By editor - 25 August, 2016
“When I arrived at the break of day, I saw a destroyed village, screams, death... We are truly in a desperate situation" - Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole of Ascoli Piceno.
Pope Francis postponed his catechesis for Wednesday’s general audience in St Peter’s Square and instead led the faithful in the recitation of the Rosary’s Sorrowful Mysteries for those killed, injured or still missing in Italy’s earthquake.
The Pontiff expressed his “heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness” to all those affected by the earthquake.
He said he was deeply saddened by the news that several children were among the dead, and of hearing of the total destruction of the town of Amatrice.
He told those pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square, “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 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, Pope Francis said.
He asked everyone to join him in prayer to Jesus, that the Lord might “console the broken-hearted, and, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, bring them peace.”
The Pontiff also thanked all the volunteer and rescue personnel who are assisting in the rescue operation.
The 6.2 magnitude quake flattened mountain towns between Lazio, Umbria and Marche. Some 64 people are known to have died in the village of Amatrice near Rieti alone.
The earthquake, which struck at 03:36 local time and was followed by a second, 5.4 magnitude seism at 04:33 between Umbria and the Marche, was said to be comparable in intensity to the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in which over 300 people died.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland, said in a statement on Wednesday, that he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the deaths today of so many people due to the earthquake.
He offered his prayerful solidarity to the people of the affected areas and for their loved ones who have been injured and killed.
“I also ask for prayers of support to those providing emergency assistance and medical treatment to the injured and displaced.”
Archbishop Martin added that many Irish people have friends and family living in Italy or have spent time there on holidays.
“At this time of human loss, I encourage everyone, through prayer and friendship, to express solidarity with our Italian community in our parishes, schools and workplaces.”
In central Italy, Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno travelled to Pescara del Tronto to be with the hundreds of people affected by the quake.
Speaking to Vatican Radio on Wednesday morning, Bishop D’Ercole described the scene as “distressing”.
“When I arrived at the break of day, I saw a destroyed village, screams, death… We are truly in a desperate situation and unfortunately this is not the only area affected, because others are also in this situation,” the bishop said.
He said there were still many areas unreached by rescue personnel.
“There are several people who are not responding [to telephone calls], and I went to bless the bodies of two children buried under the rubble.”
“A certain part of the diocese is suffering. I think, however…, that the area worst hit is the part near Rieti, that is, between Amatrice, Accumoli, Pescara del Tronto, Arquata, and near Force.”