of a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck that nation’s central region. Pray for those people and all rescuers as well.

I have been following the situation in Italy and present the following reports from the Vatican, the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, Caritas and the U.S. Embassy in Italy. I have been posting news and updates on my Facebook page since I got up this morning, hours after I was awakened by my bed shaking at 3:35 am. Words fail me to describe the total devastation but I am sure you have been viewing images on television.

Heartfelt thanks for all your wonderful messages of concern for me and of prayers and condolences for everyone affected by this gigantic tragedy.

Those of you who have asked how to help: there is information on how to do this from Caritas (see story below).


(Vatican Radio) In the wake of the powerful earthquake that struck central Italy on Wednesday, Pope Francis at the General Audience postponed his prepared catechesis, and led the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square in the recitation of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.

The Holy Father expressed his “heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness” to all those affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks. He said he was deeply saddened upon learning several children were among the dead, and of hearing of the total destruction of the town of Amatrice.


Here are his remarks:

“I had prepared the catechesis for today, as for all Wednesdays during this year of mercy, focusing on the closeness of Jesus. However on hearing of the news of the earthquake that has struck central Italy, and which has devastated entire areas and left many wounded, I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted.

“I also express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid. Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning that there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened.

“For this reason, I want to assure all the people of Accumuli, Amatrice, the Diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche, of the prayers and close solidarity of the entire Church, who in these moments extends her merciful love, as well as the concern of all of us here in the Piazza.

“Thanking all the volunteer and rescue personnel who are assisting these people, I ask you to join me in praying to the Lord Jesus, Who is always moved by compassion before the reality of human suffering, that He may console the broken hearted, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, bring them peace. With Jesus let our hearts be moved with compassion.

“So we will postpone, then, this week’s catechesis until next Wednesday, and I invite you to pray with me a part of the holy Rosary, the sorrowful mysteries.”


Dear Friends,

Many of you have by now heard of the earthquake that struck us during the night. The quake was a powerful one with a magnitude of 6.2. We’ve taken the past few hours to assess the situation.

First: We are OK. We are alive, and there are no serious injuries to report. Sadly, there are many injuries to report among the people of the region, especially those in small mountain villages. Please pray for them. We monks will do what we can to contribute here on the ground, but we’ll need your spiritual support in a special way during this period.

Second: We, as many others in Norcia and surrounding areas, suffered a lot of damage to our buildings and especially to our basilica. It will take some time to assess the extent of the damage, but it is very sad to see the many beautiful restorations we’ve made to St. Benedict’s birthplace reduced, in a moment, to disrepair.

Click here for a virtual tour of the basilica (pre-earthquake) https://en.nursia.org/visit/#acc_360_tour

Third: What can you do? Please, pray for us, for those who have lost their lives, who have lost someone they love, who have lost their homes and livelihoods. We will need your help, as always but now in a special way, to start the project of rebuilding. Please consider making a gift to help us get started.

The Monks of Norcia


A strong earthquake struck central Italy early on 24 August, causing severe destruction to buildings and the loss of life. The magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck around the Rieti region. The worst hit towns were Amatrice and Accumoli, with the epicentre in Norcia.

“The situation is terrible,” said Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, who arrived a few minutes after the first quake in the town of Pescara del Tronto. “As dawn broke, I could see the area had been destroyed. We are already working with Caritas to get the right aid to the people.”

The Italian Catholic Church has immediately made available €1 million in response to the earthquake and is launching a nationwide parish appeal to support Caritas Italy relief efforts.

“We are gathered in prayer with those caught in this tragic event,” said the Italian bishops in a statement, inviting all to help alleviate the difficult conditions people in the affected areas will face in the coming days, weeks and months.

Caritas volunteers in Rieti have already started to deliver food and basic necessities and Caritas is organising further support, while the Italian Civil Protection are looking for survivors under the rubble.

n 2015, Caritas Rieti helped train migrants and refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo, Syria, Senegal, Somalia, Rwanda, Mali and Ghana to work with the Italian Civil Protection in emergency response.

“Caritas and parish volunteers, priests and bishops are concretely helping with the delivery of aid,” said Caritas Italy’s Paolo Beccegato. “We’re in constant communication with them to organise relief efforts on the ground.”

Donations can be sent to: Caritas Italiana, Via Aurelia 796 – 00165 Roma, using the current account n. 347013 or by bank transfer to Banca Popolare Etica, Via Parigi 17, Roma. Iban: IT 29 U 05018 03200 000000011113. Please specify  “Colletta terremoto centro Italia”.

Other ways include:

Online: www.caritas.it

– Banca Prossima, piazza della Libertà 13, Roma – Iban: IT 06 A 03359 01600 100000012474

– Banco Posta, viale Europa 175, Roma – Iban: IT91 P076 0103 2000 0000 0347 013

– UniCredit, via Taranto 49, Roma – Iban: IT 88 U 02008 05206 000011063119.

Earthquakes are a constant threat to communities living in the Apennine mountains in Italy. An earthquake in Abruzzo left almost 300 people dead and tens of thousands homeless when it struck on 6 April 2009. In the aftermath of that quake, the diocesan Caritas pitched in immediately to provide the people of Aquila with food, clothes and other essentials. Following the initial emergency, Caritas Italy turned its focus to rebuilding communities by providing them with homes and also spaces where they could meet and learn.


U. S. Embassy Rome, Italy – Italy EarthquakeAugust 24, 2016

(From an email I received) The U.S. Mission to Italy is assisting Americans in central Italy where a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck communities today at approximately 03:36AM.  Reports by Italian media and the Civil Protection Agency note that many roads are blocked in these regions at this time, especially in more remote areas.  The U.S. Embassy has restricted all but essential official travel to these regions and recommends that U.S. citizens defer travel in these areas as well.   Americans affected by the earthquakes who require assistance, or persons with information or questions about Americans in the affected areas, may call the U.S. Embassy’s earthquake response center at 06-4674 2944, or contact the center by email at USCitizensRome@state.gov.

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