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Tuesday, April 28, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 28 APR 2009 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI travelled by car to the Italian region of Abruzzo to visit people affected by the 6 April earthquake which left 300 dead and thousands injured. The Pope had been due to travel to the area by helicopter but was forced to change his plans due to poor weather.

The first stage of his visit took him to the village of Onna, "one of the places that paid a high price in terms of human lives", said the Holy Father in his address there to people living in temporary shelters, having lost their homes in the quake.

"I was close to you from the first moment", he went on. "I followed the news with great concern, sharing your disbelief, your tears for the dead, and your anxious concerns for what you lost in an instant. Now I am here among you; and I would like to embrace you affectionately, each one. All the Church is here with me, accompanying your sufferings, participating in your pain for the loss of relations and friends, and desirous to help you rebuild the homes, churches and businesses that collapsed or were seriously damaged in the tremor. I have admired and continue to admire the courage, dignity and faith with which you face this serious trial, showing great determination not to give way to adversity".

"I am well aware that, despite the solidarity forthcoming from all sides, there are many daily discomforts involved in living outside your homes, in cars or tents, especially because of the cold and rain. ... My poor presence among you is intended as a tangible sign of the fact that the crucified Lord is risen and does not abandon you. ... He is not deaf to the anguished cries of so many families who have lost everything: houses, savings, work and sometimes even human lives. Of course, His tangible response comes though our solidarity, which cannot be limited to the initial emergency but must become a stable project over time. I encourage everyone, institutions and companies, to ensure that this city and this land may arise again".

The Holy Father then pronounced "some words of comfort" concerning the people killed in the earthquake. "They are alive in God", he said, "and await from you a testimony of courage and hope. They hope to see the rebirth of their land, which must once more adorn itself with houses and churches, beautiful and solid. ... Love remains, even beyond the river-crossing of this our precarious earthly life, because true Love is God. Those who love overcome death in God, and know that their loved ones are not lost". The Holy Father then concluded his remarks by reading as special prayer for the victims of the earthquake.

He then travelled to the basilica of Collemaggio in L'Aquila where he pronounced a brief prayer in front of the casket containing the remains of Pope St. Celestine V, one of the few things to have survived the earthquake in the basilica. As a sign of his spiritual participation, Benedict XVI left on the casket the pallium with which he was vested at the beginning of his own pontificate.

He then moved on to the student hall of residence, where a number of young people were killed by the earthquake, and greeted university students who used to reside there.

At midday the Holy Father arrived at the courtyard of the training school of the "Guardia di Finanza" where, having greeted mayors and pastors from the 49 communities most affected by the tremor, he pronounced an address to those present.

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