.- Touring the earthquake-damaged Abruzzo region of Italy on Tuesday, Pope Benedict met with rescue workers and those impacted by the quake. During an address to the victims, he assured them of his solidarity and encouraged them saying, âL'Aquila, though wounded, will arise once more."
At midday, when the Holy Father arrived in the courtyard of the training school of the âFinance Guard,â he addressed the Italian rescue workers as well as those affected in the region. Over 300 died and thousands were injured in the April 6 earthquake.
Benedict XVI began by noting that the training school courtyard served as the headquarters for rescue operations following the earthquake.
âThis place, consecrated by the victims' prayers and tears, represents a symbol of your tenacious determination not to give way to discouragement." Quoting then the motto of the Finance Guard - "Nec recisa recedit" (Will not back down, even if destroyed) - he pointed out that it "seems to express well what the mayor defined as your firm intention to rebuild the city, with that constancy which characterizes you people of the Abruzzo region."
The Pope explained that this visit, which he wished to make from the moment of the earthquake, âis intended as a sign of my closeness to each one of you, and of the fraternal solidarity of the entire Church.â
"The truth is that as a Christian community we are a single spiritual body, if one part suffers, all the others suffer too; if one part struggles to arise, all share in that effort,â he explained. âI must tell you that expressions of solidarity have reached me from all sides. Many high-ranking figures of the Orthodox Churches have written to assure me of their prayers and spiritual solidarity, also sending economic aid."
Pope Benedict continued by underlining the importance of solidarity, âwhich, though chiefly demonstrated at moments of crisis, is like a fire hidden under the embers. Solidarity is a highly civic and Christian sentiment, a measure of the maturity of a society. In practical terms it is expressed in aid work, but it is not merely an efficient organizational machine; it has a soul and a passion which arise from the great civil and Christian history of our people, whether it takes an institutional form or is expressed through volunteer work.â
He added that the gravity of the earthquake calls the community and the Church âto profound reflectionâ during the celebration of Easter.
âAt Easter,â he said, "we celebrated the death and resurrection of Christ, bringing your pain to our minds and hearts, and praying that those affected would not lose their trust in God and their hope. The civil community must also undertake a serious examination of conscience, and ensure it always shoulders its responsibilities.
âOn this basis L'Aquila, though wounded, will arise once more."
Benedict XVI concluded his address by invoking the protection of Our Lady of Roio, for "all localities affected by the earthquake" and, having sung the Regina Coeli, placed a golden rose at the foot of her statue.
Following his visit, Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican by car.