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“Let us unite in prayer for the victims. We will put off our catechesis to next Wednesday and I invite you to recite a part of the Holy Rosary together with me.” These are the words Pope Francis pronounced in the churchyard of St. Peter’s Square, where he should have hold the customary Wednesday papal audience today.

“I had prepared today’s catechesis, as I do every Wednesday this year of Mercy, on the subject of Jesus’ closeness. But before the news about the earthquake that hit central Italy and devastated entire areas and causing dead and injured, I cannot but express my great sorrow and my closeness to all the people who are in the area affected by the earthquake, to all the people who have lost their loved ones and to those who are still shocked by fear and terror – Pope Francis told to the over 11 thousand faithful present in the square -. I am very moved by the words of the mayor of Amatrice who said that ‘the village does not exist anymore’ and by the news that there are also children among the dead. Therefore, I want to assure all of these people near Accumoli, Amatrice or elsewhere in the dioceses of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno and all the other dioceses throughout the Lazio, Umbria, and Marche regions, that I will pray for them. I also want to tell them to be sure of the caress and embrace of the whole Church, which wants to embrace you with its maternal love in this moment, also with our embrace, here, in the square.”

Then the Pontiff thanked all the Civil Defense volunteers and operators engaged in relief operations in several Italian regions hit by the earthquake last night. “I ask you to join me in prayer – Francis went on to say – Lord Jesus, who has always been moved by human suffering, to comfort these saddened hearts and give them peace through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let be moved together with Jesus.”

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