Thirty coffins arranged in three vertical rows. Two more coffins, white and smaller, were placed at a distance from the others. Flower arrangements on the coffins. The sports hall of Ascoli Piceno is crowded. In the presence of the highest offices of state, including President of the Republic Mattarella and Premier Renzi, takes place the state funeral of the victims who died in the Marche region on the night of August 24, following a magnitude 6.2 earthquake that devastated central Italy. The ceremony, presided over by Msgr. D’Ercole, was attended also by Civil Defence and the Italian Red Cross rescue workers and volunteers. Also many ordinary citizens. In the front row, next to the authorities, the families of victims. Some of them have come by bus from the tent city. In their eyes, there is the dignity of those who have lost everything. “It is right for a father to accompany his children till the end, after staying with them in times of sorrow and tragedy,” said Msgr. D’Ercole, explaining that his sermon will focus on the whys springing from the earthquake tragedy.
“Lord, what shall we do next? How many times, in the silence of my restless nights of vigil and waiting, I asked God the same question I heard you repeating these days.” These are the words Msgr. D’Ercole said during the homily. “In my name, the name of our people betrayed by the devastating dance of the earth: ‘What next?’ I have addressed God the Father, stirred by anguish; by the debasement of the humans robbed of their last hope. Do not be afraid to shout out your suffering, but do not lose courage – he continued -. Together we will rebuild our homes and churches; but above all, together we will restore our communities to life, starting with our traditions and with the rubble of death. Together!”, the bishop of Ascoli Piceno, Giovanni D’Ercole, said during the homily at the funeral for the victims of the earthquake.
“The bell towers, which have dictated the rhythm of the days and seasons, have collapsed, they do not ring anymore. Dust, everything is dust now. Yet, under the rubble, there is something that tells us that our bells will ring again, finding the sound of the Easter morning” he said. “An earthquake is the end: a night Executioner came to rip our lives. Our land, however, is full of people who have not lost heart.”
Then he went on: “Our roots are rural. In nature, plowing is like an earthquake to the earth, it splits it open, it is injured, it leaves the earth broken into clods. The plow hurts, but it is the primary tool of the new sowing: people plow to prepare the soil for a new crop. Seismologists try to predict earthquakes, but only faith helps us to overcome it.” – the bishop of Ascoli Piceno, Giovanni D’Ercole, said in the homily at the funeral of the victims of the earthquake. “Faith – he added – our difficult faith, shows us how to get back on track: with our feet on the ground and our gaze towards the sky.”
“Solidarity and responsibility make us be down to earth, in an embrace that allows us to face difficulties together and build a better world. Whereas our eyes should look up, look at the sky, pray, then go ahead with courage and work, as Father Orione used to say. Solidarity today – he added – is solemnly represented by the presence of the President of the Republic, whom I address my respectful greetings, the highest echelons of the state and many authorities, many voluntary associations, and many friends gathered here to show the tangible closeness of so many people from all over Italy and the world, solidarity, especially from the Pope, the bishops of our region and from the Churches in the whole Italy and in the whole world. Thank you all very much”.
Shortly before the start of the celebration, a relative of the victims suffered a slight indisposition. He was immediately helped by the medical staff present there and was carried away on a stretcher. His condition did not seem particularly serious.
Meanwhile, the death toll keeps rising: “The toll of the victims of the earthquake that hit central Italy has reached 290 people”. And the latest update on the data provided by the Civil Protection of the Prefecture of Rieti. “Two hundred and thirty people have lost their lives in Amatrice, 11 in Accumoli and 49 in Arquato”. Two hundred and thirty-eight people have been pulled alive from the rubble. Remains unchanged, at 388, the number of hospitalized injured. Meanwhile, there is great apprehension in Pescara del Tronto, the hamlet of Arquata wiped out by the earthquake, a landslide that laps the track width of the Salaria, which runs downward. The lane towards Rome was closed, and traffic is regulated by emergency lights. Police and Fire Brigade are guarding the access to the lower part of the village, which is closed at present. The landslide, it turns out, happened in the morning after the shock whose epicenter was Amatrice (magnitude 4.6) on 26 August. Rescuers who had started to remove debris in the center of Pescara del Tronto are disheartened. “It makes it more difficult,” says a volunteer.