.- Sunday Pope Francis encouraged people from earthquake-damaged communities to continue the process of rebuilding with courage and strength, never losing hope in God’s steadfast love.
“You have endeavored to face, with an evangelical spirit, the precarious situation caused by the earthquake,” Francis said April 2, “recognizing and accepting in the painful events the mysterious presence of a Father who is always loving even in the toughest trials.”
Though you may think that the wounds have healed, the scars may persist for a lifetime, he said. “Remain firm in your intent not to give in to discouragement at the difficulties that still remain.”
Pope Francis met April 2 with people affected by earthquakes in the northern region of Italy in May 2012. The meeting took place at the end of his day trip to the northern Italian town of Carpi, where he celebrated Mass and had a private meeting with priests, seminarians and religious.
He then traveled by car to the town of Mirandola to speak to people from earthquake-struck communities. The meeting took place in a square outside of the town’s Cathedral, which is being rebuilt after experiencing significant damage from a quake.
Before speaking, Francis went into the church to say a prayer and lay flowers on the altar, which he said were “in memory of those who died in the earthquake.”
Afterwards, the Pope went by car to the parish of St. James in the nearby village of Roncole to place flowers and pay homage at a monument in memory of the victims of the earthquake.
The two 2012 earthquakes, which occurred May 20 and May 29, killed 27 people and caused widespread damage to the area. The Pope’s visit to northern Italy was intended as a sign of encouragement during the rebuilding process.
“I think of the discomfort that you have endured: the wounds to houses, to productive activities, to the churches and other monuments, rich in history and art and a symbol of the spirituality and civilization of a people,” he said.
“But I think especially of the inner wounds: the suffering of those who have lost their loved ones and those who have seen dispersed among them the sacrifices of an entire lifetime.”
In two weeks we will celebrate Easter, the Resurrection of Christ, Francis noted, praying that the strength of the Risen Lord will sustain them and give them hope as they continue to restore and rebuild their communities.
“Indeed, much has been done in the work of reconstruction,” he said, “but it is more important than ever to make a strong commitment to also recover historical centers: they are places of historical memory and are essential areas of social and ecclesial life.”
“My wish is that there is never less fortitude, hope, and the qualities of industriousness that will set you apart.”
Observing that he stood in front of their cathedral, Pope Francis said that the church was “a symbol of the faith and tradition of the area,” asking those present to join him in offering a prayer for the victims of the earthquake and their families, and for those still in precarious situations.
“May the Lord make each of you feel his support!” he said.
“Today I am among you to strengthen the affection of the whole Church and to testify to each of you my closeness and my encouragement for the journey that remains to be done in the reconstruction.”