Pope Francis has held an audience of 800 people for survivors of Italy’s recent earthquakes.
He offered comfort and promised a follow-up to his surprise October 4 visit of the affected areas, which are still being hit by aftershocks: 32 since the new year alone.
One survivor named Raffaele said that, however lucky he was to be alive, the pain of losing so many friends could never be erased. He asked the Pope for support through prayer, to enable survivors to rebuild their hearts before they rebuilt their houses.
The Pope listened attentively to the survivors before making a 20-minute impromptu speech quoting back what he had heard.
He said that he wanted to take their words and make them his own because the worst thing that he could do under the circumstances would be to deliver a sermon.
Addressing the audience, which included the civil authorities charged with reconstruction, he said that people’s hearts had been injured and that hope was needed to rebuild using their hands.
On Sunday the Pope will baptize eight babies from Amatrice in the Sixtine Chapel at the Vatican.
Pope to baptise babies from Amatrice – English https://t.co/8BLGjpRGKL— Laity Family Life (@LaityFamilyLife) December 31, 2016
The first earthquake, which hit on August 24, killed nearly 300 people in the town of Amatrice. A subsequent one, on October 30, killed two but measured 6.6 on the Richter scale, a record for Italy.
An estimated 11,300 people are still living in tents and temporary shelters.