Arquata del Tronto is the last leg of Pope Francis’ visit to the three municipalities that have suffered the most following the earthquake of 24 August. The Pope, on board a gray Golf, visited the tent city in the Marche region to show proximity to the survivors, who lost all their belongings and loved ones in the earthquake.
Earlier, the Holy Father had gone to Accumoli, where he visited the “red zone” and met with the head of Civil Protection, Fabrizio Curcio, as well as with the special commissioner for reconstruction, Vasco Errani.
The Pope’s visit to the areas devastated by the earthquake has begun in Amatrice at around 9:10 a.m., where he has paid a surprise visit to the temporary school built by the Trentino Civil protection. There, Bergoglio has talked with students and teachers for about 20 minutes. “I thought that in the early days of their great pain my visit would have been a burden rather than of help – he told earthquake victims, reports Vatican Radio -. I did not want to bother, that is why I have waited a little, because I wanted to give you the time to fix some things, the school for instance. But from the first moment I felt I had to come here! To tell you that I am at your side, nothing more, and that I pray, I pray for you! Closeness and prayer: that is what I offer to you. May the Lord bless all of you and may Our Lady take care of you in this moment of sorrow, pain, and hardship.” After the blessing, the Pope invited the present to say Hail Mary together with him: “Let us go forward, there is always a future. So many loved ones have left us, losing their lives here, under the rubble. Pray Our Lady for them, let us do it together. Always look forward. Keep going, brace yourselves, and help each other. Together, you will walk better; You cannot go far on your own. Keep going! Thank you”.
Together with the Holy Father, there was the Bishop of Rieti, Mons. Domenico Pompili. Bergoglio has also visited a red zone, after an assessment of the security conditions. Before the rubble, the Pope – visibly moved – he stopped to pray in silence.
The Pope’s visit has surprised not only the citizens of Amatrice but also priests. “We did not know – Father Savino D’Amelio told Vatican Radio -. We saw many journalists, radio station and television operators. The first thing he did was meeting the children. It was a very beautiful and significant event. Bishop Pompili introduced some of the priests who were present there. It was an unexpected gesture. Nobody was expecting it to happen, like the earthquake itself.”
“The presence of the Pope is an important message, which brings hope and rebirth,” said the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi. “I am strong, but sometimes force abandons me and feeling a friendly hand on one’s shoulder may be of great help. I will be waiting for Francis in the Easter period, because I hope that there will be houses and all activities will have been resumed, an important sign for my municipality that has paid a high tribute”.
Already last Sunday, during the press conference on his return flight from Baku, Pope Francis said he was going to pay this visit “privately, alone, as a priest, as a bishop, as Pope, but alone. That is how I want to do it. I want to be close to the people”. In the Angelus of 28 August, the Holy Father expressed his “spiritual closeness to the inhabitants of Lazio, Marche, and Umbria regions, struck by the earthquake. I think about the people of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara, and Norcia in the first place. Again, I tell those dear people that the Church shares their suffering and their concerns. We pray for the dead and for the survivors. […] Dear brothers and sisters, I hope to visit you as soon as possible, to personally bring you the comfort of faith, the embrace of the father and brother, and the support of Christian hope.”
photos from Ansa.it